Global cookbooks: Eat around the world

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I have an eclectic collection of cookbooks from around the world. The recipes were donated and compiled by volunteers who organized, edited, and produced the books.


The Ibadan “Chopping” Guide: Compiled by American Women in Ibadan, Nigeria.  October 1969

“All recipes, hints and substitutions were chosen primarily for use in Ibadan and areas where ingredients are limited.”

The “Chopping” refers to Nigerian pidgin English. According to Babawilly’s Dictionary of Pidgin English Words and Phrases:

Chop: 1. Food 2. Income 3. Bribe 4. Embezzle money

e.g Dat Oga chop belle-full bifor e retire.

Chop bottle: Eat glass. Part of pre fight preamble during which various threats and questions are asked to measure of toughness of the opponent

e.g. you dey chop bottle?

cousins113Chop bullet: Get shot.

Chop life: Enjoy life.

Chop money: Monthly or weekly house keeping allowance.

Chop mouth: Kissing.

Chop-remain: Leftovers of meal.

The best place to chop ground nut stew, of course, is in a ‘Chop Bar’

e.g.  “The Never Mind Your Wife Chop Bar” (the place to go when your woman has fed your dinner to the dog)!


My mother worked on the Rangoon International Cook Book produced by the Woman’s Society of Christian Service in Rangoon, Burma, 1954. Aung San Suu Kyi’s mother, Mrs Aung San donated her favorite entertaining menu and recipes:

Burmese Meal for Guests

Mrs. Aung San has this Burmese menu for her company luncheons and dinners, because these are the dishes she has found her friends and guests like most. Like many distinguished women with very public careers, she finds delight in domestic arts and skills.

White Pumpkin Broth,
Fish Lethoke salad,
Prawn Curry,
Chicken Curry,
Mixed Vegetables,
 Fried White Gourd,

Coconut Rice,
,Sago Sweet”

Coconut Rice

Serves 8

5 cups rice,
3 coconuts,
1 tbsp vegetable oil,
1 tsp sugar,
1/3 tsp salt,
2 onions

Grate the flesh of 3 coconuts. Pour some hot water and squeeze the milk through thin muslin. Repeat till all the milk is extracted. Wash rice thoroughly. Put rice into pot. Add this milk until it stands ¾ inch above the rice. Peel, quarter and wash the onions. Add to the rice, oil, sugar, salt and onions. Stir till well mixed. Cook till the milk is evaporated and the rice tender.

Today you could probably just buy coconut milk, eh?

guide to cookingEUROPE

While living in Moscow, Russia, I coordinated, edited, and produced a A Guide for Cooking in Moscow for the American Women’s Organization, 1999. Although the donations came from American Women, the recipes were international with a small section on Russia. We also included first aid tips, information on the open markets, conversion tables, and more. Here is an excerpt from Shopping in the Russian Rynok:

Meats. If the sight of a pig’s head or nearly whole cow make you cringe, be prepared. The large markets have meat sections, where butchers with enormous cleavers hack animals apart for their customers. You can buy just about any cut of meat and a variety of poultry. There are long tables with trays of chicken hearts and livers. Watch women pick feathers from birds with tweezers. Should you buy it? Many people feel safer with wrapped, frozen meat from the pristine counter of a supermarket. And it seems risky to buy meat that sits outside all day. Use your own judgment – check to see if the meat is fresh. It is hot out, go early. Cook all meat thoroughly.


One of my cousins put together a family cookbook. It is full of people reminiscing about my paternal grandmother’s cooking, and great recipes that have come down through the generations. My father summarizes best what everybody else says about my grandmother and her baking:

“All of our family remembers how Mary could tell when the temperature was right in the oven to bake a cake, pie or bread. This was long before gas or electric stoves were known on the farm and our kitchen stove was wood or coal fired and the oven didn’t have a temperature gauge.

She would get the fire going and after a while she would open the oven door and put her hand in the oven. After a few “hand” tests she would say it was ready, and put in her goods to be baked. They always came out perfectly.”

The funny thing about this cookbook is that there is not one but FOUR recipes for Indian Cake. And I don’t even remember anybody ever serving it to me. This is my grandmother’s version of the cake.

FernIndian Cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup shortening
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup cold coffee
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup hot water

Blend sugar and shortening. Add ingredients in order given, adding hot water last.  Pour into a greased 9”X 9” pan. Bake at 350°f for about one hour.

Check it at 45 mins — these recipes always say “bake until done.” So the first time, you need to keep an eye out.

I inherited a cookbook from my maternal grandmother. The cover is gone so I don’t know what it looked like but the date is 1922.

The Preface states:

“Organized into a working body, the Mother’s Congress of Mount Ayr, (Iowa) presents Mothers who are studying and working for the betterment of Child Welfare.

In its interests financially, this little book is published and sent out by them.”

Followed by:

“We may live without poetry, music and art.

We may live without conscience and live without heart;

We may live without friends, we may live without books;

But civilized man cannot live without cooks. — Merideth.”

The recipes don’t mention oven temperature other than “moderate oven” or “quick oven” and many of them don’t mention how long anything should cook.

The book ends with a poem.

Receipt for a Happy Day

Take a little dash of cold water,
A little leaven of prayer,
A little bit of sunshine gold,
Dissolved in the morning air.
Add to your meal some merriment,
Add thought for kith and kin,
And then, as a prime ingredient
A plenty of work thrown in.
Flavor it all with essence of love,
And a dash of play.
Let the dear old book and a glance above,
Complete the well spent day.
–Mrs. Smith 

Whatever your recipe is, I hope you have a happy day!!