When Oak Park resident Mary Anne Mohanraj was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, she felt the urge to tell her children everything she feared she wouldn’t get the chance to, including information about their Sri Lankan heritage.
“My husband is white, we live in America, and I worried that unless I made a real effort, the kids would never learn how to cook and enjoy Sri Lankan food,” Mohanraj says.
After treatment ended, she began researching Sri Lankan recipes, cooking like her mother did when her family migrated to the U.S. in 1973. With all Mohanraj learned, she wrote a Sri Lankan American cookbook, A Feast of Serendib.
While she didn’t write the cookbook for health reasons, the cuisine’s lean foods such as seafood, shredded coconut, and vegetables fit in with the type of diet she aims to eat.
“My particular type of breast cancer is hormone-positive, and fat cells put out more of the relevant hormones. So the main thing I can do to hopefully decrease the risk of recurrence is try to train my body toward the leaner side,” Mohanraj says. “Eating Sri Lankan food definitely helps with that.”