Avinya Foundation

#39 Kos Kothu, Bottle Gourd Salad and Other Food Chronicles

Have you ever thought about why Sri Lankan food is just so special and distinctive? I always wonder at  how much our food is filled with flavor, love and endless possibilities? We’ve got so many influences both locally and from different parts of the world that have created such memorable and delectable dishes. Not only that, our food has so much history, so much love, so much emotion behind it and a lot of it is so personal. When you think of your childhood it is probably one of the first things you remember…the food you ate, the food your mum or grandmother made for you and in my case the mouth-watering dishes my dad always cooked up. There’s a story to tell and each story is different and unique.

Food is more than place settings, preparation/ mise en place and eating in dainty plates. In Sri Lanka as with most other countries it tells a story about who we are. Food defines us. Instead of “Hi! How are you?” Many a time over a phone call I hear the endearing greeting in SL of “Did you eat?” In a Sri Lankan household you can’t have a quick visit. It is unheard of and you cannot leave without having a cup of tea (if you are really lucky you get some milkmaid in it!). If you are invited for a meal, you know that you can’t really say you are full unless you’ve said it ten times before. You usually have to plan that in advance because your plate will be filled with second servings regardless of your protests of healthy eating, waistbands expanding and other excuses.

Festive Sri Lankan meals are usually reserved for the tingling aroma of yellow rice with a nice brinjal moju (aubergeine pickle), maybe some added starch with potato thel dala and if you are really lucky a nice crispy fish or veg cutlet. Sounds amazing you say? Let me make it better…if you are really, really lucky some delectable cashew curry will be gracing your plate.

Sorry, if I made your mouth water, but that’s what the last two weeks have been like at Avinya. We’ve been circling around the project Fun with Food where as Sinalie mentioned last week, students research food from all around the world, they then look at making a fusion dish of their own creation and have a cook off. As I write this students are prepping for their cook off on Friday. Watch this space next week for an update,

Do not fear, I have a sneak peek for you though. As I walk around the classes I hear talk of lovi ice cream, kos and noodles. More about that in a bit. Back to lovi. I have my own lovi tree at home, so I know a little bit of sweet and a little bit of sour will make for one epic ice cream! Well done to the students who are really thinking out of the box.

Now, let me give you a sneak peek as to what our students have come up with.

Can I tantalize your taste buds with a starter of bottle gourd salad stuffed with juicy chicken? How about a kos cutlet keeping with our Kos season?

Then for the main we could move on to a delicious, mouth watering kothu made out of…wait for it…not plain roti, not manioc, not chick peas…made out of yum yum kos and we’ve got additional toppings. How about a cheese and egg kos kothu?

If you thought kos is the ingredient of choice, we’ve got a strong competitor. The humble noodle has been elevated to great heights in the menu for Friday. I grew up eating instant noodles and had a bit of a love affair with it. Our students have decided to take noodles to a whole other level.

We have on the menu a noodle burger! I look puzzled as one of the Educators explains this to me. It’s basically fried noodle buns instead of your usual brioche bun. How innovative! I can’t wait. Of course, another crowd favorite pizza is definitely on the menu. This time instead of flour or flour and semolina, the base is…noodles. Don’t ask me how. I am just the observer. I shall leave the execution in the capable hands of our students 🙂 I’m also waiting to hear more about how their Sri Lankan take on the biryani turns out. I hear soya meat will be a featured ingredient!

On to dessert, I hear there are many ideas. One that caught my interest was a good old coconut roti filled with a delicate and melt in your mouth chocolate filling. Pair it with a milkshake and then sign up to run a marathon because that’s what you’ll need to do to recover from this eventful line up of food and I haven’t even shared the full menu!

Apart from this week of innovation in the food department we’ve had a few more things going on. In keeping with the theme of food, we had a wonderful visit from the Jetwing team who raised awareness about the Hospitality sector and the different options available for our students. It was such an informative and enlightening session that we had a very engaged and energetic Q & A session afterwards. A big thank you to them!

At the tail end of last week we also had a very special visit from the team from Ministry of Crab who took time to tour our premises and speak to some of the students particularly interested in the restaurant industry. They patiently answered our questions and students and staff alike were inspired. Thank you!

From food to wildlife! Birdwatching was another thing we were up to thanks to some tireless coordination by our Educator Vidushi. Students had to be at Avinya before the break of dawn on Wednesday to catch some good visuals and afterwards Vimukthi, our special guest, did a presentation on birds in Sri Lanka and photography skills. A truly memorable session. The students were riveted by the information they learnt about the birds in Sri Lanka so much so that we spotted a student drawing a bird on the whiteboard to explain to the students who missed the session the best angle to take photos. Clearly the message has hit home.

From birdwatching to people watching. As I sit in Sinalie’s office (which she generously lets me share, especially when she’s off sick) and stare out at the students gathering in the cafeteria for lunch time, I see students now making way for each other in the queue. I see the students who are on the dining etiquette roster sitting at the dining table and laying their napkins neatly and getting ready to eat with cutlery. I see them getting ready to make small talk over lunch with their Educator sitting at their table. I see the others politely waiting for their friends to serve their food and come to the table before they start eating. All around, I see such a change in their confidence and skills over the last few months. Slowly and steadily they are acquiring the skills that they need for their next step in life!

Assembly was another new feature this week. What made it special was that it was completely student-led with some support from the wings by our Educator Ilma. The talent, confidence and creativity was lovely to watch and I think it goes for everyone when I say that the whole school was inspired by the presenters and performers. The resounding sound of applause at the end definitely confirmed it.

Also another big thank you to everyone who applied for the post of Educator with us. We’ve reviewed each application and are so thrilled to read about all the enthusiasm for our mission. You’ll hear back from us shortly, if not already. We are so grateful for the support and interest!

Finally, I shall leave you with some photos from this week….

  • Anju