Immigrant group’s cookbook seeks to bridge differences

‘Together at the Table’ celebrates global value of good meals with good friends

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The tastes of dozens of countries are collected in “Together at the Table,” a new cookbook from Littleton nonprofit Immigrant Pathways Colorado (IPC).

With recipes like hummus from Lebanon, mojitos from Peru, stew from Ethiopia and egg rolls from Vietnam, IPC board members say they hope the cookbook conveys the diverse backgrounds represented in America — but also commonalities.

“It reflects that common element we all share: sitting down to share a meal with family and friends,” said IPC board member Connie Shoemaker at an April 13 book launch event. “The table is a place of memory, where we become aware of who and what we are. That’s bound up in the food we eat — it’s a way of preserving past and heritage.”

Proceeds from the cookbook go to IPC’s One-Immigrant-At-A-Time program, which provides self-development grants to immigrants, refugees and asylees who are in the country legally and live below the poverty line. Grants can be used for activities like English classes, applying for citizenship, green card renewal and seeking professional training. Proceeds will also go toward scholarships to attend Arapahoe Community College.

The cookbook includes 125 recipes from 66 contributors from 41 countries on nearly every continent. Included in the book are eight dividers printed with the stories of immigrants and their descendants, who share how food is woven into their cultural heritage.

Among those is Nisren Hussein, whose family’s experience inspired the creation of the IPC.

Hussein and her husband Raad are Kurds, a long-persecuted ethnic minority in Iraq. Growing up, Hussein’s family of nine had little access to fruit, fresh vegetables and meat as a result of war and economic sanctions.

Hussein recalled her mother spending hours every day making flatbread to sell, often leaving her hands cracked and broken, aching to the point that Hussein had to lift the oven cover for her mother.

Hussein later married Raad and had two children, but was forced to flee Iraq after anti-coalition forces discovered Raad was working as an interpreter for American troops.

Army Col. Joe Rice, a Littleton resident, arranged for the Husseins to come to his hometown, and tasked IPC founder Susan Thornton and friends with setting the family up with a place to stay, jobs, and money to get on their feet.

The experience inspired Thornton and others to create IPC after realizing that small grants could make a world of difference to immigrants in need as they sought to become Americans.

For Hussein, who contributed a recipe for Iraqi-style stuffed grape leaves to the cookbook, settling in Littleton was a blessing.

“The air smelled beautiful when we walked out the door our first morning in Colorado,” she recalled in her segment in the cookbook. “It was like breathing life.”

Shoemaker said she hopes the cookbook furthers IPC’s goals: “To bridge the gaps between cultures through education, sharing stories and learning about one another.”

“Together at the Table” is available at all Tattered Cover locations, including Aspen Grove. It can also be ordered through IPC’s website at ConnectingImmigrants.org/cookbook. IPC asks for a $20 donation.

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