An invitation to attend the Gourmand World Summit was one thing but to be invited to attend in Paris was just thrilling! The summit was held during 20–22 March, 2019 to showcase the winning books in all categories from the previous three years of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
The Taste of Egypt: Home Cooking from the Middle East (AUC Press, 2016) won the Gourmand Awards for Best Mediterranean Cuisine Book and Best Arab Cuisine Book, in 2017.
The location was central Paris, at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquarters, perfectly positioned in front of the Eiffel Tower.
The foyer was lined with shelves and hundreds of cookbooks from around the world. It was the candy shop for cookbook lovers. Along the walls were tables set up for specific publishers or authors. I was one of the lucky few to be offered a table at which I could sit and welcome questions from authors, publishers, writers, and journalists.
I met wonderful people from all over the world including Namibia, North and South America and Australia, and people who spoke, French, English, Spanish, Arabic, and various African languages. There were over 200 countries represented and a dizzying array of sound and color. It was a magical experience.
In the evening I was invited to the Swiss consulate for a private function to celebrate the event with an “Arctic theme.” We were entertained with singing and reindeer lassoing, and dined on reindeer, slow cooked with rich broth, reindeer jerky, boiled tongue, and more.
The following evening was the opening night for the Village International de la Gastronomie. There was a street lined with tents on both sides, each with the cuisine of a different nation. The food and smells were heavenly. A stage for cultural dance displays as well as the location of the demonstration kitchen where chefs from kitchens, local and international, were cooking live and videotaped. I was invited to display my cooking abilities on Saturday and prepared roz bi-l- shi’riya (rice with noodles), tabboola, and a pudding called mihallabiya. This was filmed for the “Village” Facebook page which has over 10,000 followers.
I even managed a bus tour of the city, to see the magical sights of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the great buildings of Paris, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Champs-Élysées. I was also invited to join the team from “Foodtrients” on their visit to the gardens of Versailles.
I had a great time, enjoying the beautifully presented gateaux and pastries. I delighted in choosing which brioche or croissant to start my day with. I found many people happy to help me make my way through Paris, on foot, by car, or on the metro. I know now why the city is renowned for its beauty and its charm and I hope one day to visit this new love once again.
By Dyna Eldaief
She is the author of The Taste of Egypt: Home Cooking from the Middle East (AUC Press, 2016). She was discovered by the Middle East edition of the reality television cooking show, “The Taste,” after she began to blog and post clips on YouTube about her mother’s recipes. She continues her passion for Middle Eastern cuisine by maintaining her blog and giving cooking classes.