Treating Your Sweet Tooth This Avurudu
By Sanuj Hathurusinghe
Avurudu is a time of customs, rekindling relations with relatives and neighbours, cleaning, reflecting on religious teachings, shopping, and gift giving but what makes many of us yearn for Avurudu every year is food, lots and lots of food.
The New Year food table brings a wide variety of sweetmeats to us – most of which we only get to indulge in once a year, during April. Due to the long shelf life of most of those Avurudu sweetmeats or as they are called in Sinhala – Kevili, our mothers and grandmothers begin to make them in large batches from the early weeks of April so that when the New Year dawns in mid-April, there will be more than enough types of sweetmeats to cover the Avurudu table. While some young ones patiently wait by their grandmas frying kevum to enjoy the hot-out-of-pan kevum grandma spares for them once in a way, others take part in fun Avurudu games or swing on the Avurudu swing until their heads start to spin.
However, scenes like this which were considered to be quite the norm during Avurudu times in Sri Lanka are on the fast track to becoming rarities courtesy the busy lives we have got ourselves adapted to. The pandemic which basically cancelled Avurudu last year and continues to affect this year’s celebrations as well certainly isn’t helping but what made many of us alarmed and second-think about even buying our favourite Avurudu delicacies was the news of how coconut oil in the market – a much-needed ingredient in making almost all of the Avurudu food – contains carcinogens.
The news not only came as a shock to those who were eager to make Avurudu sweets this year but also dealt a heavy blow to sweetmeat vendors who were expecting a season full of business. However, there are some home-based sweetmeat businesses which are either thriving or at least continuing business as usual despite the worries in the market.
This is basically due to the quality these businesses maintain and the trust they have built with their customer base. As rare as they are, Ceylon Today recently came across such a thriving home-based sweetmeat business in Imbulgoda, Gampaha. Chathura S. Kodikara – the man behind H and H Kevili Gedara – talked to us about how he managed to keep his business afloat despite these trying times. “It is all about maintaining a proper quality in your products,” Chathura said adding, “It has been about a year and a half since I started business and from the start, I only used clear virgin coconut oil in frying. There are no added colour enhancers or preservatives in our products and we don’t compromise on the size or the quality of our kevili depending on the season,” Chathura said.
The consistency has paid off. What Chathura started as a small business is now a registered small-scale business that provides employment to four others with a loyal customer base. “Despite the unhealthy coconut oil rumours, we have a lot of orders, so much so that we barely manage to fulfil them in time,” Chathura said.
H and H Kevili Gedara creates a variety of sweetmeats ideal to fill the Avurudu table of an any household. From konda kevum, mung kevum, two different types of kokis to athirasa, aluwa, aggala, and an H and H special milk toffee made out of fresh milk, Chathura makes almost everything an Avurudu table needs. There are also weli thalapa and narang kevum but Chathura said they don’t make them regularly – only for special orders.
Apart from the orders he receives Chathura also provides packed kevili to a few selected supermarkets in and around Colombo. Since his products are in high demand he has to supply the supermarkets with goods at least twice a week. These days he is making a few hundreds of every type of kevili a day to meet the demand.
What had started as a small business during the COVID-19 lockdown has now grown to a flourishing business with a steady and ever-increasing number of orders. Encouraged by the success he has so far experienced, Chathura plans to develop and improve his business even more in the future, providing more employment opportunities to those who are willing and eager to join his venture. “Unforeseen things happen and your life can change at any time, just how it did with the Coronavirus pandemic. However, it is better to try your luck at what you are passionate about and commit to your passion instead of waiting things for things to go back to normal or blaming the pandemic for all the hardships you have to face,” Chathura finally added.
(Pix by Laksiri Rukman)