All across the globe, food is used to bring people together. Be it a special celebration or a quick meal with a friend after work, food has the power to unite those of different backgrounds, cultures and interests – because we all have to eat.
It’s this central message that forms Makkelijk Midden-Oosters, a cookbook developed by a dear friend of Movement On The Ground, Erin Groot Hermsen.
After volunteering with us in Kara Tepe on Lesvos, Erin returned to the Netherlands inspired by the bravery and determination of the people she met. What she instantaneously recognised during her time was how easy it is to connect with people over food. From there, the cookbook was born!
Three years of intensive work and dedication later, the beautiful culmination of stories and recipes is almost ready to be read (and cooked) by all. Even more touching, for every book sold, the profits will go directly towards our mission on Lesvos and Samos.
In light of this exciting launch, we decided to catch up with Erin to learn more about the inspiration behind the book.
We have 80 copies of Makkelijk Midden-Oosters (in Dutch) to be sold, with the total cost of the book going directly to our mission towards dignity on the Greek islands of Lesvos and Samos.
You can sign up for a copy by sending us an email at email@example.com.
Don’t forget to leave your name, address and contact details – so we can send you a follow up mail!
After signing up, we will send you a notification and payment link for €36.85 (cost of the book - €30 - plus shipping - €6.85) once the book is ready to be delivered on September 15th!
MOTG: What motivated you to create this cookbook?
Erin: A few years ago I was on my way to work, reading a newspaper. It was full of horrible articles about the journeys of refugees from Syria. At that moment, I found myself thinking that no one wants to leave their home voluntarily. It is a very brave thing to do - to leave everything you know behind. Bringing your family on an impossible journey, often without knowing the end destination. Then you can only hope that someone will open the door to welcome you.
I decided I wanted to see the crisis with my own eyes to see how I could support best. I got connected to Movement on the Ground and volunteered in Kara Tepe on Lesvos. There, I realised that the residents of the camp were not only brave, but that we also have more in common than we are different. From the endless love for your children and therefore willingness to put everything at stake to keep them safe, to liking Justin Bieber music, to enjoying good food and drinks together. It was easy to become friends. Back home I decided to spread these positive stories. I met amazing creative people, all working in foods, who all wanted to help me in sharing these stories further. As the best friendships are born and maintained over good food, we decided to create a cookbook.
MOTG: How did you compile all of the amazing recipes and stories?
Erin: Six refugees from Syria and Iran inspired the recipes of this cookbook with their personal stories. Stories about universal themes like love, family, friendship, culture. And dreams about the future. Stories that were born around the table.
These stories and matching flavours and ingredients are the basis of the book, enriched with the creativity of our culinary team. The result is a cookbook full of modern Middle-Eastern recipes with a Dutch twist.
MOTG: Do you have a favourite recipe in the book? If so, what and why?
Erin: Difficult to choose one! Although I love food, I’m better skilled in the eating part than in the cooking part. The great thing about this book is that all recipes are easy to shop and make, so all recipes are very accessible to try.
But if I have to choose one it would be the Salmon Tarator. I love the combination of ingredients; salmon with crispy walnuts, fresh herbs, creamy yoghurt and sour lemon. It is super easy to make, but a guaranteed success for a dinner with friends or just if you want to treat yourself on a weekday.
MOTG: What do you hope this cookbook will bring? What is the ambition of the book?
Erin: Our main ambition is that we would like the Dutch and our new neighbours to positively meet each other, and show how much we actually have in common.
The cookbook contains delicious and easy recipes from the Middle-East with a Dutch twist. As Middle-Eastern cooking is trending in the Netherlands, the cookbook is relevant for a wide audience. The book serves as a beautiful coffee table book that is appealing to read. Our new neighbours who inspired the recipes are introduced in a subtle way. All stories that are shared have a recognisable, approachable and positive tone of voice. Hopefully this way these stories contribute to a more positive and inclusive perception of our new neighbours.
On top of reaching as many Dutch people as possible with our story and recipes, we will be able to support Movement On The Ground financially as all profits of the book will be donated.
MOTG: Do you believe food is a powerful unification tool? If so, why?
Erin: I’m a big believer that food brings people together! Think of all the special moments you shared with family and friends. I bet food was involved in all of those: Christmas gatherings, birthday parties, celebrations of a newborn. Or think of ‘family recipes’, that we pass through over generations. These recipes are part of our identity, and are made to be shared with those people we love.
Sharing food is the basis for spending time together, having true attention for each other, and engaging in deep conversations. All over the world, coming together over food is the most communal and binding thing we do.
Food allows also for unique experiences. Without the need to travel we can taste the world. It’s inspiring and enriching to learn about food from other cultures. It helps to start a conversation, to find your commonalities and to blend different flavours together. We hope that our book does exactly that.
Any contribution helps us in our mission to provide a dignified, innovative and sustainable response to the refugee crisis that benefits both refugees and host populations.
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