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Soup for Syrians: The Cookbook That's Making a Difference

Kanzi Kamel By Kanzi Kamel Published on November 4, 2015

As of September 6, 2015, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated the number of Syrian refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, North Africa and now Europe at a staggering 4,088,099. Today, there is every indication that that number will continue to grow until the Syrian conflict reaches an end. In what international news is now calling “the worst refugee crisis since World War II,” bordering Arab nations’ quotas have been filled, and European countries are shepherding in refugees by the thousands each day. Many have been separated from their families and are traveling with frugal, if any, supplies.

Although some countries are actively warning away refugees, others, like Germany and Greece, have welcomed them with food, clothes and transportation. Locals in Germany even set up RefugeeBnB, a site that allows people to sign up and host refugees for a year. The popular response to the crisis has been enormous, but one Lebanese food writer went to the books to show her support.

Barbara Abdeni Massaad lives next to a camp of nearly half a million refugees in the Bekaa Valley, in Lebanon. As the crisis worsened, Massaad began to cook and distribute food to the refugees, but quickly realized that her attempts were feeble at best.

“After several trips,” she said, “I got to know many of the families … the more I visited – the more stories I heard and the more desperation I witnessed – the more heartbroken I became. I was determined to help no matter what. Are we not all human beings seeking the same things for our families – love, food and shelter?”

After watching Massaad distribute soup on her multiple visits to the camp, her friend Michel Moushabeck, publisher and editor at US press Interlink, dreamed up Soup for Syria, a compilation of soup recipes from celebrity chefs around the world, to raise money for the Syrian relief effort.

“There are four million refugees and the international community has largely abandoned them,” said Moushabeck to The Guardian. “I was convinced that if we could get celebrity chefs to donate soup recipes then we have a good chance at selling a huge number of copies throughout the world, in many languages, and turn this from a one-person initiative to an international movement to bring food relief and ease the suffering of Syrian refugees.”

The profits from the sales of the cookbook will be donated to the UNHCR, who will then distribute them among various non-profit organizations dedicated to refugee relief. Moushabeck also launched Soup for Syria, a website where visitors can purchase the book, keep up to date on events in Syria, and get suggestions and support for hosting their own fundraising events.

All proceeds of book sales will be donated to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to help fund life-saving relief efforts for Syrian refugees.

Buy Soup for Syria here.

Egyptian-American food enthusiast born in Chicago, raised in Beirut, and living in Dublin. Regional Ambassador at Bookwitty. Intimately familiar with the term "identity crisis".