Frederik van Oudenhoven


Recipes to Safeguard a Culture

As an ethnobiologist, Frederik van Oudenhoven never quite expected to win an award for writing the ‘best cookbook in the world’. He examines how knowledge and traditions, seeds, food and agricultural techniques develop from the interactions between man and landscape. During his work with farmers in the Pamir Mountains, on the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, he met a grandmother who would determine the next seven years of his life.

The grandmother told him about the food she used to prepare. Afraid her children would forget, she asked him to write down her old recipes, print them and bring them back to her. She would pay for it. The years that followed, together with his friend Jamila Haider and fellow Pamiri biologists, this is what Van Oudenhoven did.

Out of long conversations with Pamiri people grew the monumental and award winning book With Our Own Hands. Through the lens of local recipes and accompanied by stunning photography, the book describes Pamiri food and its origins, people’s daily lives and their struggles and celebrations. The book was recently followed by a documentary film showing how Van Oudenhoven and a truck full of books return to the Pamirs to bring the books back to the Pamiri people.


Pamiri, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Food, Traditions, Seeds, ethnobiology, Netherlands PINC.19