Language barriers haven't stopped three Waikato women from bringing recipes from 22 countries together in a new cookbook.

Former journalist Nicola Martin, photographer Donna Walsh and graphic designer Olivia Paris say they have eaten their way around the globe while making the cookbook World Table.

Martin said the cookbook was a celebration of "the universal language of food" among the refugees and immigrants who now call Waikato home.

"It's threaded throughout the whole book," Walsh said. "People have this connection with food, about sitting down and talking, enjoying good food and company."


"We all know food, it's all over the world, we have to eat, so it's familiar to everyone," Paris said.

Thousands of hours were dedicated to photographing, researching, cooking and learning from the contributors who shared and cooked their recipes.

"I've cooked everything myself to make sure it works," Martin said. "And we literally lugged plates, props, cameras and notepads all over the Waikato. Oh, and a baby!"

When not communicating with the language of food, the team have needed Google Translate to help converse with some of the contributors.

Mexican cook Xislayin (Sisi) Longoria was overwhelmed when she saw the cookbook for the first time. It features several of her recipes from Mexico, including her family's secret recipe for mole sauce.

"It's a little bit of Mexico in New Zealand," she said.

Food and recipes weren't all that was shared. The personal stories of how contributors came to live in the Waikato brought depth to the recipes.

Vietnamese restaurant Banh Mi Caphe owner Anh Chaimontree's parents were among the boat-people who came to New Zealand in May 1980 following the Vietnamese War.


Chaimontree went a family holiday to see where her parents came from and was deeply moved.

As a result, she and husband Pat brought Vietnamese streets foods to their restaurant, keeping the family's cultural history alive by using recipes from her grandmother, who also now lives in New Zealand.

"I guess we're proud to show off our heritage," Chaimontree said. "They are very simple recipes."

The cookbook is available for pre-order online with $5 from each sale donated to the Waikato Settlement Centre to support new immigrants in the Waikato.

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