“Food blogging can be a really powerful vehicle for storytelling. And, storytelling is how we make meaning. We can cultivate empathy through story. And, we really need that right now.”
Those are the sage words of Kimberley Hasselbrink from A Year In Food. Kimberley is an incredible cook, author, and photographer whom I have always admired greatly. Now she has created a brilliant advocacy group made up of food bloggers + writers called Food Community Creative Activism in response to the politics currently happening in America, and has now risen to the ranks of sainthood in my book.
When Kimberley asked round to see if food bloggers globally would be interested in sharing an immigrant story or a recipe from one of the seven countries listed on the immigration ban recently ordered by President Trump, heaps of us signed up without hesitation.
I realize this is not the sort of topic that I typically share, but I feel it is important as prejudice is something that is very familiar to me, and while I know the safety and security of the USA is crucial, I also think that the decision to put such an order through was done so without thinking about how complex the system is, and how many people and institutions could be affected by such a ban. It now looks like the ban has been lifted by many trial judges in the USA, but it will go to the Supreme Court today for a final decision. Here’s hoping the ruling will be fair and just.
Before I landed in the multicultural cities of Minneapolis, Los Angeles or New York, my life was very different. I was raised in a quiet Midwestern town on the sandy shorelines of Lake Michigan and educated in public schools from elementary through high school in an environment where there was not a whole lot of diversity at the time; the area was largely originally settled by people of eastern/western Europe and Scandinavian descent.
Adopted as an infant, my ancestry is half North African, my birth father being a 1st generation immigrant. My complexion favors this side, which made me one of those people who looked “different” in our locale. I was generally accepted, but also experienced a constant undercurrent of prejudice. These experiences strongly colored my wellbeing growing up, and ever since that period in my life I just can’t bear narrow-mindedness and inequality. And, if there is one thing I know for sure, it is that my heart will always be always filled with empathy for people who are victims of bigotry and bias based on their skin tone or religious beliefs.
For my #immigrantfoodstories post, I am choosing to share Sharba Libiya. Sharba Libiya or Libyan Soup is Libya’s national dish; equally popular in all regions and in a spoonful sums up all of the absolutely stunning flavours that dominate Libyan cuisine. This soup is made almost everyday during the fasting month of Ramadan. There are versions that employ chicken or fish, but this is the recipe for classic Sharba Libiya with lamb and dried mint. You can omit the whole spices and still produce a delicious soup, but this is a recipe where more truly is more. I slow-roasted a leg of lamb with a rub of the basic ingredients to use in the stew instead of cooking it in the soup as we have a vegetarian leaning eater in the house, and the soup is sensational without the meat as well.
Sharba Libiya شربة ليبية
2 tbsp olive oil
150 grams boneless trimmed lamb
1 onion finely chopped
½ bunch parsley
¼ bunch coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp allspice
Salt and black pepper
A few whole cardamoms, 2 bay leaves and a stick of cinnamon
½ cup orzo
3 tbsps tomato paste
2 tbsps dried mint
6 cups water
Peel and chop tomato finely, chop parsley and coriander finely.
Sauté onion, meat, spices and whole spices (cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon) in oil for a 3-5 minutes. (the fragrance is beguiling!)
Add tomato and half the amount of fresh herbs and season with salt and pepper, cook covered till tomato is pulpy.
Add tomato paste and a cup of water and cook till meat is tender.
Add remaining water, fresh herbs and orzo and cook till orzo is done. Adjust seasoning.
Add dried mint and serve with slices of lemon.
Scullery Notes: I added an extra 450g tin of chopped tomatoes. It added a bit more zest and made it more stew-like, but it is not necessary and not traditional! Some recipes call for chickpeas, which I have tried and love as well. I topped the soup with fresh mint and lemon zest this time and it was fantastic, but again not traditional! Also, I will often add chopped kale to the soup after the first day of serving (gotta get those greens in!) Start with the basic recipe and have fun from there.