DUBAI: How do you empower women? Chef and culinary consultant Sally Hurst provides what some might consider an unconventional answer — by cooking.
A resident of Beirut for the past five years, Hurst recalls an anecdote told by women in the traditional Lebanese mountainside areas.
“Women had the key to the larder back in the day, before they had refrigeration, and having that key was the ultimate power in the household. You controlled everything by what was in there and by who you fed and how you fed them,” she told Arab News.
Originally from America, Hurst is the project manager of an upcoming book, “Empowering Women through Cooking,” featuring the recipes and personal stories of 52 women from different backgrounds living in Lebanon. This book is the latest venture of the Amman-founded “Empowering through” social movement that helps individuals in more than 10 countries via events and publications.
“Some people had a problem with the title, because there is this idea that cooking is something women have to do,” Hurst said of the book, which took nearly four years to complete. “The idea is that a lot of women choose, like me, to do this. It does empower you — there’s something about being able to feed your family with what you do in the kitchen that is really rewarding. A lot of women do that for a living in Lebanon.”
Offering their recipes of traditional savory dishes (some of which have foreign influences) and sweet delicacies, the participants include a refugee from Syria, a Filipino household helper, the founder of the Beirut Marathon Association, and a cook who was born with Down syndrome. “I wanted it to reflect the diversity of Lebanon because I think that’s one of its strengths,” Hurst said.
It is much more than a recipe book. Another one of its objectives is to inspire aspiring chefs and entrepreneurs by offering advice on setting up a culinary business, as well as health and wellness tips specific to Lebanon and through sharing stories of women-led businesses in the culinary world. Most of all, at a time when Lebanon is facing multiple economic and social crises, proceeds of the book will go to the World Food Program MENA to feed the hungry of Lebanese society.