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Okanagancook

Welcome "tea" for our Syrian Refugee Families

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Thanks deryn.  The food was sooooo good.  Hummus made with the skins of the chick peas removed is so silky smooth but the star was that pepper salad.  The fattoush salad was also really nice, not too much Pita bread with a really lemony dressing.

 

the family have a lot of challenges ahead and Naramata is a very small village, 2000 people, but people here have big hearts so it is a starting point for the family.  They could not possibility afford to settle here as it is way too expensive but Penticton is much more affordable.

 

we shall work to get them independent and learning English is the most important thing for them.

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It does look delicious! Do you have a name for that pepper salad? 

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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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5 hours ago, Okanagancook said:

Thanks deryn.  The food was sooooo good.  Hummus made with the skins of the chick peas removed is so silky smooth but the star was that pepper salad.  The fattoush salad was also really nice, not too much Pita bread with a really lemony dressing.

 

the family have a lot of challenges ahead and Naramata is a very small village, 2000 people, but people here have big hearts so it is a starting point for the family.  They could not possibility afford to settle here as it is way too expensive but Penticton is much more affordable.

 

we shall work to get them independent and learning English is the most important thing for them.

Are the dishes all from Aromas of Aleppo? They look so good.  Thanks for sharing. 


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

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Smithy, the pepper salad is called "Ezme" Spicy Tomato & Pepper Dip. It's basically very finely chopped white onion, red and green peppers with chillies, parsley, sumac, pomegranate molasses, red wine vinegar, s and p.  Drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of sumac to finish.

 

AnnaN, the hummus and tahini sauce were from Aleppo but the others were from Persiana which is a wonderful book.  I've made several recipes from it and they have all turned out flavourful without a ton of ingredients.  

I made the lunch for our little wood cutting crew who are taking out some old apricot trees for the farmer who is replanting in cherries.  The wood is really dense and will make great firewood in a couple of years, once it dries out.  They work from 9:30 until 1 pm and then I make everyone lunch.  There are only 11 trees left so one more session.  Next Monday.  I think I'll make some Spanish food for them.  The lunches I've made so far were:  mac and cheese (it was a last minute "can you make the boyz lunch?"), that Indonesian meal for one of the crew members who is Dutch and hasn't had decent Indo food since immigrating to Canada and then yesterday was a meze table.

 

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20 minutes ago, Okanagancook said:

Smithy, the pepper salad is called "Ezme" Spicy Tomato & Pepper Dip. It's basically very finely chopped white onion, red and green peppers with chillies, parsley, sumac, pomegranate molasses, red wine vinegar, s and p.  Drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of sumac to finish.

 

AnnaN, the hummus and tahini sauce were from Aleppo but the others were from Persiana which is a wonderful book.  I've made several recipes from it and they have all turned out flavourful without a ton of ingredients.  

I made the lunch for our little wood cutting crew who are taking out some old apricot trees for the farmer who is replanting in cherries.  The wood is really dense and will make great firewood in a couple of years, once it dries out.  They work from 9:30 until 1 pm and then I make everyone lunch.  There are only 11 trees left so one more session.  Next Monday.  I think I'll make some Spanish food for them.  The lunches I've made so far were:  mac and cheese (it was a last minute "can you make the boyz lunch?"), that Indonesian meal for one of the crew members who is Dutch and hasn't had decent Indo food since immigrating to Canada and then yesterday was a meze table.

 

This sounds like a win-win.  What fun to dabble in different cuisines and have an aprreciative audience. 

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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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The core volunteers met last night and the interpreter produced a list of things the family wants after his visit with them.  Surprise, surprise:  a blender and a meat grinder were high on the list!  So today I am driving them into town for their English lessons and I will attempt to score them a hand crank meat grinder and I think they would probably like a small and large grind plate.  If I remember correctly the hardware store has a nice one with spare parts.  I did some research on line for the best lower priced blender.  Found the Cooks Illustrated review of blenders and ended up ordering them a Breville Hemisphere Control Blender (https://www.amazon.ca/Breville-BREBBL605XL-Hemisphere-Control-Blender/dp/B005I72LMU/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1461163240&sr=8-10&keywords=blenders) for about $70 less than what they want in the stores.  Obviously they will be wanting to make hummus and one needs a good blender to do that.  Only downside is it won't be here until May 2nd.  But that's the way it goes. 

