Daigaku Imo... yum!

My name is Azumi and I am from Kagoshima Prefecture. It’s the southern most part of Japan and  used to be called Satsuma Prefecture. 

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Back In good ol’ Kagoshima we have a distinct and rich food culture. We are known for fresh fish  and some of the best meat and poultry in the world. One of my favorite foods, that first comes to mind when I think of home, is sweet potatoes or as we call them "Satsuma Imo (Satsuma is the former Kagoshima prefecture and imo means potato in Japanese)" .

We produce varieties of sweet potatoes and are the largest producer in Japan. We use Satsuma Imo in so many different ways - tempura, Japanese and Western sweets, alcohol, snacks and much much more.

Today I am going to introduce you a receipt using sweet potatoes called "Daigaku Imo - candied sweet potato". Daigaku means university and there are a few different stories about the origin of why we call it “Daigaku Imo”. I challenge you to discover this for yourself. Let’s Enjoy Satsuma Imo!

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  • 500g Sweet Potatoes  (preferably Japanese type)
  • Toasted Black or White Sesame or both - 1tsp
  • Frying Oil
  • Candy Syrup
  • Sugar - 5 tbsp
  • Soy Sauce - 1 tsp 
  • Rice Vinegar - 1 tsp

1. Wash sweet potatoes and cut diagonally into 1 and a half inch chunks.

2. Soak the pieces in the water for about 10 minutes. 

3. Pour enough oil to cover the sweet potatoes into a sauce pan. 

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4. Heat oil to a 350 F. or until oil is shimmering.

5. Meanwhile dry the potatoes with a paper towel

6. Carefully spoon chunks into oil and deep fry until cooked through (about 8-10min)

5. Heat all the candy syrup ingredients in a separate  pan over  medium heat and stir until thickened.

6. Strain  potatoes, pat them dry with paper towel and add to syrup to coat.

7. Remove to serving plate or bowl and sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve hot or cooled to room temperature 

 

Tanoshii!!! (Enjoy!!!)

Bourekas, the perfect small snack.....

Noga came to the US when she was a child, it was a big change for her.  She had to adapt to a new country, a new language and all kinds of new foods.  It took time, and was not always fun filled, but she eventually thrived in her new life.

Noga has been an immigrant twice, first as a child, but then as an adult when she moved to Colombia for many years.  The experiences of travel and language learning have given her a unique insight into multiculturalism and she directs the academics at FeLT with this at the forefront.  Noga, is a proud American, but also a proud Israeli, and when she thinks of Israel, she thinks of food.... here she shares her favorite recipe with us..... a simple, but stunning dish from the middle East.

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Bourekas - Ingredients:

4 sheets of puff pastry (2 boxes)
1 packet baby spinach
1 packet cream cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
1 egg or olive oil
Sesame seeds

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  • Defrost the puff pastry. 
  • Sauté the baby spinach until soft.
  • Mix the cooked baby spinach with the cream cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cut each puff pastry sheet into 6 rectangles.  Place a dollop for the spinach/cheese mixture in the middle of each rectangle.
  • Close each rectangle and pinch the sides closed.  Use cold water to make sure each rectangle is closed tight.
  • Place on a greased baking sheet.  
  • Brush each boureka with a bit of egg wash or olive oil.  Sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
  • Bake on 420 degrees Farenheit for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Cool and enjoy!
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The Future is Female

Last week, our founder took part in an amazing panel at the Immigrant Arts Summit in Manhattan. Speaking alongside amazing company, Ruth Messenger, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mickela Mazzolli, Aizzah Fatima and Lindsay Beyerstein.  Together the women discussed how immigrants and women are changing the landscape of activism, and taking their own destiny into their hands.

Photo credit: David Anthony Photography

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My Decision as a Young Person To Volunteer with FeLT by Julia Majesky

As my eighteenth birthday is a year away, I am no stranger to feeling helpless in such a tense political climate. For many young people and undocumented people alike, it is frustrating to have to stand by idly and watch those who are ‘allowed’ to take political action as well as elected officials make decisions about the future of the country that we live in. This being said, the remorse that I felt as I watched things in our country escalate to the harshest of extremes, and I watched people being mistreated more and more everyday. So, when the opportunity to help volunteer with FeLT, I was beyond ecstatic.

