Integration of minority groups into host communities is a complex and gradual process with legal, economic, social and cultural dimensions. Refugees, for example, may find integration especially difficult due to language barriers, limited recognition of qualifications, lack of networks, physical and mental health issues and discrimination.
Having been forced to flee from their own countries, refugees are often disengaged from social groups and isolated from their local communities.
Where communities have social contact with refugees, opinions are based on those interactions rather than on narratives drawn from the media and their peer group, which helps to break down barriers.
Cookery classes also provide refugees with the opportunity to share their stories and journey with their new communities and educate people about the history and culture of their food.
MM is partnered with the Refugee Council on a pilot project that uses food and cooking as a way of reducing isolation amongst refugee women. The Cooking Collective training provides refugee women with the chance to meet new people, learn new skills and explore cooking as a possible route to employment, through ethnically inspired recipes that tell the story of their creator.
MM is also partenred with Migrateful, an organisation that helps the UK’s migrant community on their journey to employment and independence. Together with Migrateful, MM runs a cookery class programme that seeks to address the lack of support provided to asylum seekers, refugees and migrants on their journey to integration.
“My name is Majeda Khoury and I come from Syria. I arrived in the UK in July 2017 and took part in the association for the defence of the human rights, Women in Conflict.
“When I was in my country, I was responsible for a coaching programme that focused on reducing violence against children and women. It was called “How to talk so the kids listen”. It consisted of educating women and their children around communication and respecting other people.
“Cooking has always been my passion and I always prepared food for my friends and family to express my love.
“Food is also for me a way to integrate into the British society and to bring the tradition of the Syrian food here.
“Syrian recipes are colourful and healthy and what makes them special/unique is the long preparation. every dish can be cooked in different ways and they can be suitable for all tastes. In Syria, women do it with love and patience for their families.
“My favourite dish is Harrak Isbaoo – it is a vegetarian Damascus dish made with lentil, pasta dough, garlic, pomegranate molasses and tamarind, garnished with pomegranate beans, frayed bread, fried onion and fresh coriander.
“All these ingredients create an extraordinary combination of sweet and sour avours, furthermore, the recipe contains all the nutrients one needs, plus it is very tasty.
“The dishes that I teach at Mercato Metropolitano are Makloube and Harrak Isbaoo. Makloube comes from Palestinian tradition but the original version is with many vegetables and rice. The Syrian variant is slightly different – it has rice with aubergine, meat, and almonds.
“I would like to have my own business one day, a place where I can give cooking lessons on syrian food. I want to show how the Syrians eat and how our recipes are delicious and healthy because it is part of our culture and I am proud of it.”
MM is inviting people, companies and policymakers across London, the UK and the world to join the movement to change food culture in the country. This is an open invitation for people who believe in:
Healthy, sustainable, living food made with rural, artisanal practices
Supply chains that prioritise quality over price and make good, healthy food available
The importance of community in cities across the world, starting with London