Dutch Burgher Kitchen lends a hand to support the four-legged kind By Sashini Rodrigo and Joshua Surendraraj
Growing up in a Burgher household meant one was always surrounded by good food, and the recipes were treasured heirlooms handed down for generations. When Lorraine Bartholomeusz was a child, her mother or grandmother would prepare Lamprais at home. The delicacy was meant to be a treat, whenever they entertained for a birthday or special occasion.
Yellow Rice on the other hand was a “Burgher Sunday special”. Even if they didn’t have enough money for anything else, they made sure there was yellow rice and chicken curry on a Sunday.
Lorraine’s Dutch Burgher Kitchen focuses on traditional Burgher recipes that have been passed down for generations. But what makes her venture extra special is that the profits go towards her privately run animal sanctuary in Gampaha.
This refuge houses displaced and abandoned cats and dogs – and in one instance, memorably, three cows that were saved from slaughter.
“I do not publicise this, because I can only cope with so many. I have about 50 animals as it is, and that’s as much as we can look after and finance,” she tells us.
Lorraine, a veteran animal welfare activist began working actively in the area back in 1969 with an English lady called Bridget Hicks. Together, they began focusing on sterilisation since this wasn’t a well known concept at the time.
The pair formed a society called the Ceylon Animal Protection Society (CAPS) with Bridget functioning as the President and Lorraine the Secretary.
CAPS rented out kennels, which were in fact rooms, at the Animal Hospital on Murugan Place (Colombo 6). This was unfortunately burnt down in the riots. “We also did free sterilisation of cats and dogs for people who couldn’t afford it,” she adds.
Lorraine explains that sterilisation for community cats and dogs to reduce the stray population in the country, is the only humane way of doing it. As opposed to rounding them up and sending them to the dog pound for gassing (which was the practice at that time)
Unfortunately, Bridget Hicks had to leave the country with her husband after a while. Thereafter, Lorraine attempted to carry on for a while by herself, but it wasn’t the same. Soon after, she began doing her animal welfare work privately.
In 2009, she brought together a group of animal-friendly people. Together, they formed the Sri Lanka Animal Protection Association, which carried on the work of CAPS.
In 2010, this edition of the Association become defunct, and the team moved into the Animal Protection Trust of which Lorraine is the Chairperson. “Our thinking is that the animals in this country are also Sri Lankans, they have a right to live with dignity,” she says
On this note, she also hopes the Animal Welfare Bill will be passed soon in parliament. She feels this new law, if passed, would put a stop to many issues including irresponsible breeding.
Though Lorraine’s first passion is animals, her second is cooking. “I love cooking, as do my mother and grandmother and aunts who were around me from my younger days,” she explains, adding that the Burghers are basically known to be good cooks.
She decided to go into the food business herself by doing her own thing from home. “Food is something that still sells, and there is a lot of competition but I specialise in just a few things and do it with a lot of dedication and care,” she says.
Her aim is to give to the public, the knowledge on food she was fortunate enough to get from her mother, grandmother and the generations of Burghers before her.
Lorraine explains the Burghers always found the time and energy to make lots of good food. In fact once she finished her employment, Lorraine didn’t want to go back to working for anybody. So she asked her mother to train her in the art of making the traditional lamprais. This was the birth of the Dutch Burgher Kitchen. “Just me and my faithful Amme, and Mum supervising us,” she says.
Lorraine respects the Burgher recipes she works with and sticks rigidly to what was being done.
Her lamprais is the only exception since she also has to have versions of chicken and vegetarian. “My mother would have a fit about it if she knows!” she tells us with a grin . But she also prepares the traditional Lamprais which is made with the three meats.
If things go well, Lorraine also plans to include a traditionally-made beef smore, the bread and butter pudding and perhaps a bol fiado and Christmas pudding (during the season) on the menu.
“It’s an expensive exercise but I’m hopeful that in 2021, business might boom a little more.” Lorraine tells us. “Until then, I know that God will take care of us,” she tells us whilst talking about her animals.