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Today, more and more young people are taking advantage of the resources they have around them to help impact change. These young people, these teenagers, are helping people like myself to realize that just because they can’t vote, they can still do things to help make a positive change. As a young person, I’ve made it my job to start early, to take action when action must be taken, and that starts with FeLT.

Earlier this year, I went on a school trip to Nepal, where we taught photography lessons to children in a small village off of Khathmandu. While I was there, I saw how eager students could be to learn, as opposed to those who sit beside me in my SAT prep class.

Education (in it’s many forms) is one of the most important things that this world has to offer, and whatever I can do to support, and provide whatever skills I may have in supporting those who wish to educate themselves.

Because it's all about the Bouillabaisse............

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In America people think that French food is fancy, but to me it is about quality and freshness.  It is also about the beauty and nature of my country.  Fresh vegetables from the fields and fresh fish from the seas.  I love to cook food that reminds me of home,  food that takes time and needs love to make it delicious.  Here I share my favorite recipe from home, Bouillabaisse..... I hope you take the time to cook and enjoy it!  Vive La France... oh, and if you like wine, a nice cold white wine from France will make this dish sing.

 

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2 tbsp of olive oil and 2 finely chopped onions, and fennel

Crush garlic, 2 cloves

1 full tbsp of tomato puree

of dry white wine

750ml of fish stock

6 large tomatoes, skinned and chopped

Pinch of saffron & Shredded Basil

I small orange (zest and juice)

1kg of mussels (cleaned)

350g of Cod and two filets of sea bass

200g of crayfish (without shells)

Salt and Pepper

 

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  1. Heat the oil in a large, deep saucepan. Add the onion and fennel and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato purée and stir for half a minute. Add the wine, stock and tomatoes. Bring up to the boil, add the saffron, basil and orange. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

  2. Add the mussels, turn in the pan and cover with a lid. Boil for about 4 minutes, or until all of the mussels have opened. Throw away any that have not opened. Take the pan off the heat. 

  3. Carefully take out the cooked mussels. Remove the mussels from their shells and place in a small bowl. Throw away the basil stalks.

  4. Blend the soup until completely smooth, transfer to a saucepan and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes to reduce.

  5. Season with salt and pepper and add the juice from half the orange. Add the cod and seabass, cover and gently simmer for 3–4 minutes, then return the cooked mussels, reserved mussels in shells and the crayfish tails and heat for another 2–3 minutes, or until piping hot and all of the fish is cooked.

Inspiring Immigrants.... Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright was the first woman to become Secretary of State in 1996 and remains a strong voice in politics and public life.

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Her family came to the US from Czechoslovak in 1948 when she was only 11 years old. They fled the communist government that had taken hold of their country. However, this wasn’t her first time living in a strange country. During WWII, she spent 2 years as a refugee in London, escaping Nazi aggression in Europe.

On arrival in The US, the Albright family lived in Long Island, before relocating to Denver, where her father was offered a job.

in spite of all these moves, she was able to earn many academic degrees, including a PH.D. Her professional achievements include being U.S Ambassador to the U.N, the aforementioned Secretary of State and a whole host of board chairmanships, advisory roles with prominent officials and organisations.

for more information of this incredible immigrant women, go to www.biography.com

Stuffed Grape Leaves, a real Turkish delight....

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Dilsemi comes from Turkey, but her desire to expand her horizons and become an English teacher led to her seeking pastures new.  She still misses home and knows that food is a great comforter.  Dilsemi kindly shared her story and recipe with us, so that you could also have a taste of this wonderful dish.

This dish could be made with cabbage leaves or with meat as well, but this one is my favorite dishes, and since I left Turkey, I miss it so so much. I promise you’ll roll your eyes with enjoyment. I hope you’ll make it and enjoy it as much as I do!!!

