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Wednesday, 13 April 2011

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Of Kiribath, Kavum and Kokis

The dawn of the New Year is synonymous with the preparation of kiribath. Even though there are varieties of kiribath, such as Mun kiribath, made by adding green gram Imbul Kiribath which has its centre filled with coconut and jaggery, the kiribath prepared in the New Year is often made only with coconut milk.

The next most important food on the New Year table is the Kavum. As Prof. J.B Dissanayaka mentions in his book, the “Sinhalaya”, even though the Sinhalese may not be adapt at many things in their lives they will surpass any other race when it comes to eating Kavum.

The history of Kavum is believed to go back to very old times. Kevum is mentioned in ancient texts like the Ummagga Jatakaya, Saddharma Ratnawaliya and Pujawaliya.

Of the several varieties of kavum, such as Naran kavum, thala kavum, undu kavum, mun kavum, seeni kavum and atiraha the most popular and also perhaps the most difficult to make is the konda kavum. The woman who can make the “konda” perfect on her kavum is looked at with envy by those who fail in their attempts to form the perfect nob on the tip of their konda kavum.

Asmi too, which comes in the form of a half moon from afar but on closer inspection reveals string hoppers intricately woven together and dipped in honey, is another essential sweet on the New Year table.

“The importance attached to food cannot be forgotten.” wrote the late Prfoessor Nandasena Ratnapala in an Essay Socio-anthropological significance of `Avurudu’. “It should be shared by everyone. No one who comes to the house is allowed to depart without a meal. Even animals are fed, as they too are considered a part of the family.”

The food often consists of milk, milk-rice and other grains and fruits. The use of such items, I believe, are dictated by reasons of health. The ritualistic offerings made to Hindu gods and the Buddha consists of such items only. Could it be that the insight into our individual and community health prompted our ancestors to choose such items of food for the New Year?”

Ayurveda physicians believe this is true. The food which is taken during the Sinhala New Year has many nutritious values as sweetmeats like Mung Kevum are made of the flour of brown rice, and Unduvel is made of undu all of which have nutritious values.

All in all, be it kiribath, golden brown konda kevum, intricately designed kokis, juicy asmi or aluwa that melt in your mouth, what matters the most in the New Year is that you share them with your family and friends, strengthening the bonds of love, ensuring the year ahead will see you happy and healthy.

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