Celebrating a strong, creative, resilient Lunenburg County
NOW, MORE THAN EVER...
Story by TINA HENNIGAR
Photo by IAN SELIG
It might look like a simple door. But the yellow door under the black sign that reads Lamprai and Spice Cafe on Lincoln Street in Lunenburg right beside Dots and Loops leads to so much more. Imagine walking into a room and feeling like you’re being wrapped in love; that is what is waiting for you behind this door.
The owner’s personality matches her name; Suni Ferreira. Suni greeted me with a hug despite the fact that she’s actually never met me in person, We’ve just met by phone. In fact, she greeted everyone in line with a hug as she presented each person with their daily special of Colombo yellow rice steamed with
coconut milk and turmeric.
Suni’s story, the journey which brought her to Lunenburg is both sad and heroic, filled with selflessness and love. Suni’s grandfather was living in Digby, Nova Scotia, when he got a job delivering a fishing boat to Sri Lanka and an opportunity to teach people to fish. He put his entire family on the Queen Mary, and they set sail to create a new life there. While living there,
Suni’s mom met and fell in love with her father, a Sri Lankan. At that time, the two were forbidden to be together. Suni’s grandparents shipped her mother back to Nova Scotia. A year later, her father traveled from Sri Lanka and arrived looking for her mother. Suni’s parents were married in Halifax. Suni was born in Canada and the family lived in Toronto before returning to Sri Lanka where Suni spent most of her youth.
At 18 she returned to Nova Scotia to attend Teachers College in Truro. “I wanted to go back to Sri Lanka and be with my family. I love teaching but I wasn’t satisfied,” Suni said. Her warm and quiet voice began to crack as she recalled being drawn into aid work on her return to Sri Lanka, now a war zone, where she began to help women and children traumatized by war.
Suni became emotional talking about the children who were turned into fighting machines by terrorists. Recounting her time there was difficult to hear. “Children were stripped of who they were, forced to kill their own family members. These children were forced to do things we couldn’t imagine,” Suni shared. “Your education cannot prepare you with how to deal with this situation. The only thing that can help you is to love.” Suni would play her guitar and sing and laugh with the
Towards the end of the war, she and her husband were working together building villages. The tsunami in 2004 forced Suni and her husband to move away from the coast into the interior of the country where she ended up providing aid in a kitchen. That is where she learned her craft.
“I went there to help them, but that is where they gave me a gift. I always did have a love of cooking. When I was out in the villages I learned even more. My cooking is more than a dish, there is history to it.” But aid work can take its toll on your soul, she tells me. And eventually she knew it was time to come back to Nova Scotia. At the end of the war, all the aid workers had to leave for their
own safety. “I packed up my whole life in 6 suitcases, one filled with my spices and
only $400.” After taking some time to heal, Suni sat down and asked herself, “what do I desire to give?” The answer was food.
Suni would cook for her friends who loved her food and wanted to pay her for it. Sri Lankan culture does not allow people to accept money for this kind of food, she tells me. Opening a stall in the Lunenburg Farmers Market was a way to take away that cultural awkwardness. Shortly after her success in the market, Suni expanded into her space on Lincoln Street, a small space filled with love and
the intoxicating smells of curry. It took a little bit of money and a whole lot of help from family and friends, and even the landlord of the building who wanted to see her in the space. “I made a lot of mistakes, even learning how to cook for many people. I had to learn to adjust my spices,” Suni laughed.
Her initial customers loved her her amazing food each choosing to keep their discovery of her stall their own little secret. Despite their efforts, Suni’s reputation grew and the secret got out. Lamprai and Spice is open all year round and sells out daily. “I hope people don’t think it’s strange, but my food is an expression of my love of people.
Everyone has a story of love, hardship and joy. It’s exciting for me to feed people, to talk to them, share a laugh, a joke and a hug,” she said, smiling. “I feel like I’ve lived my life loving, and I can’t separate my love from my food.”