 

Ingredients:

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  • 1 package of vine leaves

  • 2  & 3/4 cups white rice

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste, divided

  • 1 tablespoon pepper paste or additional tablespoon of tomato paste

  • 1 lemon, sliced

  • Fresh parsley

  • Paprika powder

  • Dried mint

  • Pepper and salt

  • 1 vegetable stock cube

 

 

  1. Rinse the rice well.

  2. Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add the rice and fry quickly. Add the tomato and pepper paste and stir everything together well. Fry for about a minute.

  3. Add parsley, paprika powder, mint, pepper, and salt. Use a bit more than you would usually do because in the boiling process, part of the flavor will evaporate. Stir well and take the pan off the heat. You are going to fill the vine leaves with uncooked rice. The rice will be cooked later with the vine leaves. Leave the mixture to cool down.

  4. In the meantime, take the vine leaves from the package and carefully take them apart. Rinse them one by one.

  5. Put all the leaves in a pan with boiled water (not on the stove) and leave them for five minutes. Drain.

  6. Take a large pan and put some olive oil on the bottom. Put a few broken vine leaves on the bottom of the pan. This will stop the sarma from sticking to the pan.

  7. Now you can start rolling the vine leaves. Use a cutting board to put the vine leaves on. On one side of the board, put the pan with the rice mixture and put a plate with vine leaves and on the other side to put the sarma in.

  8. Take a vine leave and put it on the cutting board with the veins up. Cut or break the stem off carefully. Put a little bit of the rice mixture onto the bottom of the leaf. Make sure you leave some space between the rice and the end of the leaf. Take the two lowest ends of the leaf and fold them over the rice. Do the same for the left and the right end of the leaf. Then roll up the leaf tightly from the bottom to the top. The first ones will be a bit difficult, but after a few you will know how to do it.

  9. Put the sarma into the pan and repeat the same steps for the other vine leaves. Make sure that you put the sarma close to each other in the pan. If they are too loose, the rolls can open while cooking. If the bottom of the pan has been filled, you can put the next sarma on top of the others.

  10. When you have finished all the sarmas, cut a lemon into slices. Put the slices on top of the sarmas and put a plate, turned upside-down on top of that. This will prevent the sarmas from opening while boiling.

  11. Mix boiling water with a tablespoon of tomato paste and a stock cube. Pour the water into the pan until the plate is just under water. Put the pan on the stove and bring to boil.

  12. Leave the sarmas to simmer for 45 minutes on low heat. It is important that you use a pan that is big enough because the sarmas will get bigger while boiling. The rice increases in volume when it is cooked.

  13. Turn off the heat after 45 minutes and leave the sarmas in the pan with a lid on (without draining the water) for at least 30 more minutes.

 

 

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Building Communities, not Walls!

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Team FeLT stepped out in the scorching heat this weekend, to stand in support of #FamilyReunification . FeLT believes that immigrants enrich our lives and that families belong together.  We are proud to live in a city that welcomes immigrants, migrants and refugees.

Kara-age (Japanese Fried Chicken) 唐揚げ

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Mami is from Japan and she wanted to share a favorite recipe from home. Kara-age!

For Mami, this was a favorite dish when she was a kid and now she cooks it for her kids, and of course they love it!  For Mami, this is a dish that reminds her of home, even though she is oceans away.

Mami's mother would make the dish on special occasions, such as birthdays, sports days, Christmas or New Year.  Mama says that the best thing about this recipe is that you really don't need special ingredients to cook it!

 

Ingredients:

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  • 500g of chicken (thighs or, for taste, wings)
  • A dash of white wine
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 3-4 cm of ginger
  • 5 tbsp (or more as needed) soy sauce and a dash of sesame oil.
  • cornflour

Marinate the chicken in the wine, soy, garlic, ginger and sesame oil for a minimum of 2 hours. If you can leave it overnight, even better!

Put the oil into a deep pan and heat until bubbling.

Coat the chicken in cornflour and carefully place into the oil to lightly fry.  

Serve and enjoy! See, simple, or as they say in Japan, 簡単, easy!

 

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And that’s a wrap!

