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immigrants

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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Confessions of a First Time Volunteer!

Ever since FeLT was formed, I have admired its mission. In a time when many immigrants feel unwelcome and even frightened, I have wanted to add my voice as an American to the chorus of caring, openhearted people who empathize with the difficulties of getting settled and assimilating into another culture.

Yet, I was nervous and afraid. I’m not proud to admit it, but I had never volunteered for anything! Plus, I am very shy around strangers. I wasn’t sure if I would have anything to offer. But here is the thing:

Once upon a time, that was my grandmother!

 

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In 1940, she fled with my grandfather and my infant mother from wartime Belgium, coming to this country not knowing the language or the customs. Then as now, immigrants and refugees were not exactly welcomed with open arms by many in America. But my life as an American would not have been possible without her courage and perseverance. I take my secure status as a citizen for granted, but a generation ago my family were strangers in a strange land too. So with that in mind, I told myself that if these women today can have the courage to show up and learn, reach for a better life, surely I can overcome a little shyness and see if there’s anything I can do to make their journey easier. 

So, biting my lip with trepidation, I hopped on a subway and headed to an East Harlem school to meet my dear friend Caroline, who created this organization. I hadn’t stepped foot inside a school in ages. It was a little disorienting and I felt like a fish out of water. I didn’t know what I would find, or if I had the tools to help.

One by one the students filed in. Women in hijab, one even in a full veil. Some women who spoke maybe ten words of English, and some who were further along. Some younger than me, some older, but with shy smiles and determination in their demeanor. I wondered how I appeared to them, a freckle-faced Jew with tattoos and uncovered hair. We exchanged names, settled in, and got to work. Caroline led the class with so much energy and skill, and all I had to do was be an echo, someone they could practice with, correct pronunciation or just cheer on. There were laughs and frustrations and moments of “ah-ha!” It was exhilarating. I learned who was confident, and who was hesitant, and felt so much compassion and desire to bring everyone into the lesson. The time flew. I even learned a word or two of Arabic!

Afterward, I wasn’t so sure if I’d done a great job. I felt like maybe I’d gotten more out of the experience than the students. But then we received an email from one of the women in the class. She said, “Thank you to the friendly smiling teachers with beautiful souls.” Even if I accomplished nothing else that first day, I was a friendly face to someone who needed it.

It was my first, but it won’t be my last time volunteering!

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