NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A woman who went from escaping violence in Syria to cooking in a Manhattan church now has a cookbook of her own.
As CBSN New York’s John Dias reports, people say her recipes are delicious but the story behind them is even more inspiring.
Mayada Anjari spent her whole life cooking, so she knows her way around any kitchen – especially the one at Rutgers Presbyterian Church on the Upper West Side.
She and her family left Syria two years ago to find a new life in New York.
“The school is very good, and I love it for my kids,” Anjari told Dias.
To show her gratitude for the community that sponsored their resettlement, she prepared a meal. Not long after that, regular dinners were scheduled for those wanting to help the family and enjoy her cooking.
“It all started in this room. We hosted dinners… and there were 75 people,” said Nancy Muirhead, chair of the church’s New Americans Committee.
After several successful dinners, the church’s New Americans Committee came up with the idea of turning Anjari’s delicious meals into a cookbook. It’s called, “The Bread and Salt Between Us: Recipes and Stories from a Syrian Refugee’s Kitchen.”
“Proceeds go toward supporting her family and also supporting the New Americans Committee,” Muirhead said.
Everyone who worked on the book was a volunteer, including the publisher, writer and translator. It took six months to get it done.
“This book is truly a product of joy, love and good will. Represents everything good about our country – love, cross between people and cultures,” said translator Dalia El-Newehy.
The cookbook offers 40 dishes, including many family recipes, like a traditional Syrian meal of chicken in the oven with potatoes, cucumber yogurt, which she calls a “chilled, creamy palate cleaners,” and a dessert of rice pudding with rose water, coconut and pistachios, which her kids love.
Anjari promises you’ll also learn a little about her story and how she got to America.
“Everything – my history, my food, my recipe… my kids and husband,” she said.
The refugee says she finally feels like she’s in a safe place, especially when cooking in the kitchen.