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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 July 2018

Barbara Massaad curates cookbook to help Syrian refugees

Inspired by the stories of refugees, Soup for Syria is packed with recipes from nearly 80 chefs and cookbook authors, all using ingredients home cooks can easily find in their local supermarkets.
Barbara Abdeni Massaad. Courtesy Barbara Abdeni Massaad
Barbara Abdeni Massaad. Courtesy Barbara Abdeni Massaad

After a winter visit to a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon, Barbara Abdeni Massaad knew she had to help. The Lebanese food writer and photographer did what does best: she wrote a cookbook – Soup for Syria – with all ­proceeds going to the UN ­Refugee Agency UNHCR to help Syrian refugees.

Inspired by the stories of refugees, Soup for Syria is packed with recipes from nearly 80 chefs and cookbook authors, all using ingredients home cooks can easily find in their local supermarkets. Contributors include Sally Butcher, Claudia Roden, Alice Waters, CNN’s Anthony Bourdain, Yotam Ottolenghi (who writes a weekly column for The Guardian), Mark Bittman from The New York Times and Greg Malouf, the executive chef at Clé Dubai.

Roden said: “My hope is that this project is a success and the book helps to keep the plight of Syrian refugees in people’s minds and that it will raise funds to alleviate their awful living conditions until their future is settled.”

Malouf writes: “I’ve always ­believed that there is no better way to banish differences and bring people together than through sharing food and soup is, perhaps, the ultimate shared dish. It’s a small enough thing, to contribute a recipe, but ­perhaps the many small voices that have joined together in this lovely book can, together, sing a loud message of hope.”

Bourdain says: “Soup is elemental, and it always makes sense, even when the world around us fails to.”

Massaad’s inspiration was simple and from the heart. She says: “When I visited the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, I said to them: ‘Had I been a barber, I would have cut your hair. Because I am a cookbook writer and photographer, I am doing what I can do to help through my work.’”

One reviewer, Jim Clancy, a former CNN correspondent and anchor, writes: “Soup for ­Syria may be the most compelling cookbook ever created. Through her photographs and collected recipes, Barbara Massaad directly connects us with a people in dire need of our help. Just holding this book is nourishment for the soul.”

Soup for Syria is published by Interlink Publishing and Pavilion Books. Visit soupforsyria.com for details; also available for Dh110 on Amazon

sjohnson@thenational.ae