the best moms ever (and their best recipes)

(photographed by james piper) 

I grew up in a household with three mothers. I don’t mean that my aunt and my grandmother were “like” mothers to me. I mean that I felt just as close to them and as comforted by them and as ungrateful for them (being the rotten pain-in-the ass brat I was as a child) as with my own mother. In a busy household of grandparents, parents, an aunt and a cousin who was like a little brother to me, everyone going to school, working shifts, and eating whenever they could, there was no yours and mine. Everyone cooked for everyone, everyone fed all little mouths, and the little mouths made that as challenging a task as possible.

As much as I don’t want or wait for a holiday to tell me when to appreciate people in my life, I did use today, Mother’s Day, as an opportunity to cook and serve as many special foods to my mom and aunt as I could. I don’t think I’ve ever been more grateful for my mother, aunt and grandmother for all of the unbelievably generous and loving mothering I received, than I am at this point in my life. As I got older, I began to appreciate them and see what a huge impact they’ve had on my life and who I am, but now with food becoming the main focus of my life and work, having them in my life is the gift that just keep on giving. I owe my nourishment, affinity to food, any skills, knowledge or interest I picked up before I even really considered food the way I do now to them.

And I owe many of the recipes on this site to them. I’m still mastering Sri Lankan cooking (I’m sure that will be a lifelong quest), but their dishes are honed and revered by everyone who tries them. I thought I’d take this opportunity to feature the recipes for what I think are their signature dishes.


My mom’s curries are all over this site, yet it’s her fried chickpea snack (pictured above) that makes me feel so welcomed when I visit her. “Coming home” to that simple, healthy and savoury snack that I used to eat by the bowlful growing up reminds me of being a spoiled brat that ate more than my share, cross-legged on the couch, fixed entirely on some TV show and not at all on the delicious chickpeas that my mom made. Remind me never to have kids.

My aunt’s fried eggplant curry melts in your mouth. I mean, fried eggplant is luxurious (my aunt’s is pictured at the very top) and an eggplant curry is common in South-Asian homes and restaurants, but none, none, come close to my aunt’s version. The secret? Her touch. My mom and cousins would probably agree with me that although we make this the same way (my aunt was beside me during every recipe test for the version here), hers is just, somehow, better.

And we’re all (my parents, aunt and I) still trying to make a chili and shallot pickle as good as my grandmother’s. At this point, we don’t think we ever will. Probably a case of more of the above. Love goes into food and changes the outcome every time, and my grandmother’s love–well, if you knew her, you would just nod and know that that’s what’s missing here. Still, I hope you’ll try these great recipes. Having gathered them over many conversations, tests and meals with my family, they are brought to you with much love.