An important department of the University of Peradeniya is Agriculture. It teaches the management of all things agricultural and hosts a seed bank.
Its experimental plots, rather like allotments, are planted with crops with the aim of increasing production in natural ways.
Different varieties are systematically investigated. Manufactured fertiliser is not used and biological pest control is tried instead of insecticides.
One of its more domestic activities is to train women how to prepare and cook almost any vegetable to make a tasty nutritious meal. Today we were the beneficiaries of this activity.
The women cook their food under instruction in the morning and at lunch time bring it to Hela Bojun, an outdoor café next to the allotments. There is a long counter and each person has about a metre to display her wares. There was a good crowd of us. We being the only Europeans, queue up and are given a rush platter with a clean leaf on it.
You buy as much food as you want and then move to another position selling something different. We chose Dhosas, a kind of pancake, with a dob of sambol, hot spicy ground coconut. I had a glass of mushroom soup and then there were a variety of sweetmeats containing cumin, cinnamon and other spices.
We shared our table with a succession of Sinhala workmen who were in ‘scoff and off’ mode. It is all done very quickly; there is no time to ask if it contains nuts or whether there is a gluten free option but it is all vegetarian and even the strictest dietician would have to admit that it is healthy food. Of course we ate with our fingers and this determined what we could choose to eat. It had to be something solid.
There was a communal tap to rinse hands afterwards. The main course cost us 50 Rupees each and we bought another 100 Rupees worth of sweetmeats to bring home. There are 200 Rupees to £1 at present.
It was an adventurous meal. We will certainly go again. The secret is in the timing. Too early and not all the cooks have turned up, too late and the best stuff has sold out.
Post Series: Dispatches from Sri Lanka, by Mike Sedgwick:
- Dispatches From Sri Lanka
- Kandy Lake vs Chandler’s Ford Lakes
- Self-Employment In Sri Lanka
- Sri Lankan Wedding
- Sri Lankan Food
- There’s Some Corner Of A Foreign Field
- The Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka
- This Is the Record Of John
- Tuk-tuk: My Transport Of Delight
- Life On The Road
- Commonwealth Games In Kandy
- A Temple For A Tooth?
- Dawn Train Down The Mountain To Colombo
- Traditional And Modern Medicine in Sri Lanka
- Ancient Vedda Tribe Becoming Extinct
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