Exploring the foods of a harsh and remote region

With Our Own HandsA cookbook that you probably haven't heard about recently won a prize that you also might not recognize. But once you read the story behind the book, you may want to learn more about it. With Our Own Hands won the title of Best Cookbook of the Year at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards have been around for over 20 years, starting in 1995 as the brainchild of Edouard Cointreau. Since 2010, the awards have been announced at various locations; this year the ceremony was in Yantai, China.

With Our Own Hands explores the cuisine in one of the most remote and harshest environments on the planet: the area between Afghanistan and Tajikistan known as the Pamir region. Authors Jamila Haider and Frederik Van Oudenhoven met while working in Tajikistan and bonded over a mutual love for the region and a shared anxiety about its disappearing culture.

After meeting an elderly grandmother who wanted assistance in writing down her family recipes so her children and grandchildren could use them, Oudenhoven and Haider recognized a need to document the region's foods. Traditional recipes had been passed down orally from generation to generation but were never saved in a written format.

The book contains 100 recipes, each explored "through the eyes of the Pamiri people and the history of their homeland, with spellbinding stories of local legends, opium addiction and Soviet influence." The authors explain the relationship between the land and the unique ingredients it produces despite the harsh climate and terrain. Each recipe is presented in three languages: Dari, Tajik, and English.

After Oudenhoven and Haider published the book, they returned to the region and distributed 1,700 copies to the local populace. The people were astounded to see the names of the local dishes and crops in print for the very first time. One gentleman told the authors that they "captured our knowledge that before only existed in our hands."


  • TrishaCP  on  8/1/2016 at 8:17 PM

    This book sounds amazing. Thanks Darcie!

  • mziech  on  8/2/2016 at 6:25 AM

    I own this book. It is really beautiful and full of interesting stories about the Pamiri culture as well as recipes from the region. Also lots of info on local crops, medicinal herbs etc. It is on my list to index.

  • sir_ken_g  on  8/2/2016 at 12:13 PM

    I have it on backorder. Sounds just amazing.

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