18 Aug 2015
“The world has failed Syria’s four million refugees,” says Michel Moushabeck, publisher and editor of Interlink Publishing in Northampton, Mass. To help, he is publishing Soup for Syria: Recipes to Celebrate Our Shared Humanity (Oct., $30 hardcover), collected and photographed by Barbara Abdeni Massad. All profits from the sale of the book will be donated to the UN refugee agency UNHCR to provide food for the refugees.
Interlink is planning a 10,000 copy first printing of the cookbook, which is illustrated with color photos, including pictures of refugees, throughout. It contains recipes for soups from more than 80 chefs, including Anthony Bourdain’s “Soupe au Pistou,” Alice Waters’s “Carrot Soup,” and Paula Wolfert’s “Lentil and Swiss Chard Soup.”
The cookbook grew out of a conversation that took place less than a year ago between Moushabeck and food writer and photographer Massad, who lives in Beirut, 45 minutes from one of the refugee camps. Massad told him how she had been filling the trunk of her car with food and driving to the camp to make soup. But she wanted to do more.
“She was helping 50 families, but she knew it was a drop in the bucket,” says Moushabeck, who was born in Beirut. Massad suggested that they work together on a soup cookbook, but Moushabeck worried that a cookbook just by Massad with contributions from unknown chefs wouldn’t raise enough money to make a difference in the lives of the refugees.
Moushabeck suggested approaching well-known chefs to contribute recipes. The first person to come on board was Yotam Ottolenghi, who was soon followed by Mark Bittman, Claudia Roden, and Greg Malouf. Many of the chefs are also getting involved in the book’s promotion and are planning events, like Ana Sortum who was named the Best Chef of the Northeast by the James Beard Foundation, and is planning an event at her Cambridge, Mass., restaurant, Oleana. Booksellers near Interlink’s offices in Western Mass., like the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley and Booklink Booksellers in Northampton, have already offered to do events at pub date.
To encourage more booksellers, chefs, organizations, and individuals to use the book as a fundraiser for refugees, Moushabeck created a website (SoupforSyria.com), which will be fully functional within the next few weeks. It contains information on soup recipes as well as updates on what is happening in Syria. It will also give viewers option for how they can promote the cause of the refugees in their own community. Interlink is also making an event box with a poster of the cookbook, recipe cards, and a booklet with information from the U.N., which can be found on the site.
Soup for Syria will be published simultaneously in the U.K. by Pavilion Book Group, and Moushabeck has received serious interest from a French and German publisher. “We’re suggesting that they replace three or four recipes from chefs in their countries,” says Moushabeck, who plans to seek out more co-edition partners at Frankfurt this fall.
“There’s no solution in sight,” Moushabeck says of the refugee situation, “and most people see no return in the future. Families are dying as they flee. There’s no money for them. It’s up to us as individuals to try to do something to make a difference.”