I have a trade arrangement with a group of Somali refugee women. I teach them healthy ways to live in the United States, and they teach me what it means to emerge from a deep trial with a gracious spirit.
These women have survived refugee camps, lost family members, and endured a steep language barrier in a foreign land. Still, their smiles light up the room.
We talk little about their stories. Instead we focus on life in America – especially as it relates to food.
The overwhelming response to our industrialized food culture?
“Too much sugar. In Somalia we have sugar with tea in morning, and sugar with tea in evening. No other sugar.” The woman who tells me this is in her 50s and has the most perfect teeth I have ever seen!
Another woman asks “Where are the cows?”
“We see milk on the shelves, but no cows!”
They talk about the lack of fresh food.
“In Somalia, fresh meat and milk everyday.”
Not just any milk. Camel’s milk. The milk may not taste as good as goat or cow’s milk, the women insist, ” but very very good for health.”
They show me one of their favorite remedies – black cumin seed.
We talk about the allergies some have developed since moving to the United States. I’m not surprised. The hygiene hypothesis suggests our sanitized culture is contributing to heightened allergies, because of missing microbial diversity. One can only imagine the loss of microbes one might experience moving from Somalia to America.
Another woman tells me about her frequent headaches since beginning her work in hotel housekeeping. “The chemicals so strong,” she says.
I teach them the simplicity of cleaning with white vinegar. For a fun project, they each made their own Vinegar of the Four Thieves – a recipe using apple cider vinegar and herbs.
Another project? Sauerkraut. If microbes are missing in America, then a probiotic food makes sense. “Cheap medicine,” my daughter Megan explains. Megan is the tutor who set up the classes.
They nod with understanding and excitement. It takes all of ten minutes to see these women embrace the sauerkraut making process.
Fatuma excitedly tells me she is going to make “more and more” for her family and friends.
“I go to emergency room 3 times last week. No good. Now, make cabbage (sauerkraut). Better, yes!”
Last week we made kombucha. It’s not easy to describe a SCOBY (the mushroom that ferments the tea.)
But nothing stops these women from trying new things.
Something I plan to emulate.
- 41Kombucha is a healthy probiotic beverage that is both refreshing and easy to make! Kombucha is a fermented, probiotic, naturally carbonated tea, combining sweetened tea with a “mushroom” consisting of active cultures of yeast and bacteria. This mushroom is better known as a SCOBY or Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and…
- 33Many of us are considering a dietary change, one with fewer processed, "boxed" foods. Others are contemplating going gluten-free. Perhaps chronic illness is a motivating factor. Or a child with behavioral issues. Or merely a general desire to eat healthier. All sorts of doubts creep in when we make a…
- 31The following is an excerpt of Colin's 7th grade paper "The Introduction and Evolution of Processed Foods." Colin is now in high school but continues to enjoy a diet of real, unprocessed foods. "Processing foods is something that not many people comprehend greatly. It's a transformation of manufactured ingredients into…
That was lovely. Thanks for sharing. 🙂 I enjoy seeing the excitement in my neighbor kid’s eyes when I let him try kefir or kombucha, or let him help me spread out sourdough pizza crust. Knowing that his meals are regularly McDonalds and boxed mac ‘n cheese, sometimes I think he comes knocking just because he wants to know what crazy new thing we’re eating today! 🙂
LOVE this!!! What an example!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and seeing your pictures of your gathering.
Please host one of their recipes here, as I’m always excited to cook more international foods. 🙂 What a sweet way to enrich one another and share joy with both a nation that is hurting and glean joy for your own journey. Beautiful. You’ve encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and “try new things” 🙂
Andrea Fabry says
Thanks Melanie! They were describing a couple of dishes to me. It would be fun to get the recipes. I will let you know if I do.
Jennifer at Purposeful Nutrition and The Entwife's Journal says
Oh how fun and satisfying. I would so enjoy working with a group of women like that. I really enjoyed the stories you shared. Best thing I read all day.
Andrea Fabry says
Thanks for the encouragement, Jennifer. I appreciate it. Yes, you would love them.
Sounds like you’re learning a lot from each other.
Andi | greenbasket.me says
Have they told you about any of their native fermented foods from their homeland?
Andrea Fabry says
I asked and they tried to tell me about fermenting a rice of some sort. We tried looking it up on the internet even. But for the most part it seemed like fermenting vegetables was new for them.