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Saturday, June 15, 2024

The British Council, Google Arts & Culture, and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy bring Pakistan’s first digital “Museum of Food” to life.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture, and the British Council, proudly launched ‘Pakistan’s Museum of Food’, a digital hub featuring the rich and diverse culinary landscape of Pakistan.

A vital contribution from their UK-based co-creators, W.M.Legacy, Pakistan’s Museum of Food is the largest and most thorough online exploration of Pakistani cuisine. It includes over 9000 images, over 90 videos, and over 100 stories that capture the vibrant culinary tapestry of Pakistan’s five provinces and beyond. The initiative aims to record the constant evolution and development of Pakistani cuisine as well as to conserve and appreciate its culture and heritage.

“Pakistan’s culinary heritage is an intrinsic part of the country’s cultural identity, but with the passage of generations and the difficulties brought on by climate change, certain domestic practices and traditional recipes are at high risk of being lost,” said project director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. In response to this impending crisis, we set out on a quest to actively preserve and rejuvenate the disappearing recipes and traditions that characterize our past rather than just daydreaming about the tastes of the past. Through this project, we hope to encourage people to learn more about Pakistan’s rich culinary tradition, culture, and traditions while also encouraging them to share their own experiences and recipes with this ongoing story.

“An online feast for the senses, we’re thrilled to unveil our latest exhibition on Google Arts & Culture dedicated to the vibrant flavors and rich culture of Pakistan,” said Amit Sood, the director and founder of Google Arts & Culture. Pakistan is a country with a diverse geography, ranging from the northern highlands to the southern bazaars, and this diversity is mirrored in the food. With the help of our biggest digital center for Pakistan, which was created in close cooperation with Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and the British Council, we hope users may thoroughly immerse themselves in the numerous delights of this beautiful country.

“We are delighted to have supported this important project highlighting Pakistan’s diverse culinary practices, which have been beautifully collated and shared by our partners,” said Laila Jamil, Director Arts Pakistan at the British Council. Our Gender Ecologies Grant Program, which examines the relationship between women, climate change, and the arts, made this assistance possible. We can learn about people’s habits, farming practices, climatic circumstances, and flora and fauna by studying their food cultures. Additionally, they directly affect our health, the health of our world, and our perception of ourselves. We hope that this “Museum of Food” will serve as a catalyst for broader initiatives to gather and disseminate these traditions as well as a chance to examine the narratives that surround them.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and her team investigated the origins of famous dishes from all five provinces in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture, capturing the spirit of Pakistan’s culinary and cultural variety. The team traveled over Pakistan’s varied landscape to show how regional topography shapes the country’s distinctive eating habits, from the coastal attraction of Gwadar’s seafood to Multan’s luxurious Sohan Halwa and the inventive inclusion of yak meat in Hunza. Sharmeen and her team of filmmakers set out to numerous restaurants across the nation in an effort to capture the essence of traditional eating customs while tracing the subtle effects of modernisation on the nation’s changing taste preferences.

The project covers a wide range of topics, such as:

  • The impact of climate change on eating habits and the efforts of organizations like PODA (Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy), run by Samina Nazir in Chakwal, that promote sustainable agricultural practices.
  • The role of women in preserving culture and cuisine and their substantial contributions to the agricultural sector.
  • The distinct ingredients that define Pakistani flavors, such as Kunri’s red chilis, Pasni’s salt, Ranipur’s sugarcane, and Empress Market’s spices.
  • The multitude of communities residing within Pakistan that have their own cherished traditional dishes, such as Parsis, Goans, Hazaras, Bohris, and Gujaratis.
  • The provenance and cultural significance of iconic dishes across the country, such as Pata Tikka, Bhe ke Pakore, Kaak Bread, Chapshoro, and Khaddi Kebab.
  • The culinary diversity of Pakistan’s regions, from Karachi’s lively Burns Road to Peshawar’s renowned meat-centered offerings, from Gwadar Port’s coastal cuisine to the Hunza Valley’s organic delicacies.
  • The esteemed eateries across the country that epitomize local flavors and traditions, such as Cafe Thar, Nisar Charsi Tikka, Quetta Alamgir Hotel, and Bohra Dastarkhwan.
  • The meticulous craftsmanship and intricate cooking techniques that are intrinsic to Pakistani cuisine, such as sun-drying and re-hydrating vegetables in Thar, preserving Lahndi meat in Balochistan, and crafting lentils into Vadiyun and Papar in Upper Sindh.
  • The preservation of heirloom recipes passed down for generations, such as Azra Syed’s Biryani and Zarda, and PJ’s jars’ achaars.
  • The vibrant street food culture that reflects the regional tastes and seasonal produce, such as Gola Ganda, Samosas, Biryani, Kulfi, and Gur.
  • The diverse eating practices and the communal aspect of food that foster connections and nurture a sense of community, such as shared dining experiences at Dastarkhwans.
  • The stories from the global Pakistani diaspora that enrich the understanding of how culinary heritage transcends borders.

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