Learn How to Cook These Refugees’ Favorite Meals

Displaced people stay connected to home through food. Here are some of their favorite recipes.

When refugees arrive in a new country they bring the clothes on their backs, the memories in their heads, and the recipes of their ancestors. From afar, they re-create the flavors of a past life. “Preparing these meals and sharing them with friends and family can have immeasurable psychological benefits,” says Zaid Jalood, a community health officer with the International Medical Corps in Iraq. For 40-year-old Fatma, interviewed by the organization in Libya, it’s a traditional pumpkin-and-barley stew. She learned to make it from her mother and now teaches her daughter. “Bazeen is not just a meal,” she says. “It’s a connection to my hometown.”

Leaving home can upend a person's diet. But the recipes and ingredients they bring to a new country shape its culinary future. In Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, food historian Sarah Lohman investigates how waves of immigrants introduced new flavors—like garlic and soy sauce—into American kitchens. Often, Lohman notes, these foreign foods were more readily accepted than the people who brought them.

In collaboration with the International Medical Corps, we collected recipes from refugees and displaced people around the world. They have not been tested—cooking times and ingredient amounts are approximate. Try out a new dish for the holidays and tell us how it tasted on Twitter at @natgeo.

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