An Excerpt from The Run Cookbook
In 2019, RUN volunteers worked with participants to document family recipes that have been passed down through the generations into a collaborative RUN Cookbook. Their hope is that despite having to flee their homes, their participants can strengthen their connections to their cultures and have another tangible piece of their history to carry with them as they rebuild their lives, wherever that may be. The RUN Cookbook is not just a collection of recipes. It’s a collection of memories. It’s the story of our participants and their resilience.
Originally from Egypt, Helen, is a spectacular cook who frequently prepares feasts for RUN events on top of cooking meals daily for her husband and three children. Life in Hong Kong is not easy for her family with no right to work and living off of small handouts from the government. However, Helen’s cooking provides some comfort to her family. Her children love her food and often insist that she packs her food for them if they go on outings, even if there will be other food available at their destination.
She has never written down her recipes as she learned each one just through plenty of practice in the kitchen. Passed down from generation to generation, Helen tells me how her grandmother, mother, and aunties taught her to cook. Her recipe for Egyptian meatballs is Helen’s favourite.
“My mother used to make this for our family,” Helen fondly remembers. As Helen blends together handfuls of garlic and cilantro, the kitchen is filled with the smell of fragrant, fresh herbs for this traditional Egyptian recipe.
She rolls each meatball easily with expert precision having rolled thousands of perfect spheres before. Rolling each one sounds tedious but it is surprisingly calming. Helen’s passion for cooking shows as each piece is handled with love and care for the intended diners. She loves to bring joy to others through food.
"My dream when I leave Hong Kong one day is to open my own restaurant,” Helen explains. While she waits in Hong Kong she studies English and takes computer classes through RUN. She is also spearheading a new cooking class for her fellow participants which allows her to share her love for cooking, while also working on her English skills through recipe writing and reading, public speaking, and teaching.
“Before RUN, I did nothing except stay at home for a long time,” Helen recalls. “Now when I come to RUN, I don’t just come for running and exercise, I come because it is like coming home.”
One of RUN’s main goals is to rehabilitate refugees to feel mentally and physically stronger. By exercising regularly, Helen says she feels less pain her body and both her mind and body are healthier. “Now I feel too much happiness, not pain. When I come to RUN, everything bad leaves my mind and I can feel happy.”
No part of this content may be published without permission in writing from the publisher. For more information about RUN, please visit https://www.runhk.org/
THE RUN COOKBOOK
Stores & Recipes from Refugees in Hong Kong