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On Tuesday we held our final graduation ceremony, that is a total of three!  Our students proudly accepted their certificates and beautiful gifts (kindly donated).  There were smiles, tears and cheers of joy as each student celebrated passing their first Literacy class.  The students made us an incredible feast.... really tasty!

so our classes are now officially on summer vacation, but we have huge plans, so watch this space! 

Graduation 2018

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This weekend we celebrated a major milestone.  We had the first FeLT students graduate from their classes, English Language and Literacy Empowerment.  In three separate ceremonies, 52 FeLT students graduated.  Our students come from 12 countries and are all immigrants, refugees or Dreamers...... or, in our words, heroes!

It was a wonderful celebration, with certificates for the students, amazing backpacks stuffed with gifts, from books to soaps to chocolate to pens... so many presents the students were overwhelmed by the love.

FeLT is so proud of each and every student and we cannot wait until our classes return in fall!

From Russia with (yummy) love..........

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When I first came to America I had three jobs.  That was just what I needed to do.  Making money in America is not like the movies.  My language skills were very bad and I didn't know any skills.  I got a job with an agency as a home attendant in Manhattan.  I worked with some very friendly ladies but they all spoke Russian, this was not helpful for me.

I would come home from work and spend a little time with my children, but they were fast becoming American.  Sometimes they forgot Russian words, and they were often frustrated with me because I didn't know English well enough.  It was a new battle, my children didn't want to be immigrants, they wanted to be American.  I wanted them to love both countries.  It was a bad time.

I used to remember visiting my grandmother each winter, just before the New Year.  We would sit in her kitchen and together we would make Pelmeni, this is a dumpling from Russia and one that we eat for the New Year celebrations.  My grandmother would tell me about her life, not just the history, the gossip, she always knew everything about everyone, while we rolled and filled the dumplings. This was a favorite way for me to connect with my grandmother, I don't know if I appreciated it at the time.  Now I take one afternoon every two weeks, and with my children, we sit at the table and roll Pelmeni.  They tell me about their lives and I tell them of life back home.  It is a time of peace and new traditions mixed with old.  So, for me, Pelmeni transports me back to Russia, my Grandmother's table, but also connects me to my new American life.

Here is my recipe.  Pelmeni is a cheap and warming food....I make mine with beef, but other people use other fillings.

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Ingredients: (dough and filling)

  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup warm water or milk
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

 

  • 18 ounces ground beef
  • 1 white onion
  • icy water

How to make it!

  1. Mix the egg, vegetable oil, and salt in a measuring cup; top up with water (milk) to fill to 1 cup. Pour the whole mixture into a bowl, add the 3 cups of flour, and knead into a smooth, stretchy dough. Cover and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Lightly dust a baking tray with flour.
  3. Mix the ground beef, onion, water, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix vigorously by hand.
  4. Roll  the dough very thinly on a floured surface and cut out 2 1/2-inch rounds with a cookie cutter, if you do not have one, use a shot glass. Keep the rest of the dough covered with a towel to avoid drying out. Place 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of filling on the dough. Fold the dough over and seal the edges using fingers, forming a crescent shape Join the ends and pinch them together. Place on the baking tray. Keep repeating until you have used all the dough and then freeze pelmeni for  about 30 minutes. 
  5. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a simmer and drop a few  frozen pelmeni into simmering water. Cook and stir until the meat is cooked and pelmeni float to the top, this should take about 5 minutes. Continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. 
  6. Serve with sour cream and herbs for added flavor.

ENJOY!

 

 

 

 

Team FeLT go to Washington!

Last week, members of Team FeLT went to DC to talk Education, Immigrants and Leadership at the #WinWithWomen conference. This conference was inspirational and highlighted such talented, passionate and intelligent female voices from an array of skills.

Here is our panel (filmed on a phone, so please excuse the quality)

and all that jazz.....

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I came to the US from Germany in 2000 to study jazz, an American art form. I am now a permanent resident. I found the whole visa process emotionally and economically taxing--paying immigration lawyers,and not knowing whether I could stay in the country. Long term planning was not possible. After obtaining the Green Card, New York felt more like home, although even that can still be taken away. 

