Syrian refugee child collecting food. Photo credit: Barbara Abdeni Massaad
5 Minutes for Books reviewer Elizabeth is here to share her heart and some really great recipes.
In my daily life, I work with Middle Eastern refugees and I can say that they are almost without fail the nicest people I know. Their culture sets the highest value on hospitality and generosity. Last year I traveled for several weeks, and when I came home I filled a large box with dishes that my Iraqi friends had brought to feed my kids while I was gone. When the twins graduated from high school, my refugee friends insisted on catering the party as a gift. All the Americans raved about the homemade hummus, schwarmas, tabouli and pita bread, and although we had well over 100 guests, we still ate leftovers for days (which made me really happy). I have visited families who didn’t have furniture, who were surviving with only one pot and a few dishes, who have nonetheless gone all out to feed me and make me feel welcome and honored, spreading shower curtains on the floor in lieu of a cloth and table.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the world has failed Syrian refugees. We sat by idly as the numbers multiplied staggeringly in the refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Now, as hundreds of thousands risk their lives fleeing to Europe, the world is beginning to wake up. What can we do? What should we do? What must we do, as fellow creatures and recipients of God’s grace, we who live in warm and well-lit houses, throwing away carrots and cilantro that have somehow gotten slimy in our stuffed crisper drawers while dumping our kids’ uneaten leftovers down the garbage disposal, promising our kids Friday night pizza?
One small and easy way to help is through the newly-published cookbook Soup for Syria. This idea–to collect soup recipes from celebrity chefs, pair them with high-quality pictures of refugee children in a camp, and donate all proceeds to the UNHCR for food relief–is brilliant in its simplicity and gorgeously executed. The pictures are stunning, and this book would make a fantastic Christmas present for someone, or even for yourself.
So the book is gorgeous, but how are the recipes? A group of famous chefs, with well-known names like Alice Waters, Anthony Bourdain, Carlo Petrini, or Patrick Herbeaux, donated their recipes to the project. We went to a potluck the other night, and I made a Cream of Mushroom soup from the book for it, and I won the potluck! I’m not bragging or exaggerating. There were other soups there (it was a cold night), but everyone exclaimed over mine, and took seconds, and raved about it. There were plenty of options, but mine was the only one that completely disappeared. I showed them the cookbook and sold about 3 copies–everyone was snapping photos of the cover.
Tonight I tried the Indian Lentil Soup. Hearty and a little spicy, it was nourishing and warming, and my family polished it off. The addition of apples and coconut milk added vitamins and a slight sweetness. The recipe called for roasted cashews which I didn’t have anymore, and I think they would have added a perfect crunch to the richness of the soup. (Moral of the story: Don’t always finish off the cashews, you greedy pig.)
Fennel Soup with Lemon and Cinnamon
Photo credit: Barbara Abdeni Massaad
Food is obviously needed to survive, but it’s so much more. Sharing meals feeds our soul, nourishes more than the body. There’s a reason that major holidays around the world revolve around feasts eaten with friends and family. Soup, simple and easy to make yet filling and nutritious, can remind us of our shared humanity.
“I was hungry, and you fed me. I was a stranger, and you invited me in,” Jesus said in Matthew 25, to demonstrate what kind of people his followers would become. There are many ways to help refugees, but I’m glad to be able to tell you of this simple, small way to help alleviate food insecurity and hunger in the lives of “the least of these.” Consider picking up a copy of Soup for Syria: Recipes to Celebrate our Shared Humanity for yourself or a loved one.