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Wow, that blender is expensive. I have made hummus in all manner of blenders over the years, but, in my experience, there was very little difference in the final outcome whether I used a cheapie Cuisinart (or other low priced 'blender') or a Vitamix or Thermomix, though I guess I may have at times had to blend a bit longer in the inexpensive blenders. I hope they get good use out of the one you ordered though. Too bad I am not in your neighbourhood because I would have been happy to 'donate' at least one (very gently used) Cuisinart blender to get them started.

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Well, I thought about getting a cheapie but they are a young couple, 20 and 22 years old, with two young boys.  They are going to be making a lot of food and she will be a busy mom learning English and looking after the family.  I wanted to get something that was easy to use and that would last.  I had a Kitchen Aid blender and the jar cracked with just normal usage.  The bloody jar replacement was going to cost a fortune so I pitched it and got a Vitamix.  I usually now go for quality first.

Oh, well, it's only money.  I scored the meat grinder yesterday and she seemed very happy about that.

I appreciate your comments though, Deryn.

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I just want to say "well done!"

 

We live in difficult times and what you have done gives me hope. And infinitely more importantly will probably give these refugees hope after all hope was taken away through no fault of their own.

 

Your story just reinforces for me the importance of food and sharing and reaching out to others which shows the best of humanity.

 

(I'm not going to agree with you about the blender, though. The middle east has been making hummus for thousands of years. The blender was invented very recently.)


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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A meat grinder!  I would never have thought of that.  We are collecting for "our" Syrian family -- also a young couple with 3 little kids -- and we have a fairly comprehensive basic kitchen, including a blender, but a meat grinder would never have made the list.  I will ask around.  

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The halal meat that is available to them here consists of chicken (fresh and all the time), beef sporadically but whole cuts, and frozen lamb chunks/leg/shoulder.   So I think they want the grinder for those red meats.  It was $45 Cdn, a #10 whatever that means but the larger of the two that were in the store and it came fitted with a medium grinding plate.  I know I've seen other plate sizes there so will check back to see if they will be getting others in.

Hope is what these people need.  They have a lot of stress.  They don't get any more than any Canadian on welfare which isn't much for a family of four.

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Yesterday we had a very informal met and greet in the park down by the lake.  About 25 core volunteers and the family were there.  We had a table set up and everyone brought something to nibble on.  Lots of baking, ground almond filled dates, fresh fruit and veggies (we are a healthy bunch!) .  I made the Aromas of Aleppo hummus and about 30 fresh pita breads.  The family were very excited and happy, smiling but not really understanding a word we were saying.  They really liked the hummus.  I gave them all the pitas and about 3 cups of hummus to take back to their house.  They'll have garlic breath all week.

There have been a few people leave the organizing group and I kinda get the impression that was the welcome event but who knows.  Ramadan starts June 6th so we would have to do something before that.  We'll see.  We are busy trying to meet their needs.  Apparently a brother and his family are in Vancouver so the committee is trying to get them here in the other house we have.  That would be great for our existing family.

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Update.  No talk of a welcome tea but now moving on to the fund raising activities.

 

Every Victoria Day the town of Naramata has a May dance around the pole and crown the Mayday queen.  Usually there are lots of people around so we are going to try and do some kind of fund raising at that event.  I'm thinking I'll make more pitas and hummus and that may draw people to our donation table.  It's a little town so I'm not sure how much money we will get but the family is in need of so many things, every little bit will help.

 

We will also plan perhaps a Syrian dinner.  One of the volunteers has been to culinary school.  We will be discussing the menu but probably something simple like chicken kebabs in pitas with some salads.  Not sure what the facilities are like where they plan to have it but the volunteers will make everything.

 

I have taken on the task of helping the family with their nutrition, shopping and cooking in North America seeing I am a retired Dietitian.

So far I have shown this very young mother how to make her own pita breads.  They are on a very tight budget and pita breads are quite expensive at $3 or so for just 6.  They probably go through two packages a day.  So if she makes her own, or most of her own, then that's a savings of $42 a week!!!  The recipe is from Flatbreads and Flavours.  She can make the dough and keep it in the fridge for up to five days and make them in a cast iron frying pan that I picked up for her.  She was really keen to do this and yesterday she proudly showed me that big pile of pitas she had made the day before.

 

The next item to teach her was pizza.  I noticed she bought frozen cheese pizzas.  Because they only eat Halal meat the pizzas were lacking in protein for their main meal of the day.  So I thought I could buy some Halal chicken, bake it with some Middle Eastern spices and shred it for their pizzas.  (At the moment getting Halal beef has been hard but this week the butcher at our Super Store said he will bring it in once a week on Fridays when we take them shopping.  So they could use ground beef on their pizzas too.)  Last night we made three large pizzas on some sheet pans and boy did they like that.  We are using iGoogle translate which works a treat.  You just speak into the iPad/phone and it speaks back in Arabic!  Sweet.

