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Okanagancook

Welcome "tea" for our Syrian Refugee Families

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Our little village here in picturesque south okanagan, British Columbia has applied to help settle these despite people.  We do not have confirmation just yet that we are allocated families.  Canada is settling 25,000 refugees and they have all arrived in Canada.  Our families are staying in hotels in the big city of Vancouver awaiting settlement allocations.  Not a great situation.

  Anyways, I digress.  I have been put in charge of organizing a welcome event for the 13 people who are HOPEFULLY within the week  coming here .  There will likely be the volunteers who have been working to get them here attending, so a total of 30 people.

My question is what should we serve as a snack.  I am thinking we have some sweets of the Canadian bent.  Maybe some brownies, some cookies with nuts such our local walnuts, something light like an angle food cake with lemon frosting.  Also thinking maybe some savoury items like home made pittas (I can make those) with hummus  drizzled with olive oil, some olives, maybe some babba ganoush, cucumber and yogurt.  Coffe, tea, and fruit juices.

 

i would appreciate any comments regarding this.  Apparently our settlers are from farming areas in Syria but that is all I know at this point.

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Show them truly Canadian food. Someday maybe they will show you Syrian food - and be proud to do that. I would not, at this point, try to make them feel at home by making food that is too close to what they may have eaten back home.

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1 hour ago, Deryn said:

Show them truly Canadian food. Someday maybe they will show you Syrian food - and be proud to do that. I would not, at this point, try to make them feel at home by making food that is too close to what they may have eaten back home.

 

I respect what you say here, Deryn, as always, but I have to disagree with you in this instance. :smile:

 

If these were rich vacationing tourists, what you say is extremely appropriate. These refugees are ravaged folks driven out of their homes, and on a long and precarious journey. Any comfort foods from home might mean a lot to them, even if not rendered perfectly. It would be my inclination to try to offer something as best as I could that might approximate what they are used to with the humble admission that I knew it could never equal their authentic dishes.

 

Unfortunately, I'm not up on Syrian foods per se, although I love Mediterranean foods like baklava, hummus, pita, spanakopita, and so on, and have made my share of them. A quick Google turns up falafel, kibbeh, mahshi, and halvah.

 

A mix of Canadian foods that @Okanagancookfeels competent and comfortable preparing is great too. I just think in this case that any attempt to make their native dishes that they have been missing would be perceived as especially welcoming. I think offering tea will be comforting as well.

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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A very kind thing to organize, I'm sure it will go well.

 

Since it looks like you're going to have a generous amount of food, come prepared with some containers and/or ziplock bags so you can send your new neighbors home with leftovers.

 

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I tend to agree that an effort to make something familiar to their own culture would go a long way to building rapport, even if it fell a little short of their standards. An all-Canadian offering would surely only reinforce how dislocated they have become, although elements of Canadian would maybe be OK.

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When/if refugees are being relocated to a large center with a district that may already house many compatriots and has a well developed shopping area that focusses on trying to bring in foods from the homeland so people can at least try to recreate what they left behind, it might be apropos to perhaps get someone from their new community to help you plan the 'tea' and assist with planning/cooking the food. However, are there any residents of your relatively small town or a town close by who are Syrian who you could enlist to help with this? Is there fairly easy access to the proper ingredients so you can even approximate what you think they may be missing?

 

Whatever you serve I am sure will be less important than the 'welcome' that holding the event will demonstrate. I am sure they will appreciate whatever you do or serve.

 

That said however if they will not be able to get the ingredients to continue cooking in the style they used to have (and by the way, I think most just left there only a few weeks ago, not many years ago in most cases - many have been living in apartments in Turkey or other countries - just not in Syria - countries where the foods are similar and available) and you are not that familiar with what they may be missing, I personally might err on the side of treating them to new tastes - and instead concentrate more on learning a few words of their native language - or concentrate on learning about their foods (but not trying to replicate them) so you can talk to them (possibly through an interpreter - hope there will be one available if need be?) about what and how they will eat going forward given a limited availability of their probably preferred ingredients in your particular area. They will have to adapt more quickly where you are than they would in perhaps Calgary or Vancouver or Toronto I would guess.

