With no strict following of a measuring system, village cooks will often indicate how much of an ingredient is needed by bringing their hands together and say “this much”. Other housewives can be heard saying a pinch of this, a handful of that, a good swirl of salty water: test, consider, adjust, seasoning “a little, a few” or “a fistful” .


Cooking in most Sri Lankan households is, when possible, a family affair. Expect young children to be in and out of the kitchen as the meal is slowly prepared. The mother will ask someone to cut the onions, another to measure and wash the rice and when the meal is nearly done, mothers can be heard slapping the hands of those same kids as they try and sneak a stealthy bite.


The sight of birth parents and grandparents cooking together is a plentiful one as they laugh, chat and keep themselves occupied whilst preparing the meal. The sight of someone spooning some curry with a coconut shell spoon and dabbing it on the middle of the palm to taste is commonplace. Knowing when the dish is “done” is an art that comes with time and experience.


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