06 September 2007

Mortar & Pestle

A mortar and pestle is a tool used to grind and mix substances. The pestle is a heavy stick whose end is used for pounding and grinding, and the mortar is a bowl. The substance is ground between the pestle and the mortar.

Without each other, they are useless. How beautiful.

The English "pestle" derives from classical Latin pistillum, meaning pounder. The classical Latin mortarium led to the English mortar, meaning, among several other usages, "receptacle for pounding" and "product of grinding or pounding".

The Roman poet Juvenal applied both "mortarium" and "pistillum" to articles used in the preparation of drugs, reflecting the early use of the mortar & pestle as a pharmacist's or apothecary's symbol.

The antiquity of these tools is well documented in some early literature, such as the Egyptian "Papyrus Ebers" of c. 1550 B.C.E. (the oldest preserved medical literature piece) and in the Old Testament.
Mortars and pestles were traditionally used in pharmacies to crush various ingredients prior to preparing an extemporaneous prescription. The mortar and pestle is the most common icon associated with pharmacies. For pharmaceutical use, the mortar and the head of the pestle are usually made of porcelain, while the handle of the pestle is made of wood. This is known as a Wedgwood mortar and pestle and originated in 1779.

Today the act of mixing ingredients or reducing the particle size is known as trituration. Mortars and pestles are also used as drug paraphernalia by some in order to grind up pills to speed up absorption when they are ingested or in preparation for snorting.
Mortars are also used in cooking to prepare ingredients such as guacamole, as well as grinding spices into powder. Native American tribes used mortars carved into the bedrock to grind acorns and other nuts. Many such depressions can be found in their former territories. Very large mortars are used with wooden mallets to prepare mochi.

Pesto got its name from the pestle pounding. Pesto (italian past participle of pestâ: "to pound, to crush," in reference to the crushed herbs and garlic in it, from Latin root of pestle) is a sauce that originates in the city of Genoa in the Liguria region of northern Italy (pesto alla genovese).


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

is NOTHING sacred to you?