Working with refugees can bring you lots of joy and this cookbook, The Bread and Salt Between Us, is one example. It’s by Mayada Anjari, the extremely capable young matriarch of a Syrian family co-sponsored by Rutgers Presbyterian Church in New York City. Mayada, her family and the whole Rutgers crew–who behind their mild-mannered facade are a bunch of wild and crazy Presbyterians (click here to see my quote about them in the New York Times)–are just a few of the amazing people you’ll meet in my book.
Mayada is a wonderful cook and one Rutgers realized that, it launched “Dinner with Mayada and Friends.” It was a series of a public dinners completely prepared by Mayada and served in the church’s community hall, which holds about 75 people. They were so popular that some dinners sold out. If you’re in the New York area, here’s where you can register for more.
And those dinners help lead to the cookbook, thanks in part to the fact that Lake Isle Press, which specializes in cookbooks for adventurous cooks, was renting office space from Rutgers.
Meanwhile, please do check out her cookbook book and order it. It’s more than recipes (although they are great! I highly recommend, the kibbeh, a fried meat pocket). It’s about food, family and friendship. I’m a huge Brené Brown fan. One of the principles of her book, Braving the Wilderness, calls on people to move closer to each other, “because people are hard to hate close up.”
Getting close up is what refugee resettlement is all about. Hate is not in Rutgers’ vocabulary. They counter it with love–and food. Love is what motivates of all the congregations chronicled in my book. But the relationships they’ve built with all of those who came as strangers shows just how right Brené Brown is to call on us to ditch our bunkers and get out into the wilderness of the unfamiliar. Because it so enriches all of our lives.
And doing that outreach over food is even better.