Between Meals is a narrative cookbook that will share the expertise and stories of newly-arrived refugee women in the Bay Area and their efforts—literally and metaphorically—to nourish their families in their new California homes. We created this cookbook in partnership with the organization Refugee Transitions nearly a dozen Bay Area refugee women because we wanted to provide an outlet for these cooks to share their stories and recipes from their home countries. Though many of these recipes have been passed down from generation to generation in countries like Afghanistan, Bhutan and Somalia, they are new to most U.S. residents. Between Meals will expose you to new culinary traditions, teach skills and techniques you can use in your own cooking, and offer a collection of recipes you wouldn’t find anywhere else.
Refugee Transitions, an organization with 30 years of experience serving newly arrived refugees in homes and community centers throughout the Bay Area, will work with its strong volunteer base to document traditional recipes with refugee women from around the world, along with corresponding personal histories, foodways and experiences adapting their food cultures to their new homes. Our goal is to give voice to these women's recipes and stories, giving them the professional treatment that, as expert cooks with deep culinary wisdom, they deserve.
As the primary caregivers, newcomer women provide nourishment—literally, of course, but also spiritually and emotionally—to their families. Food is a central means of nourishment and one aspect of life that women (wives, mothers, grandmothers, daughters) often manage. As refugee families resettle in the U.S. and adapt to a strange new environment, food is one of the primary mainstays—like a connective tissue back to their homelands. Yet, food is also a vehicle of assimilation, navigating sinuous roads of acculturation.
While immigrant women in Refugee Transitions’ study program take immense pride in their cooking, they don’t always see it as a skill that is relevant outside their home—let alone as a significant contribution to the development of California’s celebrated cuisine and food culture. Between Meals will give a platform and audience for their skill, thus affirming their relevance in their new homes and offering a chance to share their knowledge from a place of expertise and command. Local chefs and food writers get credit for their contributions to California culture all the time. This project will give credit to the women who carry and safeguard skills and knowledge over journeys both small and large.
With generous initial funding from the California Council for the Humanities, we need at minimum an additional $2,500 to make this vision of a high-quality cookbook--replete with detailed stories, gorgeous photographs, professional layout and recipe testing--into a reality. The work of low-income immigrant women so often goes unappreciated and unseen--Between Meals wants to give our cooks the representation they deserve. These recipes, stories, photographs and cultural artifacts will share women’s histories, struggles and accomplishments; preserve endangered cultural knowledge from their home countries; and affirm immigrant women’s importance, relevance and expertise as caregivers and cooks.
About Us: Between Meals is a collaborative project between Refugee Transitions, Dani Fisher, & Lauren Markham. (The real work, of course, comes from the remarkable women featured in the cookbook--we are just putting it all together.) We will have amazing photography from Victoria Wall Harris & Jennifer Martine, illustrations by Theresa Kenney, and design by Mirella Abounayan.
Dani Fisher has styled and art directed for outlets such as Ten Speed Press, Chronicle Books, Wiley, Random House and Food and Wine and for nationally acclaimed chefs such as Bryant Terry, Nancy Silverton and Top Chef Master Susan Feniger. A former editor at Food and Wine, she regularly contributes recipes to various publications, including DesignSponge and Martha Stewart Living. Her love and approach to cooking has been greatly influenced by her experience chefing in a rural Italian restaurant and the traditional Jewish recipes passed down from her grandmother.
Lauren Markham is a writer, educator and proud former employee of Refugee Transitions. She writes articles and essays focusing on youth and migration, and her work has been featured in This American Life, Orion, Guernica, VQR, The Oxford Journal of Forced Migration, among others. Lauren serves as Community Programs Manager at Oakland International High School, where she oversees supportive services for Bay Area’s immigrant youth and families. After years spent visiting the homes of her students and their families, she is thrilled to celebrate and document the culinary expertise of so many refugee women.
Refugee Transitions is a community-based non-profit agency serving high-need, low-income refugee, asylee, and immigrant newcomers from over 40 countries living in the San Francisco Bay Area. For over 30 years, we have been developing cross-cultural relationships and providing education, family engagement, and community leadership programs that help newcomers become self-sufficient and successful in their new communities.
Risks and challenges
With initial seed funding and a committed production team, we are very close to having a completed manuscript and artwork. Assuming our Kickstarter campaign is successful and, barring obstacles with our printing company, Lulu.com, we can pay designers and additional photographers to complete the project by March 2014. A project of Refugee Transitions, there is a strong organization behind this cookbook which will help the project gain exposure.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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