Earlier this week, Meghan Markle announced her first charity initiative as a royal—a cookbook, Together: Our Community Cookbook, created with those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire as a way to strengthen the community and support each other.
Meghan has made frequent visits to the Hubb Community Kitchen since January, and was "inspired by how the project empowers women at a grassroots level." The Duchess' close friends Priyanka Chopra, Serena Williams, and Jessica Mulroney praised their friend for "bringing women of all cultures together" and showcasing "the healing power of sharing food."
Ahead of the cookbook's release on September 25, read the empowering foreword written by the Duchess herself:
"Together is more than a cookbook. This is a tale of friendship, and a story of togetherness. It is a homage to the power of cooking as a community, and the recipes that allow us to connect, share, and look forward.
In January 2018, as I was settling in to my new home of London, it was important to me to get to know organizations working in the local community. I made a quiet trip to Al-Manaar, a mosque close to the Grenfell community.
In 2017, I had watched the Grenfell Tower tragedy unfold on the news; I was in Canada at the time, sharing the global sentiment of shock and sympathy for what this community was enduring, while also deeply wanting to help. Fast-forward seven months, and I was set to meet some of the women affected by the fire, at a community kitchen in Al-Manaar.
The kitchen was opened after the Grenfell tragedy, offering women who had been displaced and the community around them a space to cook food for their families. Their roles as matriarchs united them across their cultures; the kitchen provided an opportunity to cook what they knew and to taste the memory of home, albeit homes some had recently lost.
The kitchen buzzes with women of all ages; women who have lived and seen life laughing, chatting, sharing a cup of tea and a story, while children play on the floor or are rocked to sleep in their strollers. Now I have come to know these women and this place well, here are a few things to note about the community kitchen:
It is cozy and brightly lit, with scents of cardamom, curry, and ginger dancing through the air.
It will take you about fifteen minutes to enter the room, as you will joyfully be greeted by kisses (cheek x 3) by each of the incredible women there.
You will find yourself in a melting pot of cultures and personalities, who have rooys in Uganda, Iraq, Morocco, India, Russia, and at least ten other countries.
You should undoubtedly arrive on an empty stomach because upon departure you will have been stuffed to the gills with samosas flecked with cinnamon, chapatis flavored with carrots and onion, Russian Semolina cake, Persian teas, and my very favorite avocado dip that I now make at home.
You will feel joyful in their company, and you will leave counting the days until you go back.
On my first visit, I asked Munira, the resident chef de cuisine (so to speak), how I could help. An apron was quickly wrapped around me, I pushed up my sleeves, and I found myself washing the rice for lunch. Munira's sister-in-law, who had flown in from Egypt after Grenfell to help the family, helped me divide the correct amount of butter and fresh thyme to pour into the pot of rice bubbling away on the stovetop. All the aromas percolating in a kitchen filled with countless languages aflutter, remains one of my most treasured memories from my first visit to the kitchen.
I have a lifelong interest in the story of food—where it comes from, why we embrace it, and how it brings us together: the universal connection to community through the breaking of bread. Within this kitchen's walls, there exists not only the communal bond of togetherness through sharing food, but also a cultural diversity that creates what I would describe as a passport on a plate: the power of a meal to take you to places you've never been, or transport you right back to where you came from.
One of my own favorite meals is collard greens, black-eyed peas, and cornbread—a meal I would look forward to throughout my childhood: the smell of yellow onions simmering amongst a slow-cooked pot of greens from my grandma's back garden; the earthy texture of peas; and a golden loaf of cornbread puff-puffing away to a browned peak in the warmth of the oven.
This was always eaten on New Year's Day, a tradition steeped in ancestral history where each component has a meaning: the black-eyed peas for prosperity, the greens for wealth, the cornbread for health and nourishment. It wasn't a new year's resolution; it was a wish. It wasn't simply a meal; it was a story.
I've spent many years away from my birthplace of Los Angeles and have found that traveling far from home highlights the power of personally meaningful recipes. During my time at university in Chicago I would wait with bated breath to return to L.A. for the winter break and have a bowl of my mother's gumbo. And while living in Toronto (seven years of being adopted by that beautiful place for work), I embraced poutine and several other Canadian culinary favorites, but the Southern California girl in me always craved fish tacos, and the memory of eating hometown fare infused with a strong Mexican influence.
We've all had that experience where you have a bit of food, close your eyes, and taste, remember and even feel the first time you enjoyed it. There is good reason that chicken soup is often credited with healing not just a cold, but the soul. There is something quintessentially restorative about a taste of something meaningful.
I immediately felt connected to this community kitchen; it is a place for women to laugh, grieve, cry, and cook together. Melding cultural identities under a shared roof, it creates a space to feel a sense of normalcy—in its simplest form, the universal need to connect, nurture, and commune through food, through crisis, or joy—something we can all relate to.
During my visit I met Zahira, a working mum who oversees much of the coordination at Al-Manaar and whose infectious smile is enough to make you forget any troubles. Upon learning the kitchen was only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays I asked, 'Why isn't this open seven days a week?'
Her response: 'Funding.'
And now just a few months later, here we are...Together.
Through this charitable endeavor, the proceeds will allow the kitchen to thrive and keep the global spirit of community alive. With the support of dynamic women from all walks of life, we have come together with a united vision to empower other women to share their stories through food.
This cookbook is a celebration of life, community, and the impact of coming together.
Our hope is that within these pages you will find new recipes and family favorites that you can enjoy in your own homes, because these recipes aren't simply meals; they are stories of family, love, of survival and of connection. From a Thanksgiving supper to a Shabbat dinner or a Sunday roast, the meals that bring us together are the meals that allow us to grow, to listen, to engage, and to be present. We invite you to do the same, together, in your home, communities, and beyond.
Great thanks to everyone who made this book possible. And thanks to you, the reader, for supporting the good work of the Hubb Community Kitchen.
Now it's time...
to gather, Together."
HRH The Duchess of Sussex
You can purchase Together: Our Community Cookbook here.