Tasting History: Tuvalu’s first international cookbook

Food is a powerful thing in Tuvalu’s unique culture. It brings people together and helps preserve Tuvaluan traditions for future generations. But this future is at risk.

Sitting like a jewel in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, this isolated island nation of Tuvalu faces many challenges due to climate change. Rising sea levels are flooding parts of the country, destroying essential food crops and sparking fears that one day Tuvalu will be swallowed by the sea.

But the people of Tuvalu are keeping their traditional local culture alive. To help preserve their indigenous food knowledge and cultural identity, Tuvalu’s first international cookbook has been created. The cookbook’s name, Tapa aka tou alo, translates into ‘come and have something to eat’ – a Tuvaluan phrase that symbolises the connection between food and community.
a woman in traditional Tuvaluan clothing stirring a pot of coconut cream

With climate change threatening Tuvalu’s way of life and increasing their reliance on low-quality imported food, impacting the nation’s health, this connection is more important than ever.

“As an atoll country, Tuvalu is a very difficult place to live,” said Teuleala Manuella Morris, Country Manager for Live & Learn Tuvalu.

“Sustaining our food crops is the only way to live. If we don’t know how to utilise them to sustain us, then we won’t be able to build our resilience to climate change. So, we have to maintain and learn and promote our traditional way of cooking.”

Created with funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the Tuvalu Food Futures Project, Tapa aka tou alo will help to achieve this. Implemented by Live & Learn Tuvalu, the Food Futures Project is an initiative designed to support Pacific island nations improve their food security through the increased production and consumption of locally grown nutritious foods.

Tapa aka tou alo is an important part of this.
The cover of Tapa aka tou alo

“I believe that this cookbook is a foundation for food security in Tuvalu,” Teuleala says. “It will be the dying voice of our ancestors who have passed away.

“It’s not just about food you have to eat for nutrients, for your body to gain your strength; food to Tuvaluans is also an identity and has a spiritual significance for us.”

The recipes compiled in this cookbook were shared by local women from eight of Tuvalu’s nine islands. Each dish has personal value to individual island communities and is made using regional produce, such as taro, pulaka, coconut and breadfruit.

“Food reflects who we are and where we come from. Through those ingredients it says where you come from,” said Itaia Lausaveve, Chief Technical Advisor from Live & Learn Tuvalu.


Woman involved in the Tuvalu cookbook standing in front of a banner

“Food also provides for our good health and happiness. We love food, our people…Food is not just for the individual, it has value as something to share.” 

While climate change continues to create difficulties for the people of Tuvalu, Tapa aka tou alo will help keep the culture of this small atoll nation alive into the future.

“The recipes are about what we are, who we are, everything about us: our resources, our environment and our people,” says Itaia.

“It can also take you back to history, the traditional food. An old person will yarn about food as far back as they can remember. There is history in our traditional food. You can taste the history of our culture.”


Download Tapa aka tou alo from the Live & learn website below: 

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