 

Now here is the fun part.  At the meet and greet in the above post I took the Hummus and gave them what was left.  Last night they asked me if I could show them how to make it! :x:x    I replied 'no, it's a secret' to which we all roared with laughter.  So, that will be my next kitchen project.  Need to find out if they have something in the kitchen to juice the lemons; they have the blender; may need to get a jar of tahini and cumin.  She makes her own labneh.  There was a big bowl of it in the fridge.  She gave me a spoon to try and they have me some to take home.  Delicious.

 

Another thing I learned last night was the love of Oreo Cookies that exists in the Middle East.  The mother would always buy two packages of Oreo cookies each time she shopped.  Apparently it is a real 'comfort' food.  The other thing are potato chips that they like and buy at each shopping trip.  I think she uses them to help calm her little boys who can be quite exuberant at times.  Learning slowly.  Trying to steer them in the direction of healthy foods.  Low on the veggie intake, just like our society.  Yesterday they had celery for the first time!  Soon there will be bountiful fruit here.  The cherry crop will be a bumper one this year, that is if the weather holds.  People will have extra veggies from their gardens which will help.

 

Cheers

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Thanks for the update, Okanagancook. Glad to hear you have found a good way to communicate via modern technology so an interpreter isn't always needed.

 

Seems that Syria and Lebanon (or where was it they spent the majority of their time in the past few years?) must have been far more 'westernized' than I thought - if Oreo cookies and potato chips were so common as to become 'comfort foods' and veggie intake is low (I thought those were really the backbone of Middle Eastern diet judging by all the cookbooks purporting to pass on authentic recipes, etc. from that region) and that making pita bread making and hummus preparation were not common either in the home (I gather since she doesn't seem familiar with making them?) - yet she knows how to make labneh. I am not surprised they haven't eaten celery before though since I don't think that is a particularly common vegetable in those parts, is it?

 

As for juicing lemons - I use my hands or a spoon - I would imagine they have those in their kitchen? A simple plastic or wood reamer works fine too. Life may be a bit easier with a zester/rasp if zest is also needed.

 

In the Maritimes, specifically Nova Scotia, (according to an article I read recently on the cbc news site - I can't find it right now or I would link it) I gather a lot of the refugees, even in the larger communities, are really upset that they are having trouble getting halal meats (and when they get them they are very expensive). Apparently there are very few certified sources for halal meats right now. And yet, in some places (like Ottawa) for example, the last time I went grocery shopping there, I had trouble avoiding it and they seemed priced similarly to conventional meats.

 

As that pertains to your proposed Syrian dinner ... will the family be attending? And if so, will foods that are meat based (i.e. the kabobs, etc.) be all halal?


Edited by Deryn (log)
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@Okanagancook Thanks from me, too. Not only for the update but for all that you are doing. Your efforts to welcome strangers into your community are to be greatly admired and what better way to do it than through food. Good luck with all your endeavours.

P.S. Oreos are inexplicably popular in China, too.


Edited by liuzhou typo (log)
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@Deryn As you correctly assumed, western food culture has swept over the middle east quite well. Vegetables, legmus, etc are indeed thee backbone of this cuisine, but sadly the bad economical state leaves people with less time, knowledge and resources which are required to cook healthy and traditional food. As in western countries, the people of lower income opt for cheap and available industrial fast food.

 

@Okanagancook The care you have for this family is very pleasant to see. In the subject of halal meat, I would assume that kosher meats will be subject to the same requirements and perhaps more available.

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~ Shai N.

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Shain - thanks .. sorry to hear that, though I know that for the first time in places like the poorer parts of India, people are getting fat from eating things like KFC. Commercial globalism has some distinct drawbacks. Many of the poorer people in countries at least used to eat quite healthily - by our standards.

 

Okanagancook would probably know better than I do in this particular case, but I am fairly sure that if this family is muslim, they won't consider eating kosher meats. On the other hand, today I found out that most, if not all, Campbell's soup products (and probably more that Campbell's makes in Canada) are 'halal' (though many of them don't contain meat, there are some which do). I don't know how important a non-meat halal product is to muslims - or whether they strictly want all foods to be blessed - but apparently there are more products out there that I didn't realize were 'certified' (frozen dinners by certain companies for instance) so the times they are a-changing.

