A cookbook for the holidays celebrates the flavours that make us who we are
In 'Tastes from Home: Recipes from the Refugee Community,' people from all over the world who now call Canada home share their stories and favourite recipes.
Refugee Anuarite Manyoha, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, prepares a dish at her home in the Canadian capital, Ottawa.
© UNHCR/Blair Gable
When Anuarite Manyoha, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), landed in Canada in the middle of winter 2014, there were many things she had to get used to in her new home: unfamiliar grocery stores, the cold – and the food.
“There was sugar in everything!” said Anuarite, who is now a resident of Ottawa and works at a long-term care home.
Anuarite, 22, is one of 14 refugees who contributed their favourite recipes and personal stories to the free e-cookbook, 'Tastes from Home: Recipes from the Refugee Community.' The collection marks the 70th anniversary of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and contains more than 100 pages of recipes, photographs, and stories that celebrate perseverance, resilience and tradition.
In the DRC, Anuarite’s father was part of a group that rescued child soldiers. When the rebels discovered what he was doing, he had to hide. The rebels targeted Anuarite’s mother instead, shooting her in the hand and the jaw. Anuarite’s mother survived, and the family fled to Uganda, where they remained for five years before claiming refugee status in Canada. Food always brought her family together, even when times were difficult, she said.
Among the recipes she contributed, Anuarite’s favourite is Pondu soup. The Congolese soup, with its unique blend of vegetables, spices and fish brings back memories of joyful family meals. “It will be one plate of soup for four people. You just put it in the middle and surround the table,” she said.
Canada, a global leader in refugee resettlement, has welcomed more than one million refugees since 1980. UNHCR Canada launched 'Tastes From Home' to bring together refugees united both by having made Canada their home and by their love of traditional cuisine, whether from their native countries or places they lived during their journeys. For every copy downloaded, an anonymous supporter has agreed to donate money to UNHCR to help end food insecurity for refugee communities around the world.
Faisal Mohammed, 24, knows the consequences of hunger. He and his family are members of the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar who have suffered persecution and brutal violence at the hands of the regime. Since the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have been forced to flee the country. Faisal’s parents lost five children to sickness or hunger before fleeing to Bangladesh while Faisal’s mother was pregnant with him. “When I look at pictures from the bad days… my mom was…as skinny as my pinkie,” Faisal said.
It was at the food stalls in a refugee camp in Bangladesh where Faisal first fell in love with food – specifically Duú Fiça, a dish made of coconut and rice flour. He remembers the snack’s delicious flavor and pleasing texture. “The whole community smelled nice,” he said. “Even just walking by, your stomach fills up!”
For Tareq Hadhad, the flavour of chocolate means home. His family fled Syria’s civil war after their chocolate factory was bombed and they eventually received sponsorship from a Canadian family. When Tareq and his family arrived in Canada, just a few days before Christmas, they enjoyed crowding into the kitchen to test chocolate recipes. Tareq started his business, Peace by Chocolate, a year later, in 2016. For 'Tastes from Home,' Tareq contributed two dessert recipes. One, the 'Peace by chocolate' milk chocolate with hazelnut bar wrap, is easy to assemble by layering a tortilla wrap, a sponge cake, chocolate and strawberries.
'Tastes From Home' includes recipes from Asia and the Pacific, South and Central America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East and North Africa. You can download it by visiting www.unhcr.ca/cookbook.
- See also this great video of Anuarite creating her favourite dish here.