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New cookbook ladles out ‘Soup for Syria’

Celebrity chefs contribute hearty recipes for refugee charity project

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Matzah ball soup (CC BY-ND Eden Hensley Silverstein/Flickr)
Matzah ball soup (CC BY-ND Eden Hensley Silverstein/Flickr)

Around the world, people are offering to aid Syrian refugees. Some send warm clothes and winter tents to brave the cold weather in Middle East refugee camps. Others “shepherd” those who managed to get to Europe, taking them where they want to go. And still others are privately sponsoring them so they can resettle in North America.

But Lebanese food writer and photographer Barbara Abdeni Massaad decided she was going to help some of the 1.2 million Syrian refugees in her country with soup.

Beginning last winter, she has regularly driven the 45 minutes from her home in the Bekaa Valley to a nearby refugee camp with pots, pans and fresh ingredients to prepare soup together with tens of families who have little shelter from the cold.

Massaad’s work in feeding the refugees spurred the idea for a cookbook that would focus solely on soup recipes and be sold to raise money to buy them food and other essentials.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, Massaad approached Massachusetts-based Interlink Publishing with her plan for “Soup for Syria: Recipes to Celebrate our Shared Humanity.” The company jumped on board with the project.

“I thought it was brilliant idea from someone with a big heart. But I thought it was also an opportunity to make a big impact,” said Interlink president Michel Moushabeck.

Chicken soup with greens (photo credit: CC-BY-SA Claus Ableiter, Wikimedia Commons)
Soup with greens (CC BY-SA Claus Ableiter, Wikimedia Commons)

“I was convinced that if we could get celebrity chefs to donate a soup recipe we would have a larger chance of selling many copies throughout the world to turn this into an international movement to help the refugees,” said Moushabeck.

Indeed, some 50 chefs and food writers contributed favorite, simple soup recipes, which Massaad compiled with her beautiful photographs of the dishes and Syrians living in the refugee camps in Lebanon.

Among the contributors are names well known to American foodies, such as the New York Times food blogger Mark Bittman, culinary bad boy Anthony Bourdain, “Jerusalem” Israeli-Palestinian duo Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Middle Eastern cuisine authority Claudia Roden, and pioneering locavore Alice Waters.

The first section of the book deals with stocks: beef, chicken, fish, vegetable and corn. The rest of the recipes are organized according to main ingredients, like asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, lentil or yogurt.

“Soup for Syria” retails for $30 and has reportedly sold out its first two runs in just a month, bringing in $300,000 for food relief for Syrian refugees.

The author and publisher are encouraging supporters to host soup parties, at which they can take comfort in the fact that they will not only share a meal with friends, but also help nourish Syrian refugees by selling or taking orders for the cookbook.

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