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Also, finding an identity between two countries, my home and my chosen home, is a challenge. Recognizing traits of my origin country country of origin in me, good and bad, is sometimes the source of frustration and embarrassment. For example when I feel like my actions confirm common stereotypes about Germans, for example when I am very punctual and people are not.  To me, time is important and being on time can say a lot about a person. At the same time, realizing that the positive parts of my cultural heritage can add to the immigrant experience in the US is a great feeling. All this shapes our identities and is something we often deal with after the initial struggle of finding work, a decent living situation, and a social circle.

My advice is not to forget that you came here because you thought that you will have a happier life here than in your home country. For me this has been a sustaining source of strength, knowing that I can realize my potential in my professional field here better than at home helps me in the face of adversities adversity,and difficulties dealing with the system.

Ecuador, of my heart!!

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Maria Elena - NY via Ecuador

I come from Quito, a town high up in the Andes, whose name means ray of light.  

The city is alive, it is dirty, busy, always with an energy. Maybe because Pichinca (the volcano that overlooks our city) often spit out smoke, or maybe because the earth shakes with the earthquakes that travel the coast, or maybe, as my mother says, with the happiness of being Quechua....

When I think of home, I think of food..... my mother would make a large tub, yes tub, of ceviche each month.  We would come from school and eat a small bowl, stuffed with fish and popcorn, and if my dad was around, chifles (fried plantain chips). Even now, when I taste it, I am taken right back to Quito, to the Avenida de los Amazones, to El Bosque and to my home. Here is the recipe I use...

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ingredients

  • 1 lb of white fish, cubed (Tilapia, bass, corvina)
  • 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 pepper (yellow or green)
  • 10 limes, 5 are for the juice and 5 for marinate
  • small bunch of cilantro, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

 

Ready?

Put the raw fish and shrimp into a glass dish and soak with half the lime juice and salt. Cover with plastic to seal the flavor. Refrigerate for about 4 hours.

Add the chopped tomato, onions, cilantro and peppers to another dish, adding the remaining lime juice. Let this dish marinate for an hour or more.

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The marinate 'cooks' the fish in dish one, infusing it with delicious flavor. After you remove it from the fridge, drain the lime juice, as it can be very sour and acidic.

Add the fish to the other marinade of onions, peppers and lime. Add salt and a little oil to your own tasting.

Serve cold with chifles or unsalted popcorn, and enjoy!!

 

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My Shakshuka (or ‘how I learned to stretch my food’)

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For 10 years, I lived on a kibbutz in Israel and worked in the kitchen of the communal dining hall.  That is where I learned to cook a lot of really good food, and where I also learned to ‘stretch’ my food.  We didn’t have a lot of money when we lived in Israel.  And we certainly didn’t have a lot of money when we first immigrated to the United States.  So, we had to learn how to adapt ingredients to make our food go from feeding 2 people to feeding 5 people (in my case), or from feeding 50 people to feeding 100 (as in the case of the communal dining hall!)

Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern dish, and  it is one of the most beloved foods in Israel.  Traditional shakshuka is made with vegetables and eggs, sometimes meat.  But to make our shakshuka last longer, to stretch out the recipe to feed many people and to fill our tummies, we add rice to the recipe.  Because rice fills you up and is less expensive than meat, it is the perfect choice for ‘stretching’ this delicious dish.

 

 

Ingredients

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  • 2 medium onions (sliced)
  • 1 green pepper (sliced)
  • 4-5 medium tomatoes (sliced)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Hot pepper (optional)
  • Garlic
  • ½ cup rice
  • Eggs

 

How to Make Shakshuka

 

In a large skillet, stew the onions and pepper in olive oil

Add the garlic (make sure not to burn it)

Add the tomatoes and salt (to taste)

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Cook until the tomatoes are soft

Add the rice and let it cook in the vegetable juices, until soft

Crack the eggs on top of the shakshuka

Bake at 400 degrees F until the eggs are  cooked to your liking

Enjoy!!

 

A taste of home

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A taste of home

Being an immigrant is a wonderful thing; you belong in two places at once, sometimes more.  However, that doesn't mean that you don't have moments when you miss the country you were raised in.  Homesickness is a real thing, and for many immigrants the option to return to their home to visit doesn't exist.

