Food Part 1 – the glory of bananas

Local markets
One of many banana stalls in the local markets in Nuwara Eliya

It’s hard to write about Sri Lankan food without mentioning bananas.

There are literally hundreds of loads of bananas in Sri Lanka. They are transported in massive bunches in trucks to a Dedicated Economic Centre aka growers’ markets (where they are auctioned to or bought by Colombo restaurants). Or they are sold in one of the many stalls that are set up in local markets or dotted on the roadside from town to town. It didn’t seem to matter if we were in the hills, on the edge of an ancient UNESCO world heritage site, or in a small town not detectable by Google Maps.

A very long banana!

Before going to Sri Lanka, Marcus found out that there were about 18 different types of bananas. There are bananas that are just for cooking, there are red bananas, there are bananas as long as a child’s palm, there are bananas as long as my forearm!

Being a bit of banana connoisseur, Marcus was very determined to go over there and try as many as he could. I think we ended up trying about 6 different types. Marcus was a bit more daring than Callum or me. Callum and I loved the small sugar bananas. Their skin was soft and very easy to peel, the flesh sweet, making it a handy snack on the road. We did find that we weren’t the only ones that loved them. If we didn’t wrap them up tightly in plastic bags overnight, the next morning there’d be evidence of geckos, ants or squirrels having feasted on them!

We were on our way to Kitulgala on a long winding road and decided to stop to buy some bananas at a roadside shelter that had been built at the front of someone’s house. The going rate for bananas (if you’re a tourist) is 50 rupees a kilo. 50 rupees is about 50 cents. Even with the tourist markup it’s extraordinarily cheap!!! I needed to use the bathroom so I left Marcus to buy some fruit while I followed the daughter to the back of their house to use their bathroom.

When I came back, they were settling the bill. It cost 1100 rupees. I’m no maths genius, but even I knew that either:
(a) Marcus had bought an entire village’s production of bananas; or
(b) we were being ripped off; or
(c) it was a very expensive toilet trip; or
(d) all of the above.

I looked at Marcus with utter astonishment on my face as I wondered what he could have bought! Marcus picked up a small bunch of small bananas – nothing that could have possibly weighed 22kgs. Scratch option (a). Back into the car we piled to the tune of, “Oh, it’s ok, we’re helping the local economy” and “Doesn’t matter, we’re on holiday” and “At least the toilet was clean and had running water.”


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