 

I thought this article from the Globe and Mail was interesting if not exactly about holding a welcome party: Why the family kitchen is an important focus when welcoming syrian refugees. It points out that what is familiar to many Syrians is Ceylon tea - perhaps boiled with sugar and served in small glass cups, and that even if you could find ingredients completely familiar to them, 'miles' will always make the food taste different.


Edited by Deryn (log)
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Some of this and some of that, as you seem to have planned. My guess is that the group will appreciate both the new and the old. Until you get to know them better, I'd suggest (and it looks like you already realize) being aware of what not to serve, namely pork products and/or alcohol. (You have a still! ;)) It sounds like this is an ice-breaker, a beginning, and that there will be more to come as the people settle into the community. I'm sure the food will be very much appreciated, but the atmosphere more so. If possible (I don't know the size of your kitchen), let them help with some preparations if they offer to, or at least serving. Out of necessity, they're on the "taking" end of a lot of things. They might appreciate being able to give, even in small ways. (I also think some fresh spearmint leaves will go a long way in that sweet tea.)

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Thank you all for your thoughts and ideas! We are a small village of around 2000 people except in the summer when we swell to around 5000.  We are surrounded by vineyards and orchards.  Penticton is a city of 45,000 and is a 15 minute drive away.  We have a small grocery store for essentials and a couple of restaurants/pub.  I don't think we are getting more families.  We were scheduled to get 21 people but that got changed to 13 and I am not involved in this negotiation so don't know why but I think it is also the decision of the families as to where they want to settle.  Apparently many are scared to leave the city and they certainly don't know Canada at all so they have no clue that the Okanagan is very desirable mainly due to it's lifestyle and climate.

 

The families we are getting are apparently farmers but that's all I know at the moment.  They have been given houses to live in for 6 months (free).  So they have adequate cooking facilities and the stores in Penticton have pretty well every ingredient they will need including Halal meats!  At this point I am not even sure what cooking facilities we will have for the welcome tea so I am thinking we just bring stuff for the table.  I think the tea is just meant as a small welcome, low key affair.  I have done research about their food and I even found a website that had a PDF of pantry items listed in English and Arabic which will be invaluable when helping them to shop.  I don't know how much English they know.  So, it's an adventure at this point.  I will know more soon. 

 

I have some helpers so will run the idea of a mixed food table by them. Thanks for everyone's thoughts on this topic.  We will have plenty of sugar out for the tea and coffee!  I am thinking of taking my Jura coffee machine to the event and we can make beautiful shots of good coffee for them :-))  

 

cheers

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Yes, please do let us know what you do and how it goes.  

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I'm particularly interested in this as our church is starting to get involved in settling refugees in our home state in the US. It's a very slow process in the US, and so far they're all settling in one city that already has a large Syrian demographic. I think most organizations try to do that, which may be why you're not getting as many folks. Regardless, your thoughtfulness has given me another idea for something our group could do. Thanks!

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Joanna G. Hurley

"Civilization means food and literature all round." -Aldous Huxley

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My 2 cents:

Do try to make dishes they will relate to, but also show local cuisine.
Avoid "sensitive" dishes, as in dishes who requires specific flavoring or preparations that you are likely to miss (think for example of a Chinese tasting american-Chinese food). Such problematic dishes are hummus and falafel.

Do provide plenty of vegetables and salads, they are a critical part of a meal in the middle east and the western cuisine tends to underwhelm in this aspect.

And since you mentioned coffee, consider getting some ground cardamon to add to it, some may appreciate it.

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~ Shai N.

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In a small southern town where I once lived, there was a garden club that did an annual "international day" celebrating the heritage of its members with a fundraising international food fair. In this town, there were three or four Syrian/Lebanese families. I remember their offerings at the food fair including spanikopita, grape leaves, and falafel. 

 

Bless you and your community for welcoming these folks. I agree with those who have said that attempts to offer something "homey" will be appreciated, but I think it will be a good opportunity to showcase what your local region has to offer. 

 

Wish I was there to help.

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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Thanks everyone.  We are still waiting to here if they are coming.  I still know nothing more about the event but I did make 2 litres of hummus from the book Aleppo and it turned out to be the best hummus I have ever made.  It is sitting in the fridge melding it's flavours.

