MOTG: What motivated you to create this book? Why ‘The Melting Pot’?
One day we were working in old Kara Tepe camp and there was a resident who was quite reserved. We asked him about what he was cooking and suddenly his whole demeaner changed. He lit up and opened up but above all smiled. It made us realise the power food has to unite even if you don’t speak the same language and the importance of food for people cultures. We wanted to capture this smile in a book and use it as a tool show how food can bring all people together
MOTG: How did you compile all of the amazing recipes?
We worked with an amazing Greek team to find people who were interested in being part of the book. Those who were we went and cooked the dishes from their hometown with them, took the beautiful photos featured in the book and documented their stories of arriving in Lesvos / being born here and what brought about their love of food.
MOTG: Is there a story behind each recipe? What is one story you would want to tell to everyone you meet outside the camps?
Each family / person featured in the book has a unique story of why they love food and what brought them to the island. For me there are two that stand out. One the story of local fisherman Kostas who gave up his livelihood to save people seeking safety from the sea with his small fishing boat. And the secondly the seventeen-year-old Fekura from Iran who dreams of becoming a pilot. Excluding these exception stories what really comes to light is the commonality between the stories and the fact that love and hospitality is at the heart of every one.
MOTG: Do you have a favourite recipe in the book? If so, what and why?
It is very hard to choose as there are so many delicious and interesting recipes in the book. However the Kubba prepared by Youssif and his family is particularly delicious. This Syrain dish are fried bulgar wheat filled with succulent lamb. They were very hard to put down!
MOTG: What do you hope this cookbook will bring? What is the ambition of the book?
The ambition of the book is three fold. Firstly to highlight the unique diverse range of cuisines on the island, secondly to use the book as a tool for connection and unity and show that wherever you are from you can sit down and break bread together. Thirdly all of the profits from the sale of the book will go towards Movement On The Ground and its mission to provide dignified living conditions for refugees in Greece.
MOTG: Do you believe food is a powerful unification tool? If so, why?
Food has the unique power to unite. Even if the dishes, ingredients and methods of preparation differ, this book has shown us that cooking is one of the purest forms of love. It is a universal language and something that everyone can share.
MOTG: Who are the people behind the book?
The stories and recipes were collected by Nikoleta Makrionitou; top food journalist and Food and Wine editor of Greece’s Gastronomos Magazine and Barbara Gigilini. Barbara is a Lesvos-based journalist and owner of popular newspaper Politika. She has followed the Migration crisis closely since 2015. The photos were captured by the talented Nikos Kokkas; an Athens based photographer and writer, whose most recent work can be found in the highly acclaimed “Locked Down” exhibition. The book was put together and designed by the talented Thanasis Georgiou, multi award winning graphic designer and editor based in Thessaloniki.
I created this project for Movement On The Ground, whose mission is to provide immediate human relief, cultivate solutions, and drive sustainable change with and for people on the move and local host communities impacted by the European migration crisis. I have a passion for cooking and humanitarian work and have previously worked in hospitality. I am currently working as an Education Coordinator with MOTG in RIC Lesvos.