SOOP is a new project, launched in 2016 by ex-SOASians, where refugees, ex-refugees and migrants share their stories through food. The monthly events, held at various locations around London, consist of chefs preparing and explaining deeply personal meals to a small group of guests. The money raised is being used to fund culinary training programmes for refugees, who wish to gain the skills needed to work in the UK’s food industry.
The chefs change from month to month, with Lebanese, Palestinian, Armenian and Estonian food all previously showcased. London Student was lucky enough to receive an invite to the meal prepared by Greek chef, Despina Siahuli, who presented recipes inspired by her upbringing in Athens.
As whipped feta, lamb ribs marinated in rosemary and wine, and mountains of Kalamate olives were served, Despina told the group how her family and the country she grew up in remain such a large part of her identity. She explained how her Grandmother’s marinade recipes, the seasonal restrictions to the food in Athens, and the UK influences to her cooking, combined on the plates sitting in front of us.
Despina was keen to highlight that her cooking, though an import from her country of birth, developed after migrating to London. The whole evening was a testament to how culture travels with migrants on their long journey to the UK.
For me, each of the three courses outdid the last with the main of seemingly endless slow cooked ribs coming a close second to the dessert of custard and walnut pie with a blood orange syrup.
Sitting next to strangers on a communal table allowed for the making of new friends over the zesty cocktail we were given as we came in. By the end of the night I had arranged to go for future drinks with two of my supper neighbours, who run a similar venture in south London. We have yet to go for the promised drink but I’m sure it’s going to happen any day now.
30 of us attended the meal, creating an intimate atmosphere where everyone had the opportunity to speak to Despina. She happily told me the recipe for the ribs that were so good I’m probably going to end up passing down to my future children.
At £30 it is a definitely a rare treat for us students but considering the quantity/quality of the food, the experience of the event itself, and that it is BYOB – which negates the black hole where money usually goes on a meal out – the whole thing was a brilliant deal.
It was a great night out in it’s own right which supported a fantastic project. As well as helping the fight against the ever real societal problem of integrating refugees, guests could share in a refreshing, entertaining and delicious perspective on migration.
You can follow SOOP on their GrubClub page for info on their next supper club.