January 20, 2021

The UNHCR Annual Cookbook celebrates the ‘regression’ of Canadian refugee food

Toronto – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Marks the 70th anniversary of its operation in Canada, with a free digital cookbook containing recipes and personal stories of “regression, heartbeat and hope” from refugees across Canada.

The cookbook, entitled “Tastes from Home: Recipes from the Refugee Community,” features more than 30 recipes and personal stories from 14 former refugees, including Ahmed Hussein, the Minister for Families, Children and Community Development, and Adrian Clarkson, the former Governor General of Canada.

Each Copy of the downloaded cookbook, An anonymous donor who makes a donation to UNHCR in support of refugees and their families.

UNHCR Canada Spokesman Lauren LaRos CTVNews.ca has the opportunity to share refugee traditions and cultures, but also to “reflect on the journey that brought them to Canada”.

“Food is such a connecting book in our lives, not only from the standpoint of being nourishing and surviving, it connects families, friends and communities,” Laros said in a phone interview Thursday.

He added that sharing food with others would be “hopeful and optimistic”.

“Food is a very powerful communicator. You can share love with food and you can teach food to people, in a small way,” Laros explained. “The cookbook gives you an opportunity to expand your own kind of cooking journey based on the use of different spices and ingredients, or to combine different foods that you have not had before.”

Sharing recipes and stories

Minister Ahmed Hussein hopes that the recipes and stories shared in this cookbook will help humanize refugees and show their reluctance to strive for a better life.

“Refugees are human beings just like us,” Hussein said in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca on Thursday. “They are real people who are displaced.

“Refugees are not monolithic, they come from all corners of the world, they have different experiences, they have different genders and ages and abilities and perspectives – and they are right because they reflect humanity,” he said.

There are three recipes for Hussein in the UNHCR Canada cookbook: spicy, grilled sauerkraut and garlic-butter scallops with tomato sauce and basil.

Hussein, who grew up in eastern Somalia on the Indian Ocean coast, said most of the food he ate was seafood-centric, or that Italian influence was due to the fact that parts of Somalia were controlled by Italy at the time.

Hussein and his family later emigrated to Canada in 1993.

Hussein said he does not cook often, but when he does, the house driver reminds his mother to raise a family, finding time to prepare nutritious food on a daily basis.

“We weren’t rich or anything, we were a working class family, but he did a lot with a few things. Living next to the sea certainly had as big an impact on us as the Italian influence,” he explained.

The cookbook’s cookbook highlights the culture of refugees, and personal stories also provide asylum seekers with an opportunity to reflect on their past.

“This is an opportunity for all of us who were once refugees to learn a little more about the stories of other refugees and the stories of their survival and regression in the face of the experiences and difficulties they had in their homeland,” Hussein said.

According to former Governor-General of Canada Adrian Clarkson, he says he would not have learned how to cook if the Japanese occupation in 1941 had not moved from Hong Kong to Canada.

“If I had stayed in Hong Kong I would never have cooked because it’s a class society, so I would have run a house, but I would have had a cook, so I would have been telling a cook what to do,” Clarkson explained in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca on Thursday.

Clarkson, who was governor-general from 1999-2005, contributed a poached Chinese chicken recipe to UNHCR Canada’s cookbook, which he says “shows Chinese cuisine in the best possible way.”

Clarkson said she learned to cook traditional, home-cooked Chinese food three or four times a week for the family from her mother when she was nine.

I just thought that knowing how to cook would be a valuable skill if Clarkson and his family ever had to flee again.

“I love cooking, I always have, and I think it’s because I’m a refugee. If there was another war, we always thought we would have to go somewhere and rebuild our lives, just like when we came to Canada,” Clarkson said.

“Because you were once a refugee, you will never doubt that you will lose everything again,” he added.

Clarkson said the cookbook’s recipes and personal stories show that when refugees come to Canada, they make the country their home, but also bring certain parts of their culture to share with others.

He added that there are some things that unite people from different backgrounds like home cooked food.

“Doing things for yourself and having the satisfaction of having cooked something wonderful for your family can do nothing to change that,” Clarkson said.

REFUGEE Crisis

According to UNHCR, Canada has been a global leader in refugee resettlement, welcoming more than one million refugees since the 1980s. In 2018, Canada resettled more refugees than any other country.

Although Laros admits that Canada has “achieved a little” in helping displaced people, he says “there is still a long way to go.”

According to the UNHCR, more than 80 million people worldwide have been displaced, including more than 26 million refugees.

“We are very fortunate to have 14 people who are part of the Canadian family share in this cookbook, but many more need support and help,” Laros said.

Following World War II, the UN in 1950 Laros explained that the Canadian movement of the refugee organization was created to help address the “large number” of people deported from Europe following the end of the war.

“The UNHCR Canada mandate will only last for three years, and we are here after 70 years because the demand is huge,” Laros said.

By asking directly from refugees who have found a home in Canada, Laros said he hopes the cookbook will raise more awareness about the work it does in helping UNHCR Canada and asylum seekers.

“We hope that with the insight of education into what causes people to be displaced, and how many more people are needed, they will move away a little more,” Laros said.

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