Refugee Roots, formerly The Rainbow Project, helps asylum seekers and refugees build relationships and navigate the complexities of coping with a new life in the UK. Based in Nottingham’s Hyson Green, the organisation has been running a monthly Eating and Cooking Project since 2019 where easy-to-make and affordable meals are shared between charity users and volunteers. During the pandemic, Refugee Roots has teamed up with Windmill Community Gardens to run a monthly online Virtual Kitchen.
The creation of The Sharing Table was the brainchild of Project volunteers Lesley Cohen and Kathy Thomas and carries stories from refugees and asylum seekers who are looking for a place to call home.
“I don’t think anything brings a sense of place quite like the smell and taste of food. Coming together to share our recipes and cultures and food is a joy,” says Lesley.
Kathy recalls being refreshed by peppermint tea and a table laden with an array of mazzeh on a visit to Palestine and the West Bank. “We were surrounded by unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells, and as we ate together and shared our stories, new friendships formed. This experience was the inspiration for making this cookbook.”
The monthly exploration of meals takes in Shorba, (an Arabic lentil soup), Kuku Sabzi (a Persian herb frittata) and Challah bread (the Jewish festival staple). Anyone with a sweet tooth can try a Middle Eastern rice pudding, banana cake, and walnut brownies. The recipes are shared by refugees and volunteers alongside their stories and reasons for working with Refugee Roots.
Funding from the Severn Trent Community Fund, Kathy’s Cooking Campaign and the first round of crowdfunding brought the book to life. Designed by supporter Heather Thomas and photographed by Rob Thomas and Jessica Coates, The Sharing Table is not only a recipe book, but an account of the hope and commitment to others demonstrated by Refugee Roots.
Adam Baker, Charity Director says: “I love this book. It is a celebration of food and friendship, and a reminder that we hold these things in common with friends and strangers across the world. It has been a tough year, especially for the people we work to support like Renasi from Malawi who features in the book. By pledging to own a copy of The Sharing Table, you are helping us to do more for those who feel isolated and lonely.
“Although we can’t get together at the moment, we can all head to our kitchens and experiment with new ingredients and recipes enjoyed by other cultures.”