At the 22nd edition of the Gourmand World Book Awards, Eallu: Food, Knowledge and How We Have Thrived on the Margins, took home the grand prize for immortalizing on paper a culinary heritage that can be traced back 10,000 years.
The book, produced in partnership with the Arctic Council and Association of World Reindeer Herders, was chosen over glossy, gastronomic, celebrity-driven cookery titles, at a time when climate change is rapidly changing the Arctic landscape; hunting and food traditions in the Arctic face extinction; and dietary shifts away from indigenous foods have led to an unprecedented health crisis in many Arctic communities.
“While many think of the Arctic as a place of harsh climate and scarcity, in fact the Arctic hosts an extraordinary food culture, built on 10,000 years of knowledge, and intergenerational knowledge transfer,” reads an introductory excerpt.
Eallu claims to be the first book of its kind — a crowd-sourced endeavor that presents the food cultures of 14 different indigenous communities in the Arctic in one volume. “Eallu” means a herd of reindeer in the indigenous language Sami.
The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards call themselves the “Oscars” of the cookbook world, and this year were held in Yantai, China. The book hinges mostly on the preparation of reindeer in the north, with chapters that include “how to determine the right reindeer for raw eating,” “traditional ways to preserve meat” and “how to slaughter reindeer using traditional Sami knowledge.”
“To receive such an award from the mainstream food publishing industry is a powerful recognition of the richness and depth of a focal point of our cultures, our relationship to food. This is much more than just a book of recipes,” said Chair Mikhail Pogodaev of Association of World Reindeer Herders, in a statement.
Added Eallu project leader Anders Oskal in a statement: “Maybe this signals a shift in how mainstream society values our food knowledge and that our societies can leverage this recognition to better community physical, mental and economic health. Arctic indigenous peoples have an absolutely unique understanding of the Arctic environment, their ecosystems, and our living food resources.”
After Eallu, China’s Nulle Part Ailleurs, Terroirs written by Lin Yu-Sen won second place in the category of Best Book of the Year. Third place is a tie between Colombia’s Caldas by Jorge Mario Gómez Londoño and Pablo Rolando and Germany’s Schwarzwalder Tapas 2, by Manuel Wassmer and Verena Scheidel.
Here are some of the big winners:
Food person of the year: Guillaume Gomez, ambassador of French gastronomy, chef to French presidents
Hall of Fame: Menu Great Hall of People, China, published 1999; Modernist Bread, Nathan Myhrvold, Francisco Migoya, USA, 2017
Online food magazine: Chinadaily.com.cn, China
Print food magazine: Cook Inc., Italy
Best app: La Liste, France
Best authors and chefs: Emotion culinaire, Serge Vieira, France
TV celebrity chef in English: Stir Crazy, Ching-He Huang, UK