by Mary Anne Mohanraj
We come together with other Sri Lankans—homelander and diaspora, Sinhalese and Tamil, Buddhist and Hindu and Christian and Muslim—over delicious shared meals. Sri Lanka has been a multi-ethnic society for over two thousand years, with neighbors of different ethnicities, languages, religions, living side by side. We try to teach our children to be welcoming to all, to share our unique cultural traditions. That is part of what it means to be Sri Lankan, what it has always meant.
Dark roasted curry powder, a fine attention to the balance of salty-sour-sweet, wholesome red rice and toasted curry leaves, plenty of coconut milk and chili heat. These are the flavors of Sri Lanka, a South Asian island at the crossroads of centuries of migration and trade.
Can we choose the good parts of our culture to cherish, and leave the darker aspects behind? I hope so. I hope food can help provide a pathway there. Come together at our table, sharing milk rice and pol sambol, paruppu and crab curry. Linger over the chai—just one more cup. Eat, drink, and share joy.
In A Feast of Serendib, novelist and post-colonial academic Mary Anne Mohanraj introduces her mother’s cooking and her own American adaptations, providing an introduction to Sri Lankan American cooking that is straightforward enough for a beginner, yet nuanced enough to capture the unique flavors of Sri Lankan cooking.