Since returning to Sri Lanka, my first visit was seventeen years ago, I have been captivated by the daily assortment of curries placed before me. I have had to beg to be excused from indulging more than once a day , I couldn’t face curry for breakfast, though homemade hot roti, eaten with one of the myriads of varieties of bananas, is hard to refuse; as are pineapple slices washed in salt water and then sprinkled with ground chillies. The sun-ripened fruit, freshly caught fish and garden-fresh vegetables that appear at mealtimes in small and large dishes with an equal number of spiced sauces, or alone, are as numerous as the notes on the page of a Mozart symphony, while the flavours that burst on the palate could well have inspired Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks. For those who claim they cannot eat anything highly spiced, I offer my commiserations. Since childhood I have enjoyed spices. Thankfully my digestion remains robust, as long as I’m not confronted with meat, although the amount I can eat has decreased with advancing years.
Yesterday, I was the guest of family friends at one of Colombo’s finest beach-side hotels. The decor in the foyer was sumptuous, and air-conditioned, with a cool fruit drinks being offered within seconds of our arrival. Making our way to the lower ground floor, at garden level, we were confronted with a buffet offering a vast choice of curries and sambals. It was delectable, and although for the many tourists sitting down in their tour groups, or individually, it was authentic and appetizing, the difference for me, having eaten authentic village cooking, was that it was too bland – a musical interlude rather than a symphony.