Delicious food, even tastier because eating it supports a good cause! Last night 46 lucky Londoners enjoyed fine Syrian dining, cooked by Ruth Quinlan (Head Chef) and a team of hard working volunteers. Treated to the setting of the atmospheric and trendy E5 Bakehouse in Hackney, east London, those fortunate enough to get a ticket were treated to a feast of delicacies as part of a Syrian Supper Club.
Tasty hummus, purple pickles and the best tasting fresh falafel imaginable, set the evening off to a great start. The strained yoghurt (labneh) with zaatar (sesame, oregano and sumac spices) was drizzled with a stunningly sharp, tangy, fresh, young olive oil. The main course was free-range poached chicken (dajaaj wa freekah) or stuffed aubergine for vegetarians, accompanied by a smoked cracked wheat and yoghurt with cucumber and mint (laban ma’ khayar). For those able to find some extra space (or that second stomach!) there was dessert of a roll of raspberries, cream and meringue (halawiyyat) and fresh baked handmade biscuit-like parcels filled with figs and walnuts (ma’amoul). Everything was delicious, and tasted even sweeter knowing that it was supporting a good cause.
Proceeds from the Syrian Supper Club support projects run by the Hands Up Foundation. The projects they support include salaries for medical staff, and teachers at a new kindergarten, as they are trying to support a job market and enable essential services and opportunities to remain in local communities in Syria. They also support a program for prosthetic limbs to help people back to work and to live in dignity. The Foundation was set up by four British friends, united by a sense of sadness at the unfolding crisis in Syria.
The first Syrian Supper Club was hosted in 2012. Since then, the group have held over 150 suppers and fed more than 3,000 people. Their formula is simple yet powerful; by sharing food and using a little entertainment people are united behind a common cause. Through food and sharing ideas and information, they are encouraging an empathy that could lead to action, to inspire others to support Syria. They encourage guests to go home and consider hosting a Syrian Supper of their own…. the model has been successful, with more than 75 Syrian Suppers taking place around the world, linking the tastes of Syria with Singapore and Istanbul to Washington D.C. and Wales and beyond.
From food for though, to thought for action. These suppers – and others like it – can be a force for positive social change uniting different dinner tables resting on cement, sand, and earthen floors, in nourishment and consciousness raising across many contexts around the world.