Eagle i: Sri Lanka - The spice of life

Part three in an ongoing series

John Moulton is an artist and creative designer who is spending several weeks in Sri Lanka. His job in the textile industry was eliminated when his Miami-based company closed and sold its equipment to a company in Sri Lanka. Moulton will be working for a company there training its workers and he’s writing about those experience for Marco Eagle readers.


Eagle i contributor

When you leave for a far off land, your friends give you a going away party. I like to think that they are imparting good wishes for a happy journey and safe return. Or, it could be construed as a thank god your leaving, and we won’t have to deal with you for awhile, excuse for your friends to party. As if anyone on Marco Island would go though the trouble of coming up with an excuse to party.

At these parties, various bets are placed. Bets on how long you’ll stay, how much weight you’ll gain, or how much weight you’ll lose. So when my wife, who I miss dearly, e-mailed me this morning she mentioned that people were interested in the food I was eating.

I find this interest about my eating habits dubious. I am after all a finicky eater. A steadfast rule of mine is: If it doesn’t go on pizza, I probably won’t eat it. (Pineapples excluded!)

This clamor about my gastronomic affairs is just a clandestine attempt to hedge some bets. Even 11,000 miles away I can smell a rat!

It would be unfair of me to disrupt the spirit of the bet by stating my current weight. Unfair and quite impossible, since any means of measuring the current pull of gravity against my body mass is unavailable to me. Any methods that is, except belt buckle size. I am currently one notch tighter, but growing very fond of the local fair.

The company I work for promised me room and board. When I first arrived I had the room, just not the board. Now that problem is solved, and I am relieved that I no longer have to cajole the dining staff into feeding me. I was hoping to jettison some unneeded weight on this journey, assuming that my particular eating phobias would assist me in regulating my portions. Early in my trip this was possible, but now I find myself returning to the trays for additional helpings (typical!). I might have stood a chance if the hotel served only individual meals, but they serve a buffet at every sitting.

All the main food groups are represented, rice, noodles and a spicy pilaf. If you don’t like spicy pilaf, you can have spicy noodles. If spicy noodles are not your cup of tea, then you can partake of their spicy rice. If you don’t like spicy rice, you’re screwed. I gave up trying to ascertain the contents and palatability of the dishes soon after my arrival. Looking at them was no indication of what they would taste like, and the clearly displayed name tags below, might as well have been written in sand script.

Breakfast starts with a plate of milk rice, you may then ladle on one of the following: Tuna Rotti, boiled cow peas, Kari Hodi, chicken, fish or Vahl curry. The Rotti and the Hodi look like a goulash, and taste like unsweetened hot Buffalo wings. You can add the following condiments if any of the above stated comestibles are not spicy enough for your tastes: Semi Sambal (spicy), Pol Sambal (hot and spicy) or Lunu Mirus (why is my tongue smoking?).

More traditional breakfast dishes are available: Poached apples, pears, and pineapple, papaya, sour bananas, raisins and dates. They also serve a curd and trickle. This dish has a semi-white color with a watery grits look to it … pass. None of these fruits goes on pizza, so I haven’t tried them.

No breakfast would be complete without coffee or tea. Thankfully both are served piping hot. Cream and sugar are in abundant supply, but artificial sweeteners are absent. You have a choice of fruit juices: Kiwi, mixed fruit, passion, or nelli. Nelli is green, and frankly I have no intension of passing it through my lips. If you want to know what nelli tastes like, drag your inquisitive butt 11,000 miles, and find out for yourself.

I have a favorite morning food, it’s called a hopper. The chef pours a thin batter into a cone shaped skillet, swirls it around like you would a crepe until it coats the raised edges of the pan. The skillet is placed over an open grill until the mixture is fully cooked. It’s sweet, crunchy, and you can put things in it or eat it by itself.

All of this may seem unappetizing to some, but I have enjoyed everything that’s gone into my mouth. I like spicy foods, the hotter the better. Now I prowl the buffet looking for dishes that I haven’t seen before. I don’t just take a teaspoon to try it out. I ladle a heaping portion of whatever it is onto my plate. I ask the chef which sauce is hotter, the red one, the green one or the one that’s bubbling independently. Then I spread that one on thickly.

If you like spicy, Sri Lankas got spicy. If you like food that doesn’t bite you back, then you can think of Sri Lanka as a dieter’s paradise.

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