Today many of the diseases – especially the long term and often incurable – are food related. These are however recent phenomena in Sri Lanka. Yet, food is a very significant factor in Sri Lankan lives. Food has been the cause for the Sri Lankan history to change – many times. The diversity in the Sri Lankan gastronomy is enormous. Though until colonial rule, red meats were not part of the regular diet of the ordinary man, Sri Lankans ate a wide variety of vegetables, fish, fruits and herbs, not to mention tubers and yams.
Red meats were not out of Sri Lankan gastronomy, but artificial flavors, fragrances, coloring, sauces, animal fats or oils in its cooking were. Closely adhering to the ancient holistic principles, Sri Lankan gastronomy is one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. Also its habit of marrying many spices and herbs, even to the simplest of curries not only created vibrancy in its culinary, but also added its own many benefits to the dish.
Sri Lankan culinary is especially vibrant, not only because of its many ingredients, but also because Sri Lankan cooking is not monotonous. Vegetarian, fish or meat, curries or any side accompaniment like a mallum has an art in Sri Lankan cooking, which brings forth its richness in its wholesome ingredients and each ingredient tells a story of its own, which belies some of the misconceptions about Sri Lankan cuisine. Indeed, there is a perfect example to most cooking techniques in Sri Lankan cooking and some are very unique to the Island. Unlike the culinary fare in the neighboring continent, India, most of Sri Lankan foods are quick turn on the stove, retaining both its texture and earthy flavors.
With Sri Lanka at the most strategic position in the ancient trade routes, all passing through the Asian waters stopped by this wondrous Island – not only for a respite, but also for its many treasures and each left their own mark in the Island’s gastronomy. Sri Lankans themselves were very adventurous and sailed off to far destinations and returned with a worldliness that reflected in Sri Lankan food.
Despite this fabulous gastronomy, many Sri Lankans today nurse an inferiority complex about their food. Considering it to be no more than a subset of the Indian continent, Sri Lankans not only scoff at their own foods, but also have begun to adapt many of the unhealthy habits of other world cuisines. As a direct result, many Sri Lankans today are suffering from long term and often incurable diseases that have eluded them for centuries.
As lives get more and more hectic, with less and less help, people are increasingly turning away from the hassle of cooking rice and curry. On a day to day basis, breakfast and dinner have often turned into a meal of bread, noodles, pasta or pizza. These are quick and easy solutions as these can either be picked up directly from the shop shelf, delivered directly to the home or are preprocessed and thus needs to be only boiled before either mixing with a sauce or tossing with vegetables and or meat. The presence of refrigerators and microwave ovens often now offer the convenience of not having to cook meals afresh, but to refrigerate cooked food and heat it as needed.
Indeed with more families where both partners are working and working long hours, people have lesser time and energy to cook, especially the dinner. Hence, the trend is fast changing from cooking afresh on a daily basis to cooking all week’s dinners in one go on one day and freezing it. This allows busy families to return home from their busy lives and simply reheat the precooked meal allocated for that day. Even though this means an entire day – usually a holiday such as a Sunday – is spent on cooking, many people increasingly prefer to do so instead of opting for the easy solution of wheat-based meals.
These instant meals, especially the wheat-based food, with its convenience, while presenting a fast solution also present long term illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancers and coronary diseases to name but a few. These illnesses itself or even the fear of inheriting these illnesses are beginning to bring the focus back into the importance of eating freshly cooked, nutritious foods such as red rice, fresh produce with a higher vegetarian focus, white meats such as chicken as opposed to red meats, and small fish like sprats avoiding shellfish as prawns.
However, research studies are indicating the danger of freezing and reheating. The problem with freezing is that germs and other decaying agents are often only slowed due to the low temperatures. These harmful agents are just slowed in activity and by no means destroyed. Some agents continue to be active, albeit slowly, even while been refrigerated. Thus, the foods that are kept for prolonged periods may actually have started its deterioration process, but its signs may not be easily visible or detectable. Consuming these foods naturally could cause health problems and for this precise reason pregnant women are especially advised to refrain from eating refrigerated foods.
Microwaving has also raised concerns on the long term effect it might have on health. It is thought by many that if proper containers are not used when microwaving food, micro elements of the container, especially that of plastic might actually melt and mix with the food. This, it is feared could lead to long term and sometimes incurable diseases such as cancer. While research has still to reach definite conclusions, many are concerned enough to re-look at their dietary habits.