A DREAM COME TRUE… YUM is a “Best In The World” 2016 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Winner!!!
Ironically, this is probably one of the most difficult posts for me to write, even though it is one of the biggest milestones in my life. Perhaps it is because as a cookbook author, the loftiest dream one can have (likened to winning an Academy Award “Oscar”) is to one day receive the honour of winning a Gourmand World Cookbook Award. With over 10 thousand entries from 209 countries, it doesn’t get much better than this!
On top of all of the other prestigious awards and accolades YUM has been receiving since it’s launch 8 months ago, being chosen as the 2015 Canadian National Champion by Gourmand International blew my socks off—especially because of the extremely competitive category I was awarded in (“Best Diet Book”). To be honest, I was at first really surprised about the category that YUM won, since I think of the book itself as really a sort of “Anti-Diet Book“— focusing on empowerment, compassion and acceptance. It is not at all prescriptive about what food you or I or anyone else “should” eat, but is instead liberating and a bit rebellious in its focus on offering delicious possibilities about what you “can” eat, regardless of your food allergies, sensitivities, or other special dietary needs.
In terms of the Gourmand World Cookbook “Best In The World” Competition in Yantai China itself, it was an incredible and life-changing experience. At the event, I had the privilege of meeting the most talented photographers, chefs, TV food personalities, etc. from every corner of the globe, each with unique stories, philosophies and passions.
Probably what stood out most for me was a common theme of the finalists and winners I met there at the event that I genuinely did not expect. Interestingly, there was present a profound and beautiful shared passion to make a difference in the world. In many conversations I was a part of, I discovered a deeply philosophical milieu among those of us there, with an awareness of the central role food plays in creating and reflecting shared societal views and norms. What people eat offers an amazing window into a society, where cultural values, priorities and relationship dynamics in that society are played out through the habits, rituals and celebrations around food cultivation and food sharing. The underlying individual psyche and cultural mores are an intriguing and publicly accessible barometer of the communities’ values around humanitarian, social and environmental issues. Given what we see in other species, in some ways it is not a surprise. However, the intelligent discourse around this topic was wonderful to be around—I’m telling you, as is the case for YUM, the majority of the books that made it to the finals were at least as much about psychology, anthropology, philosophy and agriculture as they were about food itself. I was pleasantly surprised!
While I have known at a very deep level the importance of what I have termed “Inclusive Cooking“, this experience at the Gourmand Cookbook Awards event solidified this inner knowing. As I have described it before, “Inclusive Cooking” is a new paradigm and philosophy that I developed to encourage a more heart-centred, generous and emotionally-sensitive approach to food sharing in society. The various conversations I had with other food writers while at the Gourmand Awards events highlighted even more for me the importance of my vision of carrying forward the important initiative of inclusivity (in all its forms). It also re-emphasized for me the importance of transitioning to what I think of as more of a “we-centred” societal mindset, as opposed to the predominantly “I-centred” mindset that we have been seeing a rise of these past few decades. The potential benefits for reducing much of the alienation, anxiety and hopelessness we are currently witnessing in our modern society by doing so are significant.
As a philosophically-oriented psychologist, who is now also a chef, nutrition educator, and a person who lives with food restrictions due to celiac disease, allergies and other food sensitivities, I have been blessed with a unique view of the human experience. Through all of the despair and loneliness (and the associated nasty habits that we often develop in our efforts to cope with life’s challenges), for some reason, what I see most is the beauty and hope that lies beneath and beyond those dark and distracting aspects of human behaviour. It makes me really happy to be able to offer my knowledge and skills as a psychologist to offer a new lens of possibilities during these current times of not only the obvious emotional challenges that we are currently seeing, but also to offer tools to help with some of the health crises that have been on the rise, such as obesity, diabetes, auto-immune, and neuro-degenerative conditions.
At a core level, I believe we all want to find ways to be kinder, more generous and more inclusive, and I am thrilled to be able to offer practical ways that we can all do so with relative ease by shifting our food preparation and food-sharing habits just a wee bit through the guidance (and even recipes!) of how to do so with my book YUM. The fact that the wisdom within its pages has been receiving international acclaim is really not a tribute to anything that I have done, but really is a reflection of our shared awakening about the importance and value of caring for our own and each others’ bodies and souls a little more lovingly.
Below are a few photos of this very special Gourmand “Best In The World” Cookbook event. Many of you asked that I share some of the memories, which I joyfully offer to you now. Here’s also the Press Release about YUM’s Win.
With Edouard Contreau, Founder of GourmanD International, feeling so blessed to be a winner representing Canada for this great award!
The dinners with friends was a special treat with talented visionaries from around the world—on my right is the editor of the first wine-tasting book in Braille ever written (Cai Yulan), and on my left, the Best Indian Cuisine Cookbook Author in the World (Nimi Sumar)!
The tables of the 2016 Finalists for Gourmand International’s Best In The World Cookbook Awards were covered in the most brilliant books from around the world.
There are so many cookbooks published each year, but this array of the highest quality books really captures the true artistry possible in this genre. And for those of you who know how big YUM is (81/2 x 11 inches & 3.3 lbs, in perspective (you can see the man on the right who happened to be looking at YUM while I took this shot), you can see that many were even double and triple the size of YUM! The very large book that you see on the left, Gourmand Best In The World Award Winner With Our Own Hands : A Celebration of Food and Life in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, was twice the size and in three languages within the one book! The author of this incredible book by the agricultural scientist, Frederik Van Outdenhoven (with co-author Jamila Haider), is a great example of the unexpected breadth and depth of the “cookbooks” present at the I’m sure their book will be required reading for many anthropology, agricultural and soil science university students in years to come!
Signing the East Meets West Autograph Banner at one of the big dinners
Wow, it’s hard to describe the privilege of sharing time with such wonderful people! I fell in love with both of these world renowned cookbook authors and food photographers, Ilian Iliev & Nimi Sunil Kumar!
During our day “on the town” in Yantai, we had the opportunity to go to a REAL Chinese tea house, learning the art of tea preparation! (Yes Marie Cherveny, I took heed of your great advice to learn about this art!)
In addition to author Nimi Sunil Kumar, Helen from the Beijing Review became a wonderful new friend while I was in China!
AND THEN THERE WAS THE LAUGHTER…Oh so much laughter!!!
With Orietta Maffei (Italy) & Nimi Sunil Kumar (India)
With George Kyrianou (Greece) & Nimi Sunil Kumar (India)
Orietta & Nimi
With Frederique Thevenet (Morocco)
It was great being Big Kids…
Even a fellow USC Trojan!!!
The Gourmet Patagonia Foundation Leaders (Chile)
Francisco Fantini, Mauro Pino & Aldo Felipe Bruzzone Elgueda
Sharing Memories Of A Lifetime…
And offering our beloved countries something special to be proud of.