Archive for November, 2011


Friday, November 25th, 2011

Tropical Topics, 27 November, 2010.


Welcome to readers from around the world to this week’s Tropical Topics.


Made in Sri Lanka

Cassava chips? Yes, and so delicious that I ate a lot of the packet before I managed to photograph them. The ingredients of this packet of Cassava Chips are listed as Manioc Yams, Salt, Vegetable Oil, Chilli Powder and Curry Leaves. The 100gm packet cost Rs61 (34p; 53cents) and they are deep fried and packed in the Colombo suburb of Kotte.

I first came across Cassava in Dominica where it is served boiled. It’s prepared the same way in Sri Lanka, too, although as chips (crisps) it’s a great snack to have while drinking. According to an expert, “For most people, Cassava is most commonly associated with Tapioca. The plant grows tall, sometimes reaching 15 feet, with leaves varying in shape and size. The edible parts are the tuberous root and leaves.

“Cassava can survive even during the dry season when the soil moisture is low, but humidity is high. Around the world, Cassava is a vital staple for about 500 million people. Nutritionally, it is comparable to potatoes, except that it has twice the fibre content and a higher level of potassium.”



Curry Leaves, which add flavour to the chips, actually come from a small tree (shown here). The leaves are highly valued as seasoning in Sri Lankan cooking, especially in curries, and are usually fried along with chopped onion in the first stage of preparation


All Gone

A boy ringing a hand bell drew a motley crowd of collectors and the curious to the auction of antiques and curios held by Schokman & Samarawickreme last Sunday, 20 November 2011, where potential purchasers registered at the entrance desk for a bidding number. Mine was – coincidentally — my lucky number, 10.

For a change (see Newsletters 59 & 79) I was a seller and not a buyer (well, at the beginning at least). Having decided that my collection of ancient maps and antique prints needed a better home than I could give them in the humidity of my seaside cottage, I put 36 of them up for auction by Navinda, his brother Anuja, and their team (seen here).

I was dismayed when I inspected the many fascinating items on sale, such as rare china and colonial furniture, to find other prints on offer including some in elaborate frames (most of mine were in cardboard folders). Against such august competition, I felt my prints probably wouldn’t reach their reserve price and I’d have to take them back home.

Luckily I was wrong as there were several knowledgeable collectors keen to own part of Sri Lanka’s history. Maps by Bellin sold for exactly what they were worth with L’Indoustan (1764) selling for Rs11,000 (£ 62.50; US$ 97.34) and the better Bellin of Ceylon (1764) fetching twice as much.

An 1840 print of a sagacious-looking Asian sold for just Rs2,000 (£ 11.42; US$ 17.69) while an unique Baldeus print (dated 1700) of four village churches sold for Rs9,000  (£ 51.13; US$ 79.69).

The much admired unframed 1910 print of a soldier bidding farewell to his Ceylonese lady friend (see last week’s newsletter), attracted a lot of bids until it sold for Rs45,000  (£255.68; US$ 398.23).

When I realised sales were good, I couldn’t resist bidding for a few of the collectible items myself. That’s how I finished up — having sold my print of a 19th century hackery race for Rs7,000 (£ 40; US$ 62) — as the proud owner of an actual antique bullock racing cart.


New Wine

By tradition, each year’s Beaujolais Noveau wine cannot be consumed until after midnight on the third Thursday of November, and so it was at The Mount Lavinia Hotel this year. Since Anuru Dewanapura, the Sri Lankan former chef of international renown and expertise, became the hotel’s manager, the Mount Lavinia has become the most “happening” hotel in Sri Lanka. Every evening there are different events and special occasions with chefs from around the world exhibiting their skills.

The arrival of this year’s Beaujolais on 17 November was celebrated with a gala dinner of French cuisine (and glorious French cheeses) on the hotel’s magnificent terrace overlooking the beach, until guests were driven inside by a sudden tropical storm. My verdict on the 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau? Served well chilled it was surprisingly complex, fulfilling and jolly fruity.


Electronic Travel

From 1 January 2012, all non-residents of Sri Lanka (except those with Maldivian or Singaporean passports) will require a piece of paper (called an Electronic Travel Authorisation, [ETA]) to show when they get to an Immigration Desk in Sri Lanka to have a “Permit To Land” stamped in their passports. The ETA can be printed up from the website

The fees shown on the website have been reduced. Last week in the budget speech, it was announced that the fee for the ETA will cost US$20, unless you are holding a passport issued by one of the countries that is part of the SAARC grouping, in which case the fee is US$10.


Name that band

Last week I reported on a band of revived musicians in their mid-fifties who are in need of a name. Some names suggested so far are: The Monotones, The Rusty Ramblers, Delusions, Goldies, The Aged Pees, Senior Moments, Back to Basics, Nearly Seventies, The Rabids, The Retromaniacs, Alive & Rocking, Rock of Ages (ouch!).  Gillian, in London, suggested as a name the phrase I used to describe them: Ripe Rockers.  Better ideas welcomed!

If you want to read about the past pop music scene, my book The Big Beat Scene first published 50 years ago, has been re-released in a brand new edition, available direct from the publisher by visiting:

Beat regards