Monday, March 27, 2017

I Was a Stranger, Day 27: Eat Offbeat

Do you love ethnic food like I do? If so, you might be interested in Eat Offbeat, a new cookbook by refugees. A year ago, Manal Kahi, then a student at Columbia University, couldn't find any Syrian-style hummus in New York City. She decided to make it her mission to bring new and underrepresented cuisine to the city by employing resettled refugees. With her brother, Wissan Kahi, they launched Eat Offbeat, a startup that aims to "introduce New Yorkers to new and off-the-beaten-path cuisines; create opportunities for talented home cooks who happened to be refugees by status; and, showcase the value refugees bring this country."

In the past year, Eat Offbeat has trained and hired 16 chefs from 11 countries, fed 15,000 New Yorkers, and been dubbed "New York’s most groundbreaking catering." Now the siblings are expanding beyond New York by gearing up to publish Eat Offbeat: The Cookbook through a Kickstarter campaign that launched on March 7. It quickly surpassed its $50,000 goal. For a $30 donation, you'll receive this great cookbook, which will include more than 80 recipes from 20 chefs from 15 different countries including Iraq, Nepal, Syria, Eritrea, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Central African Republic, Algeria, and Egypt. With the additional money raised, Eat Offbeat will hire and train more chefs. Also, 10% of cookbook proceeds will be donated to the International Rescue Committee, which helps people who live in areas affected by humanitarian crisis.

The world has never seen such a high number of refugees fleeing their homes...and half of all refugees are children. This forced displacement has increased because of conflicts in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, as well as growing resistance from other nations like the U.S. to provide asylum for refugees. We actually have a very small percentage of resettled refugees in the U.S. already, and this anti-refugee stance reminds me of the way the U.S. shut its doors to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. Have we not learned anything?

The one upside of Trump's xenophobia and the rise of white supremacy is the pushback on the travel bans and the radical welcome people on the other side of the political spectrum are showing toward refugees and immigrants. The smashing success of the Eat Offbeat cookbook is one encouraging sign.

Read more of my "I Was a Stranger" entries here.

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