Meena Amma is Warwick and her love of the area is infectious, as is her sizzling traditional cooking class that we decide to join in doing at her lovely Line home. We are welcomed in with Wannakkam, ‘may you be blessed with a long life’, and a traditional bindi on the forehead of white, then orange and red dots. My sons are excited to get started, so they roll up their sleeves and wash their hands. Standing on a box to reach the kitchen table, they learn step by step how to make pol sambal, chicken curry and then join the village kids on the escarpment to catch the new born baby chicks and take them up the hill to where their mother hen is happily pecking away, and probably secretly glad to get away from her naughty six fluff ball baby chicks.
Back in the kitchen, I cut more vegetables, this time side ways to maximise the amount of spice that will be absorbed, while I blow through a blowpipe to fan the log fire cooking the chicken curry and needle the dough over and over again to get plenty of air into it so it will rise. I am told by Meena, who sprinkles coconut oil onto the dough to soften it for cooking, that this has been done the same way for hundreds of years and always, until more recently, made inside one of Sri Lanka’s iconic clay pots.
All this is watched by children playing with small baby chicks through a simple wooden line house open window in a hidden mountain valley, where community remains king and perhaps, I ponder as I make my first flat bread roti, this is the reason for the happiness I feel everywhere I walk.