This part of the Guide looks at the various peoples and communities that have produced the foodways of Sri Lanka as they are practised at present, in the first decade of the 21st century. As with other parts, chapters are being added to it progressively as they are completed, and will be revised as additional information comes to hand.
Hunting and Gathering
From the earliest evidence of human habitation to the continuing practices of the Wanniya-laeto, hunting and gathering has been part of Sri Lankan foodways. The animals, birds, fish, vegetables and fruit that formed the diet in the protohistoric period continue to be part of the modern Sri Lankan diet.
When did the cultivation of crops begin in Sri Lanka and of what did cultivation first consist? There are signs in excavations in the cave of Dorawaka-kanda near Kegalle of the use of pottery and perhaps the cultivation of cereals as early as 6300 BCE. But how were the cereals cultivated?
With 75% of Sri Lankans Buddhist, what influence does this have on foodways?
‘If, as the Mahavamasa attests, the Sinhalese population in Sri Lanka are descended from Vijaya, sailing here around 500 BCE, what foodways this he and his community bring?’
South Indian Influences
‘Either walking across the land bridge, or sailing across, South Indians travelled to Sri Lanka for thousands of years bringing their foodways with them. What are the traces of these today?’
Arab and Persian InfluencesThe story of the relationships between the Arab peoples, Persians and Sri Lanka is fundamental to the story of the spice trade and the development also of Sri Lankan foodways.
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Chinese InfluencesChina and Sri Lanka have had cultural, religious and trade exchanges since the 5th CE, but has this influenced Sri Lankan cuisine?
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Portuguese Influences‘With the coming of the Portuguese in 1505 Sri Lankan cuisine was to undergo the most significant changes in centuries.’
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Dutch InfluencesEdam cheese, frikadella, smoore, bruder...the Dutch entrenched European foodways in Sri Lankan cuisine.
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English InfluencesFrom Hannah Glasse to Isabella Beeton, it was plain food that the British brought to Sri Lanka.
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