Alternating with the Archives each month, this section features special items from the ICCROM Library, giving an insight into the varied resources of this important collection.

After nearly one and a half years of pandemic, many of us desire to share again the realities of our daily lives with family, friends, and our communities. This includes joining in celebrations, sharing meals, and maybe even cooking together. 

At the same time, participants from all over the world recently connected online for the 44th meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, hosted this year in Juzhou, China.

What connects these two things? And how do they relate to our Resource of the Month for August? 

Eat Rite: Ritual Foods of George Town – a  slightly different cooking book with a twist

The answer is a paperback cookbook published in 2017 by George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI), a state heritage agency in Penang, Malaysia, established to safeguard the Outstanding Universal Value of George Town, a historic city of the Straits of Malacca, which together with the city of Melaka was inscribed by the World Heritage Committee in 2008. GTWHI organizes an annual celebration to commemorate the anniversary of the World Heritage listing, with each year dedicated to a different aspect of local heritage. The 2015 event focused on food and culture, leading to the creation of the cookbook.

Eat Rite: Ritual Foods of George Town captures diverse culinary traditions and their meaning to the people of this multicultural city, through the connections to different cultural celebrations. Lien Kuong Yu, the Artistic Director of the Heritage Celebration writes in the introduction: "Food is an important part of Penang's cultural heritage and this is most apparent in the foods that we make to celebrate our festivals and traditions." He further emphasises that "such foods are rich with significance and symbols that express the beliefs and hopes shared by our community".

Eat Rite: Ritual Foods of George Town – a  slightly different cooking book with a twist

Over more than 150 pages, the richly illustrated cookbook compiles 34 recipes from the local culinary repertoire. The description of each dish includes a picture, list of ingredients, and instructions for preparation lovingly enhanced with coloured drawings. Contributors are all members of George Town’s various local communities, and sometimes include tips for cooking success, while also describing in a few sentences the associated cultural significance of their dish.

For example, Madam Sukveer Kaur describes how to prepare Atte Ke Pureh, a traditional sweet pancake common in Punjabi households. With respect to its significance, she tells us: “the 16th of July marks the beginning of the month of Sawan, the fifth month of the Sikh Nanakshani calendar. On this day, a ceremony would be held on the Sikh temple where the Sikh community would gather and offer prayers. Upon completion of the temple ceremony, Rice Kheer and Atte Ke Pureh would be served.”

Madam Sukveer Kaur adds that, during the same period, Punjabi women celebrate Teeyan Da Mela: “It is a community festival where the woman would play outdoors in swings hanging from trees, perform Gidda dances and indulge in other joyful activities – bringing the women closer together. Atte Ke Pureh is served as a main food during Teeyan.”

The stories behind the recipes are what make this a very special cookbook; one that is not just about preparing delicious food, but also learning more about communities whose traditions are a part of our shared World Heritage. Perhaps by reading, cooking, and sharing them with our own family and friends, we can contribute in a small way to the preservation of this valuable knowledge!

If you would like to try a recipe, please email and we will be happy to share them with you!