When you leave your country, often you leave behind things that are special to you, heirlooms or trinkets that hold memories.  Still, recipes take next to no room in your luggage, recipes can be stored in your memory and passed down through the generations.

So, what is an immigrant to do when they are homesick? For many people, food plays a prominent part in bringing your country into your new home.

Every two weeks, we shall feature recipes from our staff and students that remind them of home. They will share the delicious foods that evoke a sense of calm and belonging.  Perhaps you will feel inspired to cook some of the recipes, bringing their world into your kitchen.

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Time to bake!

First up, we have our founder, Caroline, from the UK:

"Despite what people think, British food is wonderful, or at least some of it!  Whenever I think of home, or I am homesick, I long for certain foods.  I'll make foods with funny names such as Toad in the Hole, or Bubble & Squeak.  These foods that evoke a taste of Sundays for me.  They were comfort foods that were eaten with family in winters.  

Shortbread is definitely comfort food, originating in Scotland, it makes me think of the Highlands and Islands of my ancestors. So when I am homesick, I will often make a batch of homemade shortbread biscuits (or cookies).  Today I made flavored biscuits, one chocolate chip, and the other lavender. 

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Here is the simple recipe:

  • 4 oz of butter (125g)

  • 2 oz of caster sugar (55g)

  • 6 oz plain flour (180g)

  • flavoring (Lavender) 

  • Chocolate chips

 

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  • Pre-heat the oven to 375F/190C
  • First, mix the sugar and butter together until you have a smooth paste.
  • Slowly stir in the flour.  (I prefer to use my hands to mix.)
  • Split the dough in two.  In the first, add chocolate chips.  In the second, add Lavender flavoring, and coloring if desired (I use red & purple.) 
  • Roll the dough and cut into the size and shape you want.  As shortbread is quite rich, I favor smaller biscuits.
  • Sprinkle with sugar.  Place in the fridge and chill for about 15 minutes.
  • After 15 minutes, bake the cookies for approximately 15 minutes.  Check the cookies after 10 minutes.  I prefer for my shortbread to be a little soft, but some people prefer it harder.
  • Chill and serve with a lovely cup of tea!
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A sense of home.....

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We were driving somewhere. All that we could do was look out the windows at the other cars, the streets, bus stops and people. Mom took a deep sigh and said “This is not your home. You are not from here.”

This scenario played out multiple times in my childhood. In many ways, directly and indirectly, my mother would assert that we came from “back home.” She never even said “Africa.” Back home to me was this far away, inaccessible land where she left her happiness. She told me she used to be one of the fastest people in her village. She told me how the women could dance in ways to make your jaw drop. The food. The music. The air. The beauty. Whenever she talked about “back home” she smiled the most I ever saw. Then she stopped, almost immediately and sighed. Sometimes it seemed like she waited for me to leave so she could cry.

Because of my mother’s assertions, I believed I too, was not American. I didn’t understand the concept of nationality beyond that I am where my mother is from. I grew up with a false sense of ethnicity and belonging that filled me with pride and a strong sense of self.

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It took me many years to critically evaluate who I was. I was Black and Indian. My Indian mother and her Indian parents were born in East Africa. Grandfather from Tanzania. Grandmother from Kenya. My mom was born and raised in Kampala. Although she ate choka and curries and spoke Gujarati, she was also fluent in Swahili. 

In 1972, when the Adi Amin regime tortured and expelled the South Asian community, my mother and her family ran for their lives. She was only 15 years old. After living as a refugee in Austria they were sponsored by a church to enter the United States. She was multilingual but she refused to speak English for some time. She was stubborn, too smart for her own good and got in a lot of trouble in school. 

She probably feared that assimilation meant the death of her identity and she held on strongly to it, putting her past on an unrealistic pedestal. Eventually she met married my father. They divorced and my mom raised my brother and I as a single mother.

How many of us would be able to leave the USA and live somewhere else for the rest of our lives without missing it in some way…never really tasting the authentic food (no matter how bad it is for us) nor hearing the voices, seeing the mannerisms, and the small day to day symbols of our culture and society?

