Together: Our Community Cookbook
When I heard Meghan Markle was working with a local community project in London to put together a cook book, I had a ping moment.
Or should I say: a Tig moment. (Meghan will understand that reference even if no-one else does!)
And that’s because food, and community, and bringing people together is exactly what Meghan loves, so of course she would start somewhere familiar for her first project. For those of us who followed The Tig, this comes as no surprise.
Having pre-ordered the book, I was so excited to see it arrive yesterday morning, and needless to say, for someone who is as passionate a foodie as I am, I’ve already pored over every recipe, every hint of global culture, and every tip and trick put forward by the ladies of the Hubb Community Kitchen in Grenfell. Their stories, and the very essence of bringing a traumatised community together, echoes in these pages.
The Middle Eastern and Asian recipes are a familiar sight to me; some have been put together in ways that are new to me, and different to the methods I learnt from my mum and my grandmother, in our kitchen. Others are exactly the same.
Those little differences have already helped to open up the world a little more to me, to introduce a fresh way of thinking about my time honoured favourite dishes, and provided a little insight into someone else’s kitchen and their family table.
The other recipes, which are exactly how I’d make them at home, offer a sense of comfort in knowing that women so far away, with such different life stories, have grown up with or learnt the same ways of putting these beautiful, simple, ingredients together to create feasts for anyone who drops by.
Reading through these pages, I almost feel as though I could just wander in and grab a plate of lamb pilao and jeera chicken with a little raita on the side, and feel right at home….
The best part of any cookbook however, is the newness. The dishes I haven’t come across, the flavours I haven’t yet discovered. And as for that, the recipe I’m most excited about has got to be the beef and aubergine casserole from Intlak Al-Saiegh… a Persian dish of meatballs in tomato sauce with aubergine…frankly, it sounds like the stuff that dreams are made of and I can’t wait to try it for myself. Dee-licious! (Thank you Intlak for adding this one to the book).
The philosophy behind the Hubb Community Kitchen and bringing people together will be familiar to anyone who was raised in a South Asian home. Pakistani families like mine, as well as our Indian and Bangladeshi neighbours, have always centred around food as a focal point in our culture.
Even for second-generation immigrants like me, the kitchen is at the heart of our home, and large family gatherings with vats of samosas, pakoras and kebabs, accompanied by biryani’s and chicken, mutton or lamb dishes, vegetable handi’s and dhaals, together make for feasts fit for royals.
I have so many fond memories of watching my mum, grandmother and aunts all pitching in at Eid in my grandmother’s kitchen to make dishes that I love to this day, and feed a horde of hungry kids and adults; the kids tired from running around all day after their sugar-high’s from being fed endless morsels of mithai and jalebi’s, and the adults finally resting with cups of hot masala chai having been on their feet all day.
I own many cookbooks and I love a huge variety of cuisines, but the difference about Together is that, it’s not just a book with recipes; as Meghan says in her introduction to the book, it’s about the melting pot of so many women, from so many different walks of life, connecting through the one thing that brings all people together.
You don’t need to speak the same language as someone else to hand them a plate that will feed the body and nourish the soul; you just…do. People say that music bridges cultures; personally, I think it will always be about the food.
I’m so pleased that Meghan was able to make her first project something so wonderfully tangible, with this wonderful group of women…I’m even tempted to launch a local community kitchen, right here in West Yorkshire so watch this space!