From a Vintage Sri Lankan Cookbook

By Sharmini Jayawardena

Last week, I suddenly remembered my mother’s friend and colleague at Lady Irwin College, New Delhi, India, whom she used to speak of.

I also remember having a taste of food prepared by her, at a friend’s spend-the-day, birthday party, for which they had got two items made by her! A most tasty marshmallow pudding and a fabulous date cake which she had iced or frosted with almond butter cream!

(My friend kept singing her name, on and on, repeatedly, on and on 😄).

These two dishes are by themselves, signature Sri Lankan dishes of yore. The marshmallow pudding was so creatively presented with thin lines running here and there in blue and raspberry inside the white marshmallow! It was a gorgeous sight to feast your eyes on, and an absolute delight to take a taste of.

Her date cake was so moist and slathered with a cream coloured creamy almond butter 🧈 icing, as frosting is referred to in Colombo.

However, this past week, I was wracking my brain trying to recall her name and a few days passed with no result until, bam 💥, suddenly my memory banks flashed back to her name – Chandra Dissanayake!

Eureka! Eureka! I had found it and I gave my memory a pat on the back once again 😁

With a quick web search I arrived at this ⬇️

I was amazed that I was actually successful in finding the book here, with a story to tell about it, to boot! I remembered my mother having told me about her cook 👩‍🍳 👨‍🍳 book 📖 📚 – Ceylon Cookery!

I quickly wrote a comment thanking the author among other matters and proceeded to save the link to the site and take a few pix of the front and back covers to the book.

Hungry Planet had also shared their experience in cooking from the recipes in the book and also their experience tasting the food.

Obviously the spice factor was a contention but the flavours apparently not. I’m truly grateful for this find, and hope to adopt some of the tips from the book, shared by them which I share with you here above ⬆️.

Pepper Beef 🥩 Curry from Ceylon Cookery via Hungry Planet

However, try as I may, I just could not find a copy to buy, for myself. Not on Amazon, not on any other online retail shopping site either! I finally decided to check out Amazon once again in desperation, and voila! It appeared! And the copy is mine 🤗

I hope to do the same with the Ceylon Daily News Cookery Book, the only copy of which I lost in my sad but true innumerable movings from place to place!

From 1956. Originally published in 1953 by Hilda Deutrom
From the 1927 edition.

These books of yore from Sri Lanka, are definitely culinary treasures to possess and I’m determined to be a proud owner of as many of them as possible 😁. The purveyors of these books knew their onions 🧅, so to speak.

There are other cookery books belonging to this era and point in time, that I must lay my hands on one way or another.

One being, Charmaine Solomon’s, The Complete Asian Cook Book, so famous in Australia.

Cookery books in general are a must have and in particular are your go to when making new dishes unknown to you and also to add that much more oomph to your already tried and tested!

It is indeed a beautiful sight to see your kitchen wall lined and bedecked with these colourful beauties creating that true feeling of comfort and satisfaction with their many comfort foods tucked away in their many crisp papers and pages, not forgetting their gorgeous pictures!

Pictures! Yes! Pictures of a cook book are worth a million in gold, aren’t they?! Or should I say one in a million make it to these hallowed pages?😊 They are the reason we clamour to them! They are the reason the authors make so much money 💰 💴 💵 😁 off of them.

I have a tendency to go directly to the horse’s mouth as it were when seeking information ℹ️. This is why I dig deep when it comes to getting it straight from the horse’s mouth! I have never gone wrong on this so far, however.

Did I ever mention that a copy of Vogue Entertainment, Australia, used to be my most go to for inspiration for my creative writing, if you please, for a long time until I lost that too in my innumerable moving of spaces. Lost in transition you could say 😊. Talk about food for thought!

I’m sure I will manage to find a copy if I rummage enough in an old book store or what we found over here, a junk book store.

I think I need to do that soon 😁 or may be try the online version.

I myself would love the idea of having my own cook book, though the shelves are brimming with them right now, aren’t they?! These days there’s a cook book by almost everyone known and unknown!

We are hoping to put my mother’s recipes together in a book replete with pen and ink and colour illustrations, to give a different nuance to it. I hope 🤞🏽 it gets done and gets done soon.

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