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As a vegetarian, I beg to differ about the cheese pizza. I agree that frozen pizza is horrid stuff, but, even a really cheapo brand with small slices has a pretty good protein amount. HERE is nutrition info on one cheap brand, it has 16g of protein per serving. Sure, if this were the only protein source for the family for all 3 meals in the day, the men would come up a little bit short (one glass of milk could fix that) but the women would have plenty. Besides, none of them will be just eating that all the time. Well, hopefully never, really.

 

Since getting halal meats may be an issue, I'd like to suggest demonstrating some vegetarian meals for them. They will also save some money. On the topic of pizza, a small amount of soy flour acts as a dough conditioner and boosts protein and mineral content. You can replace up to about 3% of flour with the soy with almost no noticeable taste difference. Demonstrating various toppings, like onions, mushrooms, fresh tomato, peppers (mild and spicy), spinach, broccoli, etc. can also get people to eat more vegetables. Also, they don't need to make or buy sauce, many good pizzerias don't use a cooked sauce. It's just canned diced tomatoes, drained a little, with a few herbs mixed in -super easy any time of year. (and yes, when fresh is in season, they can use those)

 

Fritattas are a good way to use up small amounts of leftovers and/or small amounts of fresh vegetables and herbs.

 

Do they have freezers to store foods? I cook up a slow cooker filled with plain beans every couple of months then freeze the beans in portions about the size of cans. They taste better, are a lot cheaper, and take very little work.

 

I often make hummus with sunflower seeds, they are cheaper than the cans of tahini. I store raw seeds in the fridge, then roast them when I make the hummus. Gives a fresh flavor that I find canned tahini lacks. I am also wary of eating a lot of sesame, due to the high oxalate content.

 

I agree with @Deryn that most muslims will not eat kosher food unless there is some sort of dire situation. I have only done a little research on the topic, wrote one college paper on it, and am by no means an expert. (not going to debate precepts here) But, I have in the past run the suggestion of kosher meat past some fairly liberal muslims I knew who couldn't get halal meat and they were pretty horrified at the suggestion. Big mistake on my part. Everyone is different, but, if it were me, I would let the people themselves choose what meat to purchase.

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@Lisa Shock I never tasted hummus made with sunflower seeds, but I do know peanut butter (unsweetened) makes a delicious, if completely unorthodox, hummus :) 

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~ Shai N.

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Deryn: He asked what the celery was so he was not familiar with it.   Good idea about juicing lemons with a spoon, which they have.  I am not sure if the family will be attending, probably not eating 'cause seating is quite limited.  May be they will come after the meal for the fund raising part.  We will not be getting Halal meat because it is so much more expensive and we are trying to keep the food costs down.  I spend five hours yesterday getting the menu set up and costing it as best I could.  The dinner isn't until June 1 or 2nd.  It is difficult to get Halal meat.  Just a few places in the Okanagan sell it.  No lamb which is what they crave.  There are more Halal meats available in Vancouver but that doesn't help us here.  It doesn't appear as though the family have to have all halal products.  They do buy canned fava beans, pasta, Oreo cookies, potato chips, regular milk and eggs.

 

Liuzho and Shain thanks for those kind words.  We have so much to be thankful for here in Canada.  The family is very appreciative.

 

Lisa Shock, that is quite a bit of protein for one slice of pizza but it comes with 17 grams of fat also.  Meat brings other nutrients other than protein and they don't drink milk as a beverage.  The male's protein needs are up around 90 grams a day.  Good idea about the soy flour addition.  Right now I'm just trying to keep it simple.  My other idea for the home made pizza was the point you raised about being able to get more veggies on the pizza.  We made three kinds and the toppings included grilled eggplant (which they loved), grilled zucchini slices, canned artichoke hearts, green pepper, mushrooms, grilled onions, cheese and the chicken.  I suggested to her to use the no name canned tomato sauce for her pizzas.  I took over some rehydrated garden tomatoes from my last year's stash which made a nice rich sauce.  So I think they will be making more of those as the kids gobbled them up.  And you are correct in that I need to check to see if she knows about lentils, rice and pitas providing complimentary protein sources.  There is so much going on with the family at the moment.  Government funds are delayed due to their move here and changing banking institutions, etc., etc.  They have very little cash at the moment, hence the need for fund raising.   I plan on approaching the mother about what else they eat now that we are getting proficient at using the itranslate app.  Now they have a nice frying pan, fritattas are on the menu for sure.  They don't have a freezer other than the small compartment in their fridge.  I have already pointed out to her how much cheaper it is to buy dry beans and make them herself and we'll demonstrate that when I show her my hummus recipe.  The sunflower seed idea is interesting.  I shall have to try that here first.  My recipe doesn't use a lot of tahini, just two tablespoons.  They are choosing what meat they purchase and kosher meats are just as rare in these parts as Halal meats.  Thanks for your time and effort to post your excellent suggestions.  cheers.

