Betel nut cutter from Jamnagar, India. Used on parcels of Areca nut and betel vine leaves plus other ingredients

This Betel nut cutter is used for cutting up areca nuts and betel vine leaves

Betel nut cutters, as they are incorrectly called, are, strictly speaking, Areca nut cutters. The Betel vine does not have nuts but they became known as Betel-nut cutters because Betel vine leaves are wrapped around pieces of the Areca nut along with other ingredients which are chewed in a little parcel.

The resulting little parcel is chewed to release the flavours inside and also to act as a mild stimulant, it is also claimed to have medicinal benefits. The little parcel is usually called a “Betel quid” which may have as one of the ingredients tobacco, is said in some circles to be an addictive psycho-stimulating and euphoria-inducing formulation with adverse health effects.

Not only that but chewing Betel vine leaves is also notable for staining the teeth of regular users to a reddish black. One of the most unpleasant aspects of this tradition to Western eyes is that the chewing of the quid produces red-coloured saliva which is then spat out.  Not only do we consider spitting to be an unpleasant habit but the tell-tale residue looks like splotches of dried blood on the ground. All sounds very unpleasant so I shall stop there!

As you can see these betel nut cutters are scissor-like, made of plated metal with a fairly sharp steel blade fixed into the upper arm. The lower arm is serrated so that it grips whatever is being cut. They are stamped with no 6, what looks like a trademark, an indecipherable name and “Jamnagar”. Overall length is 6 ½ inches (17cm).

The style of the betel nut cutter shown in the photograph would indicate that it is a working tool rather than the highly decorated ornamental versions which you can find for sale in antique shops or Eastern art emporiums because they have been in use for hundreds of years.

Week 74b Betel nut cutter

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