Food For Thought
"Of all the things that bring us together as humans, is there anything more unifying than food? Every day, every person alive thinks about it. Whether it’s a three star chef buying ingredients at the market, a farmer harvesting her crop, an astronaut opening a packet of freeze-dried food on the space station, a businessman on his lunch break, or refugees elbowing their way to a truck full of rice—all of us, everywhere, think about food."
The other day, I read this moving article about the importance of food in Syrian culture. Syrian food is fresh, flavoursome, made from scratch and consumed in the community. Seasonal ingredients are purchased at bazaars, which date back over 2000 years and are crafted with care into traditional dishes. They have an abundant selection of recipes that have been tried, tested, perfected over years and passed down through the generations.
With horrendous wars ravaging through their homeland, Syrian people aren't enjoying food in the same way they once did. Crops have been destroyed, ancient bazaars have been reduced to ruins by bombing and local artisans who have spent years perfecting their recipes have fled.
"... Syrians who fled home because of war lost so much more than a house. They lost more than 2,000 year-old bazaars. They lost their very pattern of life—a way of being that fed them in every way imaginable."
We are currently in the midst of the biggest humanitarian crisis the world has seen since WWII and Syria has become the world's top source of refugees. The number of refugees who have fled Syria now exceeds 5 million. Beyond just sobering facts and statistics, that's 5 million human lives!
People in their thousands are showing up to refugee camps starving and malnourished. There, the food is rationed out, carbohydrate dense and provide little to no healthy fats or protein. When they are resettled into their new homelands, they have little to bring with them but they do have their ways of cooking and thus, food becomes one of their strongest connections to home.
Today, July 20th, is World Refugee Day and Preemptive Love Coalition are shining light on the Refugee Crisis with their #EatLikeSyria campaign. This campaign encourages people to dig deeper to learn more about what's going on in our world and discover the vibrant culture of Syria. It aims to celebrate and appreciate Syrian culture while deeply empathising with its people.
"The goal of this experience is not primarily to raise money, but to dive beyond compassion into the depths of empathy. We want you to stand in their shoes, to sense the fullness of their humanity, and begin to feel how connected we really are."
Basically, the campaign encourages us to use food as a way of bringing us together to reflect on the refugee crisis, learn more about the beauty and pain of Syria and hear the cries of its people. Many Syrians may have lost their homes as a result of the horrendous wars that have swept their country, but let's join in the efforts to promote and enjoy their rich culture!
This doesn't just mean hosting a dinner party. There are so many scalable ways that you can get involved. Here're a few:
- Watch documentaries and read articles to learn the facts and be moved by the stories of the refugee crisis.
- Immerse yourself in the Syrian culture. This may be listening to an Arabic playlist as you commute to work, experiencing the warm hospitality of a local Middle Eastern restaurant or visiting an Arabic store or market. Meet people, hear their stories and learn about their culture.
- Swap your bought work lunches for a packed lunch and donate the money you've saved to the cause. Just $10 will provide 90 hot meals to people in refugee camps. This week, I've been swapping my usual bought lunch for mujadara - a simple rice and lentil dish that is commonly eaten in the refugee camps. It is cheap to produce and the starchy carbs provide basic sustenance.
- Take the time and put in the effort to cook a traditional Syrian recipe from scratch. Share your creations on social media with #EatLikeSyria to raise awareness of the cause.
- If you live in Sydney, join my family this Sunday, we'll be holding a Syrian-inspired lunch at our house on the Northern Beaches. Anyone is welcome to come, just flick me a message and I’ll send you our address. All we ask is that you bring a plate of Middle Eastern food and a donation (of any amount) towards Preemptive Love.