‘Soup for Syria’: A Book to Fund Food Relief

Next month, Interlink Publishing will bring out a cookbook set to launch in “churches, mosques, synagogues”…”homes, neighborhoods”… and “farmer’s markets”: 

soupThis cookbook is Soup for Syria, and it martials the cooking expertise of dozens of celebrity chefs to raise funds for food aid.

Interlink publisher Michel Moushabeck said in an email that the publishing house will donate all proceeds from sales of the US edition of Soup for Syria to UNHCR. The UN organization, he said, has given assurances “in writing that 100% of our donation will go to fund food relief.”

Certainly, one of the most important steps Westerners can take in addressing the food crisis among Syrian refugees is to open not just hearts, nor even pocketbooks, but borders. Millions of Syrians haven’t just been forced from their homes by criminal attacks and left to wander the wide world. They’ve been further locked into a few neighboring countries that are now struggling with the influx in population.

But in an absence of humane policy, or an international agreement on justice, many small and large organizations are raising funds to help Syrian refugees, including a number of authors and publishers. In 2012, novelist Samar Yazbek started the Women Now organization, which works in Syria and surrounding countries. Children’s book authors and publishers like Fatima Sharafeddine, Gulnar Hajo, Samer al-Kadri, and Nadine Kaadan have started libraries, drawn murals, donated books, and done readings in the camps.

And now, publisher Michel Moushabeck and chef-activist Barbara Abdeni Massaad have combined forces to bring out a cookbook to raise funds for food aid.

In an email, Moushabeck said that the idea “came about last autumn during a dinner conversation in London with…Barbara Abdeni Massaad,” the author of Man’oushe: Inside the Lebanese Street Corner Baker. “We were talking about the plight of the Syrian refugees when she mentioned that her house is situated in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon near one of the Syrian refugee camps. She went on to say that often on weekends she would fill up the trunk of her car with vegetables and soup ingredients and head to the camp to make soup for the refugees.”

Moushabeck was moved by the story, he said, and by her idea of a self-published cookbook to fund more food for refugees. But it wouldn’t do enough, he said. “There are 4 million refugees and the international community has largely abandoned them.”

Moushabeck convinced Abdeni Massaad that they could take the project further with a roster of celebrity chefs and plans to co-editions in other countries, in other languages, with other celebrity chefs.

The cookbook also features photos taken by Abdeni Massaad.

Moushabeck wrote that the book will be launched with a benefit concert on September 27, and that “tens of people and numerous organizations – churches, mosques, synagogues, etc… – are planning events. Some will do soup parties in their homes, neighborhoods, and communities; others will take tables and sell the books at farmers markets; and others will do benefit concerts. I am heartened by the outpouring of support.”

He and Abdeni Massaad also hope to keep expanding the project. Moushabeck is aiming to sign more international co-publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair this coming October. Also, a website soupforsyria.com should be live by the end of the month. According to Publishers Weekly, the site will have “soup recipes as well as updates on what is happening in Syria. It will also give viewers option[s] for how they can promote the cause of the refugees in their own community.”

However, it’s important to note that other co-publishers aren’t held to the same arrangement. Pavilion, the cookbook’s UK partner, will donate just a portion of their proceeds — a “a minimum of £2,” according to The Guardian. And these funds will go not to UNHCR, but to UNICEF UK.

“Partner publishers can donate whatever percentage they choose to their organization of choice,” Moushabeck wrote. “The only condition is that all the donated funds go to food relief for Syrian refugees.”

You can pre-order the book:

At Interlink’s website.