A Pacific plant-based cookbook penned in lockdown has won top honours in the South Pacific category at the World Cookbook Affair – Gourmand Awards, the world’s largest international food sector competition.
Pacific Vegan, Healthy and Creative Cooking with Pacific Plants is authored by nutritionist Vittoria Pasca, who has worked in Fiji since 2017 and constantly sought new ways to motivate consumers towards healthier eating choices.
In 2018, she launched healthy cooking classes in the Fijian capital, Suva, with a focus on Pacific produce for a healthier and more economical approach to eating.
“Many people were telling me that they were struggling to follow a healthy diet because they couldn’t find a nutrition-focused cookbook using local produce,” she recalled.
“All the recipes from overseas ended up being too expensive because they required mostly imported ingredients like broccoli or cashews.”
“So, for a couple of years I kept thinking about publishing my own book and in early 2020 I started to write it and to take pictures of the dishes. When the first lockdown started, I had no excuses and focused 100 percent on finishing the book, even though I was a bit worried about the whole thing as I had never published a book before.”
Ms Pasca had previously contributed to other books about Pacific foods and despite a challenging year of Covid-induced lockdown and restricted public movement in 2020, she focused on writing and publishing her own cookbook, which launched just before Christmas that year.
The cookbook awards were announced at the Umea Food Symposium in Sweden earlier this month and following in second place for Best in the World (South Pacific) were Australia, The Cookbook by Ross Joseph Dobson (Australia) and The Feast That Stopped a War by Walton Burns (Vanuatu), in third place.
“In the beginning I had a lot to learn, in particular about food photography and printing, but I’m glad I did it as I already have a couple of ideas for new projects and now, I know what to do,” Ms Pasca said.
She’s also co-founder of a local culinary festival known as VegFest Fiji and under the banner Healthy Eating Fiji, offers vegetarian and vegan diets, advice and meal planning for weight loss, food allergies and preventative measures against non-communicable diseases (NCDs). NCDs are a leading cause of premature deaths and disability in the Pacific that accounted for over 5000 deaths in Fiji alone in 2020.
“I focus on activities promoting behavioural change in a positive way as I think that motivating people to eat healthier is more effective than telling them what to do and what not to do (something nobody likes, right?!)”.
Her second cookbook will focus on meal planning and is scheduled for completion by the end of this year.