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OP: Rangoon International Cook Book

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by Woman’s Society of Christian Service of the Methodist English Church

The country we now call Myanmar used to be known as Burma. It spent many years as part of Britain’s colonial empire. Bordering India’s eastern states to the west, China to the north, and Southeast Asia’s Thailand and Laos toward the south, it was always a culturally complex region. 

This became even more so once Europeans began to appear in the 17th century, and the region became a quilt of language, politics, religion, art, and, quite naturally, food. From the 20th century onward, British missionaries, growers and shippers, military personnel, and, inevitably, civil servants became a major presence, many of them settling there; massive cultural changes were a clear consequence.

This book exemplifies the mixing that took place in the world of food, offering hundreds of recipes from the multicultural society that lasted into the 1980s. It is a delight to discover consecutive recipes for an Italian herbed spaghetti and a rich, spicy dhal sambal—crushed lentils flavored with tamarind, walnuts, coriander, saffron, mustard seeds, a variety of chilies and other flavors. 

Or to encounter, cheek by jowl, duck a l’orange followed by a killer vindaloo, so powerful that it can be safely stored for months; a Ceylonese curry and (honestly!) Cornish pasties; south Indian dosas and idlis, just a page-turn away from Yorkshire pudding. Even the kitchen practice is cross-cultural: peanut butter is properly produced using a curry grinding stone and roller. And there are intriguing menus contributed by the prominent public figure, known then as Mrs. Aung San.

This is an out of the ordinary community cookbook, assembled by the Women’s Society of the Methodist English Church. It has interesting notes by a wide variety of contributors, from local homemakers to government officials—many from the international community. It is amply supplied with glossaries, shopping guides, and other aids. The sponsors’ advertisements are always appealing to read. 

First published in 1954, it went through four editions until 1972. The copy we have is from the third (1962) edition. It is in Very Good condition—clean and firmly bound in attractive paper over boards, published without dust jacket. There is a small bare spot on the upper front, where a price tag has clearly been removed. Light rubbing on the lower edge, and a very neat gift inscription dated Rangoon, 1962.

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