How refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and Myanmar are sustained by their food memories

#1 Dec 3rd, 2017, 11:53
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Efforts to recreate culinary memories are met with several challenges — one of the biggest being lack of authentic ingredients.

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It’s a grey Saturday morning, with a threat of rain in the air, but people are out in full force at the Nature Bazaar in Adchini, Delhi. Aroma of food being cooked wafts from the food court, and a small queue is forming outside a particular stall.

There, ladies in head scarves are busy frying, steaming and cutting veggies. They communicate with the guests in broken Hindi, trying to explain the dishes that they have spent hours prepping. One of them steps out of the stall to ensure that their children are busy doing their worksheets. I accompany her back to the cooking area. As I watch, often questioning, prodding about ingredients, family histories, their hands never stop working and the smile never leaves their faces.

Each of the hundred or so guests is welcomed and doled out food with warmth. These are women from the ILHAM Afghan Cuisine (an initiative for Afghan refugee single mothers), which was started under the ACCESS-UNHCR Livelihoods and Self Reliance project in 2015. Originally, the group featured seven Afghan refugee women from Malviya Nagar and Bhogal, but now only four remain active.

ILHAM is not just a source of livelihood for these women, but rather a means of keeping their food memories alive, through traditional dishes such as the manthu, nargisi kebab, kabuli pulao, norani pulao, shaami kebab, khajur, baklava, and more. Each dish comes charged with emotion, redolent of times gone by, of “home”, of celebrations and feasts , of love and loss.
Economic Times

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