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.
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