When I met other 2nd generation youth and their parents I noticed a major difference. Their families were much more well-adjusted to society and had completely different outlooks. I could see that on the other hand, my mother was deeply affected losing her home at a young age. When I researched it more, I discovered the serious psychological impact many refugees face fleeing war and political persecution which makes their experiences very different from immigrants who willingly choose to move somewhere to attain a better life. I know that this is one of the reasons she has a fear of planes and has never traveled outside of the US and Canada since she came in the 70s.

My mother’s deep sadness has always been the backdrop of my childhood memories. There were times, however, where she was different. Once when we were driving she saw a mother at the bus-stop with her children with many bags. My mom made a U-turn and called her from the window. She insisted the woman get in. We drove her to a shelter and my mom stepped out of the car and gave her money.  Another time, I remember scooting over while several children got in the back seat with me. My mother tried speaking to their Hispanic mother in broken English until we were able to get them to their destination. She never said a word about it afterwards. Growing up, every day when I came home from school and passed our dining room table which was unusable because of all the gifts she received from her patients in the hospital. She turned her deep longing into acts of kindness for others in need, but she never said a word about it.

I spoke with her on the phone the other day and heard her talk about retirement for the first time. “What will I do now?” she said. She started crying “Where the Hell am I going to go?”

 I shouted at her, “Mom this great!” 

“Finally!” I said.  I had to get the words out. I was alone in the house but I worried someone would interrupt me in that moment. I shouted, like my life depended on it…

“You could go back! You could go back mom.”

She stopped crying. 

Twice as nice!

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I’ve been lucky enough to experience the amazing feeling of adopting a new country as my homeland twice in my life.  My family immigrated to the United States from Israel when I was six years old.  I was too young to fully process the experience, but I do remember being afraid to speak this new language (and what a funny alphabet!), and the overwhelming sense of loneliness when I couldn’t find my older sister at recess on the first day of school. 

I remember my parents struggling to make our new American life as easy and comfortable as possible for me, my sister, and my brother, while they struggled to learn the language, integrate into the culture, and make ends meet.  But we made it through!  We made friends, learned the language, and were ultimately accepted wholly and unconditionally into American life.  I love the fact that, thirty-five years later, as I interview her about her immigrant experience, my mother confidently tells me that she is a proud Israeli and a very proud American citizen to boot.

I moved to Colombia straight after college and decided to make that country my home for the following eight years.  The experience of being an immigrant at the age of 22 was very different from that of being a 6-year-old immigrant, but I will never forget how warmly I was accepted into every part of Colombian culture and life.  That feeling will stay with me forever.

This is what I want immigrants and refugees new to the United States to experience.  I want them to feel the warmth and acceptance that I felt as an immigrant, both in the United States and Colombia.  I know that the least we can do as a country is to extend the same courtesy and love to others that was extended to us.

Dreamers...

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My name is Angeles, and I am a Dreamer.  Such a weird name, I mean, don't all 20 year-olds dream?  I came to the US when I was two, and I really had no idea that we were undocumented. It wasn't until I needed my social security number to get a job that my mom explained it.   My life is not easy, but I love it. My friends are awesome and so are my teachers.  The current world, however, isn't.  My family is from El Salvador. Mom was the only survivor of violence in her town.  She gave up everything to bring me here.  She didn't care about papers, in the sense that she only cared about safety.  She worked all the hours she could so that I could have the same clothes, the same experience as my peers.  She encouraged and supported me to register with DACA.  It isnt an easy process to get this status-- you have to be better than everyone.  I am not, but I am good, I didn't act up and I didn't do bad stuff because that was dangerous.  

FeLT helped me with my college applications, I wanted them to stand out, but I didn't want to tell anyone from school about my dreams to be a teacher, I wanted to prove I could do it alone.  I did, I applied and was accepted to my first choice school.

I am in college now, and I am training to be a teacher, I want to help kids in the same way that my teachers helped me.  But now I don’t even know if I will graduate. I feel unmotivated.  Why do I bother, when all of this, the cost of study, the friends I make, the future I am building, can be ripped away from me? I have no answers.  I hope someone does.