I enjoyed a fun little undertaking this past week. I reached out to the owner of a Syrian cooking website: Ghinwa lives in the U.S. I can’t imagine what must be going through her mind as she considers the discourse, oh, who are we kidding here — fascist rantings — south of our border by the Dumpster. I just can’t with him or with that. (As I’m writing this I’m listening to Rich Terfry, CBC’s R2 afternoon drive host who loves to pepper his show with little eyebrow raisers, He just noted that Cat Stevens was turned away at the U.S. Border because he’s considered a security threat. Then he spun Peace Train.)
Back to Ghinwa and Syrian cooking. When I emailed her to ask if she’d help me assemble a list of Syrian food basics to stock a pantry for a refugee family arriving in Canada, she was not only amenable, but effusive in her praise of our country’s refugee efforts.
I admit I welled up at the sight of the photos of the arrival gate at Pearson when the first airlift of refugees arrived in Toronto on December 10. It was close to midnight when the weary passengers arrived, greeted by community groups, children, teenagers, families, and the leaders of our country, province and city. Cynics can call it a photo op. I call it a beautiful moment in history. And maybe we reframe photo op as a photographic opportunity to share a human moment that might just prompt more good action, less dangerous fear.
Back to the kitchen! I thought perhaps an Arabic translation of the grocery list would be a great help when refugees arrive, so they and their sponsors have a resource to use together. When Ghinwa learned many refugees would settle in Montreal she asked if I could have the list translated into French also. With the help of a willing friend, the trilingual grocery list is written and now posted online for a handy reference. It’s full of things you can’t imagine: apples, green beans, cabbage, potatoes! Basically, much the same produce, protein and staples you’d find in any North American kitchen. I can’t wait to see how they are prepared – I hope I get that opportunity.
That pantry list is a teeny, tiny little thing: I know there are many, many monumental and pressing tasks to bring a refugee family to a safe landing here – and I’m excited to report that our group is getting closer to learning who “our” family is and when they will arrive. Until then, we have many tasks, big and small, to take care of together. But it’s food! It’s fun! And lord knows we could use a bit more of that. I personally can’t wait to take our sponsored family grocery shopping. Partly selfish reasons as I — um — love food. When I visit another country the first place I want to visit is the grocery store or market. Just to look around and learn a little bit about people by what they eat and how they prepare it. So, sure, it’s a tiny thing. With a pile of tiny efforts and some really huge ones we are going to do something monumental together.
Apples are good in any language.
Here’s the pantry list http://www.syriancooking.com/attachments/098_pantry.pdf
(Thanks to Ghinwa and Sheila.)
I think it is important to counter the vitriol from the U.S. election trail that’s being given such massive coverage in our own media with voices and images of grace and generosity. If you’re on Instagram, do check out @humansofny (also on Facebook).