Betel-chewing and the parafernalia

Betel-chewing is a custom in the East. It consists of pieces of crushed betel nut, some tobacco, flavored with liquorices, honey or fruits, all wrapped in a sirih leave. To make a workable substance some chalk is added.

The betel is said to have medical qualities and stimulates the body at the same time. Unavoidable with betel-chewing is the red liquid that colors the teeth and even corrodes the tooth glaze; for this reason the habit never got popular with Europeans living in the tropics.

The user chews the quid, the liquid gives the effect comparable with then use of chewing-tobacco. The quid promotes the flow of salvia and for that reason the spittoon is the customary companion to the chewer. After some time he or she spits the chew.

To prepare a betel-chew the betel nut is cut with a kind of scissors, the sirih cutter or pinang cutter. The cuttings are crushed in a hand-held mortar using a sharp pestle with decorated handle. During the process the aromas are added.

The chew is then stored in a metal box, with a second box containing the chalk only added when taken. Betel-chewing is popular in Malaysia, the Indonesian archipelago and even in India and surrounding countries. Each region has its own objects used in the processing and presenting the betel, according to the local arts and crafts. These can be simple and functional, heavy decorated or even of opulent luxury.

Brass box for bete chewing, usually in the interior with a separate compartment for the quid. Indonesia, Java, 1860-1900. Two betel sets in silver with larger embossed boxes and on a chain a smaller for the chalk. Indonesia, Sumatra, 1880-1920.
Silver chalk box to mix with the quid, a spatula on a chain. Maleisia, 1860-1900. Silver set, the large box for the betel chewing, the smaller for the chalk, both boxes chased. Indonesia, Sumatra, 1880-1920.
Two betel sets in silver with engraved decorations, the larger for the quid, the smaller for the chalk. Indonesia, Java, 1900-1920.
Handles of the betel mortar showing birds looking for food. Indonesia, Lombok, 1900-1950. Handles of betel grinders with a double decoration of a man on an animal or a person on the back of a second person. Indonesia, Lombok, 1900-1950.
A handle carved in bone for a betel grinder with a sitting person. Indonesia, Lombok, 1860-1900. Charming but primitive handle of a betel grinder of a standing person. Indonesia, Lombok, 1870-1900.
Beautifully carved handle of a betel grinder with a kneeled figure. Indonesia, Lombok, 1920-1950.
Scissors to cut the hard betel nut, shaped like a horse. Indonesia, Bali, 1870-1900. Scissors to cut the hard betel nut, shaped like a stylized animal figure. Indonesia, 1850-1900.
Scissors to cut the hard betel nut, shaped like a horse. Indonesia, Bali,  1850-1900. Scissors to cut the hard betel nut, shaped like a stylized animal figure. Indonesia, 1880-1920.
Betel grinder and betel mortar with characteristic bent wooden handles inspired on the Javanese kreese. Indonesia, Java, 1850-1900.
Betel grinder and betel mortar in brass with characteristic bent handles inspired on the Javanese kreese. Indonesia, Java, 1880-1920.
Chique and unusual box for the betel chewing complete with quid holder and closing pin that can be used as mortar as well. Indonesia, Java, 1920-1940.
Betel grinder and mortar, Indonesia, Sumatra, 1880-1900 and Java, 1850-1900. Betel mortars and their grinders in wood decocrated with animals. Indonesia, Lombok, 1940-1980.
Two wooden betel mortars and their grinders with simple geometrical patterns. New-Guinee, Trobriand isles, 1880-1920.
Cast bronze spittoon with broad rim serving the betel chewer. Indonesia, Java, 1800-1850.
Tobacco box in wood with a lid decorated with zig zag ornaments, the string holds the two parts together. Indonesia, Lombok, 1900-1940.

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