 

 We also made pitas from the book Flatbreads and they have turned out very nicely and are in the freezer.  We made a second batch of dough which the recipe said we could keep in the fridge for a few days for more flavour development so will bake them up in another day.  I can always freeze the hummus.  We have local walnut trees so I am going to bake some cookies show casing the nuts and some brownies as well.  I think the event will not be as grandiose as some contributors are envisioning.  More of a gathering to introduce everyone who will be helping so finger food and coffee.  So some veggie crudities, olives and a few more baked Canadian items should do the trick.  Cardamon offering for the coffee is a great idea.

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@Okanagancook

 

 Could I ask you to clarify which book you mean by Aleppo?  Seems I have heard something about a book with a similar title elsewhere so I'm just curious. Thank you.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Sorry Anna, I didn't note the complete title:  Aromas of Aleppo:  The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jew by Poopa Dweck.  A truly stunning book.  Excellent narrative and photography.  I bought some lovely eggplants today so I'm going to try the baba ghanooj.  Couldn't resist.  My only dislike about the book:  Very big and heavy like Thomas Keller's books but well made so hope it doesn't come apart.

 

I scored some marinated Lebanese olives at the superstore today complete with lemon slice and chill!  While there I had a chat with the meat man.  There was only halal chicken out so asked if they get other halal meat.  To my delight he said they were getting some beef in this week and they often have lamb.  The 'ethnic' isle had a lot canned Lebanese products.  I checked out the whole sale club here and they had nice big bags of chick peas/lentils and a big selection of rice.  All will be good.

 

Still no word about their arrival.  It is so beautiful here at the moment:  sun on the mountain tops which still have a dusting of snow, no wind and some nice puffy white clouds scattered about.  If they only knew they were coming to paradise, should they choose.  Some rumour that some are afraid to leave the city for the unknown.  Easy to understand given what they have been through.

cheers

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32 minutes ago, Okanagancook said:

 Aromas of Aleppo:  The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jew by Poopa Dweck.  A truly stunning book.  Excellent narrative and photography.  

I bought that book several years ago, it really is stunning. The only thing I've made is the ka'ak, which came out good. I think I halved the recipe. Time to look through it again. Yes, it is enormous and unwieldy, but so beautiful.

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cakewalk, you HAVE to make the hummus and do take the time to take the skins off as she directs.  Her method is quite good....put on some tunes to help dull the tedious task.  I toasted my cumin seeds before grinding and I used aleppo pepper flakes.

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@Okanagancook and @cakewalk

 

Thanks. I did wonder if that was the book. 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Update:  Sadly they still have not arrived.  No one is sure what the hold up is.  Government bureaucracy at work, likely.  

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58 minutes ago, Okanagancook said:

Update:  Sadly they still have not arrived.  No one is sure what the hold up is.  Government bureaucracy at work, likely.  

 

Sorry to hear that.

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I must be clairvoyant because I heard today that two fathers visited to see Naramata to decide if they want their families to come.  Should hear in a few days.  I think they are afraid.  Planning back on for the 'tea'.:D

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update:  we have a family of four, two young children.  Unfortunately the speak no english.  I'm one of the 'core' volunteers so will know more after our meeting tomorrow.  Had a meze lunch for the boyz (aka DH's) who got more wood for us from apricot trees that are being taken out to make way for more profitable cherry trees.  Practising some dishes:  a very interesting chopped onion, red and green pepper dish with loads of hot peppers and sumac; chicken breasts which were sous vide and then flash browned in a saffron/rosemary sauce; hummus; kibbee; lamb kofta; fattoush; yogurt and pitas.  DSC01326.jpgDSC01325.jpg All the dishes were delicious and it was like an Indian meal.....it kinda snuck up on you and suddenly you were feeling very full.

 

DSC01330.jpg

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Wonderfully colourful and delicious looking spread, Okanagancook!

 

Glad to hear that some of the refugees are indeed coming to your community after all. I am sure they are very pleased to be welcomed by you all and I hope they assimilate quickly. In Nova Scotia it has apparently just been discovered that up to 60 percent of the adults not only don't speak, read or write English, but apparently they don't read or write even their own language. So much for them to learn, and they will need to do it quickly. I wish them luck ... and luck/patience to/for the communities hosting them.

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