Romero refugee centre launches Story of Food cookbook

Natascha Mirosch


As diners, we we want our food to come with a story. A cookbook being launched next week by Brisbane's Romero Centre, certainly has plenty of those served up with its recipes; some quite poignant.

The centre, which offers support to refugees and asylum seekers, has put together The Story of Food with recipes collected from Australians and people who have come here to live and have been associated with the centre.

Often, memories are all they have brought with them, along with a longing for food from home. Najeeba Najeeba from Afghanistan talks of how, at 14 she learnt to make bolani, a potato and chive flatbread.

"It was 2000-2001 and I was studying nursing and living in a hospital dormitory. I was studying with 20 other women and 20 men, including my brother. During that time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan and we had to study undercover because women were not allowed to be educated. When the Taliban came to check the hospital an alarm would go off and all the female students would have to hide in the rooms and close the curtains. If the Taliban discovered us they would shoot the manager and we would be sent home... On weekends, all the women would prepare something special in the kitchen. This is what we did for fun as women were not allowed to have any leisure activities outside. It was here that I first cooked bolani. Before that my family cooked it for me, so I learnt how to make it at the hospital."

Other recipes in the book include serig to (Burmese fresh salad) and mahshi (stuffed eggplants and zucchini from Saudi Arabia), as well as other family favourites from Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Colombia and Venezuela.

Faiza el-Higzi, the multicultural advocacy and community development manager of Mercy Family Services, says that she and the book's other contributors have revisited their stories and memories of family gatherings to gather the recipes.

"By sharing these recipes with you we hope that you use them to create delicious food and share it with those close to you, and in so doing honour our relatives and friends who cooked for us with love," she says

The Story of Food will be launched on Monday November 11 at Avid Reader in Brisbane's West End, and will sell for $15.