Food is one of the best ways to break down cultural boundaries. Relationships are built over a shared meal or a cup of coffee, regardless of one’s background, ethnicity, class or religion. It’s the ultimate equaliser and a wonderful way to share one’s culture.
The Middle East is famous worldwide for its incredible cuisine, from hummus and falafel on the shores of the Mediterranean to biryani and halwa on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Today we want to share with you three incredible brands using Middle Eastern food not only to build bridges across cultures, but also to improve the lives of victims of conflict in Palestine, Yemen and Syria.
Palestine on a Plate was created by Palestinian food writer Joudie Kalla, who became engrossed in food “through years of sitting with my mother, aunties and grandmothers listening to their conversations and being included in their daily cooking adventures.”
She has published multiple cookbooks including Palestine on a Plate and Baladi: Palestine – A Celebration of Food from Land and Sea. Her books contain authentic Palestinian recipes inspired by her heritage and her homeland (Baladi means ‘my country’ in Arabic). She gives a percentage of her profits to the Palestinian House of Friendship in Nablus, which supports children, youth and their families in towns, villages and refugee camps in the West Bank.
Port of Mokha is a social enterprise established by Yemeni-American Mokhtar Alkhanshali, dedicated to reviving the ancient Yemeni trade of coffee whilst providing opportunities and jobs for Yemeni farmers. Mokhtar’s journey in creating the company saw him become stranded in Yemen in 2015 as bombs began to rain down on the country and the civil war began. The dramatic story of his escape is told in Dave Eggers’ book, The Monk of Mokha.
Despite all odds, Mokhtar has succeeded wildly in his mission and, with the help of his team of growers in Yemen, is producing some of the finest quality coffee in the world. More importantly, he is using it to support people who, with civil war plaguing their country, would otherwise struggle to make a living.
The popular and award-winning books Cook for Syria and Bake for Syria contain a mixture of Middle Eastern-inspired recipes, some of which have been handed down for generations while others are brand new creations.
The project is working with UNICEF to provide aid to Syrian children, and a number of high-profile celebrity chefs and food entrepreneurs have donated recipes including Jamie Oliver and Deliciously Ella.
We hope these brands have inspired you – if you know of any other social enterprises using food to bridge cultural boundaries and/or support people in need in the region, leave a comment below and let us know! We’d love to hear about them and help promote their awesome work.
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