Meghan Markle is now officially known as The Duchess of Sussex. For her first solo project as The Duchess and a member of the Royal family, she has chosen to champion a charity cookbook inspired by women affected by the Grenfell fire.
The book, titled Together: Our Community Cookbook, is full of recipes from across the Middle East, Africa, Europe and beyond, and is a true reflection of the diverse group of women who contributed to it.
The idea for the cookbook originates from the kitchen of a mosque in West London. In January 2018, the Duchess visited Al Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre in Westbourne Park, where she met women who had come together in the wake of the fire to use the kitchen.
Many of the women could no longer cook in their own homes, so the kitchen provided a familiar comfort, while giving them the chance to share their recipes, talk and create new friendships.
In the forward to the book, the Duchess describes her first visit:
“An apron was quickly wrapped around me, I pushed up my sleeves and I found myself washing the rice for lunch … All the aromas percolating in a kitchen filled with countless languages aflutter remains one of my most treasured memories from my first visit to the kitchen.”
She goes on to write:
“I immediately felt connected to this community kitchen; it is a place for women to laugh, grieve, cry and cook together. Melding cultural identities under a shared roof, it creates space to feel a sense of normalcy – in its simplest form, the universal need to connect, nurture, and commune through food, through crisis or joy – something we can all relate to.”
There are few better ways to connect to someone than to cook for them. In the months after the fire, the women had been returning to the kitchen twice a week, feeding and supporting one another through difficult times. It had even been dubbed the Hubb Community Kitchen, ‘Hubb’ meaning love in Arabic.
Impressed by what she saw, Markle asked why it wasn’t open seven days a week. The answer was funding. Having tasted the food, she suggested a cookbook, with proceeds going to Hubb.
Given the effect it’s had on the women’s lives, it’s a more than worthy cause. In the introduction to the book, the women of Hubb write:
“Our kitchen has always been a place of good food, love, support and friendship. We cook the recipes we’ve grown up with; there’s no stress and the recipes always work because they have been made so many times … it’s proper comfort food….Swapping family recipes and moments of laughter gave us a sense of normality and home.”
Food has always had the power to transcend race, religion, age and background – that’s evident by the diverse array of women at Hubb. However, the kitchen also shows how food and cooking can help people through the hardest of times: It brings them together, offering a calming ritual when everything else is in upheaval.
As one woman says in the video below:
“We sit together, we eat together. We enjoy the time together. Never ‘Where are you from? Which colour you are’, ‘Which language you talk?’ It’s something amazing.”
Together: Our Community Cookbook is released on 20 September 2018. Supported by The Royal Foundation, profits will go towards sustaining the Hubb Community Kitchen.
For more information on the book, head to the Penguin website.