Yesterday I was introduced to the truly special cookbook, A Taste From Home, whose recipes are shared by refugees living in Malaysia. It was written by Haris Coussidis in partnership with UNHCR Malaysia with the understanding that food is both a way in which people can come together and a way in which people can maintain a connection to their culture and identity.
The book’s recipes are organised by home countries of the 17 contributing refugees which are Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Palestine, Syria, Irag, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
What makes the cookbook most special is that before each recipe, readers learn the significance of the dish to its contributor which is sensitively and honestly intertwined with stories from their refugee experience.
For example, Helena Asefa, who discusses that learning to make doro wat (chicken stew) is a rite of passage dish in her home country Ethopia, and that she will soon share it with her family who she has not seen in four years when she is resettled with them in Australia.
Common to each story was the idea that food enabled them to feel close to home. These stories were also accompanied by poignant photographs by author and photographer Haris Coussidis , who says she aims to put human face to refugee issues in Malaysia.
I also found it so beautiful that Haris was able to produce the book by being welcomed into the kitchens of each of the refugees who feature in it. For me, their generosity and openness to others really contrasted with their descriptions of having felt unwelcome upon arriving in Malaysia, and what we can witness transpiring the world over.
It really highlighted the ways in which people come together over food to share experiences and listen.
Of course, on top of the beauty of the book itself, I haven’t even mentioned the incredible recipes including Ouzi (Syrian stuffed filo pockets with spiced mints and nut), Tennai sambol (Sri Lanan coconut sambal), and anjero (Somali flatbread), which themselves stand alone as an incredible reason to check out the book.
A Taste From Home is such an incredible way for people to hear the stories of refugees through relating to a shared passion for food. I am looking forward to eating, learning, and sharing with others from it