 

The good news from yesterday is that they have a garden plot to use for the summer!  We shall get things planted very soon.  They have been gifted with tomato plants and I think some cucumber plants.  I have four zucchini plants growing in my compost bin so I will get a few of those to them too.  I also plan on getting them into our food bank program.  Not sure how to do that but I'm sure they will qualify and that will give them two or three days worth of food every two weeks.

 

Slowly we go forward.  They have only been here four weeks.

 

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I just found this website (by searching: where to order halal lamb online in Canada). online store that sells halal meats by 'mail order' Not cheap to be sure, but, maybe if the situation vis a vis buying halal meats locally doesn't improve for a while, your group of supporters might chip in together to order a bit of lamb as a 'surprise gift' for the family once in a while.

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THANK YOU DERYN.  Unfortunately it looks like they only ship in Ontario and we are in B.C.

The price for a leg of lamb is cheaper than the $17/lb I was quoted.  We'll get something worked out probably from the Vancouver end.  There are loads of Halal butchers there but someone has to drive out there.  And the family needs a freezer.  

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Oh dear. I am sorry - I should have read the whole site before I put that link up, Okanagancook. I got that site from a very short search .. wondering if I can find a YVR or at least BC based one if I keep looking. Will let you know if I do find one.

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Don't worry about it.  Thanks for your help.  cheers

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Update:  Fund raising dinner is set for June 1st which will be held in a little hall here in Naramata.  Seats 44.  We have the menu set:  hummus and that spicy pepper dip from the dinner I did above accompanied by focaccia bread donated by a local bakery.  Then some roasted chicken with middle eastern spices; tamarind meatballs; rice and lentils with the crispy onions; roasted dill carrots with goat cheese; and fattosh.  A glass of wine made by locals who have a club called "Artisan Wine Makers of Naramata"....a bunch of 15 guys who grow their own grapes and make their own wine for their private consumption.  Each one has donated two bottles so it should be a good 'wallet opener' for our raffle :D  Fruit for dessert.  Our little band of volunteers will make everything in my kitchen and take it down to the hall's kitchen for a buffet.  We are now trying to get some donations from Superstore towards the cost of the groceries.  I costed everything out (boy that was a chore...took me 5 hours) and we will make $25 per plate and then the raffle and any donations people can give.  Should be fun and I shall try to take pics along the way.  The Syrian mother is going to help us prep!  The main focus of the fund raiser is to get enough funds to pay for the father's brother and his family to move here to Naramata from Regina in Saskatchewan.  $1400 apparently.  We have the house available.

 

They are such lovely people.  I was down at their house today and she said she and her husband spent 6 hours making these little dumplings made of flour and stuffed with ground beef, onions, garlic and parsley topped with yogurt. She even heated a few up in the microwave for me to try!  I showed them how to make their own pitas to save money and apparently the father was in the kitchen this morning rolling out pitas...sweet.  He is such good father.

 

I was at the store today and they had small nice okra.  Previously when she had been at the store the okra was too big and woodie.  So I got her a bag of them and she had a big old smile on her face when I pulled them out of the bag.  I asked her how she cooks them.  Answer:  onion, tomato sauce and meat.

 

On the lamb front, they asked me again today about getting a whole lamb.  The father's brother who is living in Regina got one and he killed it himself, with the throat slit.  So they are asking can we do this too.  I called my lamb farmer up the valley and asked if it was possible for them to come up and get their own lamb and kill it at the farm.  To my amazement she said of course we can accommodate that BUT, and very firm on this, they have to be experienced at doing it.  She has had a couple of bad experiences and doesn't want a repeat.  Apparently, the father does have experience so I will have to explore that further but it looks promising.  They would share the lamb with the three other Syrian families in the area.  We would help them cut it up here seeing we have all the equipment.  I've done loads of lamb butchers before and they probably have too.

 

Such fun.  I'll let you know how it goes.  I'm just nervous cooking chicken...don't want to dry it out.  

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