usually when there’s a birthday in our family, a sri lankan feast is prepared for dinner. this time–breakfast. i think we (read: my cousins and i) were all more excited about this because it’s rare that any of us (read: our parents) goes to the trouble of making traditional sri lankan breakfast foods.
especially not all of them.
everything centered around the “mains” seen above. there were stringhoppers, made with both white and red rice flour which you can see above. (you may be familiar with hoppers? instead of being cooked in a hopper pan, a mixture is pushed through a stringhopper mold, and the strings are wound onto a woven bamboo stringhopper steamer.) of course there was kiri bath (milk rice, in this case, red rice was used) which is a staple at any special/auspicious occasion. and as a special treat, there was pittu! this is a rice flour and scraped coconut mixture which is pressed into metal cylinders and steamed. you moisten the crumbly but pliable mounds with seasoned coconut milk and eat it with sambols and other sides…
some of which are coconut sambol (above left) and various other sambols, kiri hothi (literally: “milk gravy or sauce”, above middle) and ripe banana or plantain is served alongside.
and then there was dessert. caramel custard, ripe pineapple, plantain, melon and papaya, butter cake, jaggery to nibble on with strong black tea.
at our family functions, kids eat first. the littlest ones in our bunch eat the spiciest food, but on this day, all the servings appeared plain. i suspect the most conservative (and, the most influential oldest went first, and the rest followed the leader).
perhaps they were too nervous to eat? i’d heard they’d prepared a play for me, but i was so surprised to see that my cousins had taught them a play that we had put on together when we were little–that i “directed”, as they reminded me. even more thoughtful–the little ones organized a raffle to raise money for a charity i’m supporting, collecting donations from guests, and awarding a prize (a little trophy) to my mom who had the winning ticket. to say that i was touched by them, or my cousins for helping them to pull this off and by just being there, and especially by the huge effort my parents and aunt put into this feast… touched doesn’t begin to cover it. you can see why i go on about my family.