Sunday, June 26, 2011


Do you remember, annai måtai i kandet, what did our grandma do when the power died?  She went and got the fållot, the kåndet pretoleo, the kinke'.

I loved the kerosene lamps.  Ours had a glass fuel tank, so you could see the wick (metcha) soaking inside.  Remember how, as kids, we wanted to play with the knob that raised the wick to create a bigger flame, only to raise it too high and create sooty smoke?   The kerosene lamp engaged the senses lovingly, compared to the fluorescent tubes that assault them.  With modern lights, one flip of the switch is all it takes.  The kerosene lamps had to be filled with fuel, the wick trimmed and adjusted, the vase put on right.  Modern lights involve no odors, but, with the lamps, you had to smell the kerosene.

Then there was the sense of sight.  The kerosene lamp produced a comforting, soothing and intimate feeling for me.  I remember the shadows and degrees of illumination it created in a dark room.  Much nicer than the bright electrical lights where everything was too visible in a less soothing, monotonous way.

Fållot = from the Spanish "farol," meaning "lantern, lamp"

Pretoleo (or petroleo) = from petroleum, though we used kerosene

Kinke' = from the Spanish "quinque," a lamp with a glass chimney.  Named after the Frenchman Antoine-Arnoult Quinquet, who designed one.

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