More than 11,600 solidarity menus for Afghan refugees

  • The World Central Kitchen of chef José Andrés has fed the evacuees at the Torrejón base until Tuesday

In the morning of this Tuesday The last members of the reception unit for Afghan evacuees were already leaving the Torrejón air base. They are no longer rescued in the camp, and with the return of silence to the rear of the hangars of the military airfield, a bit more calm has also returned to the kitchens than World Central Kitchen -WCK, the solidarity menu NGO headed by the chef José Andrés– has in the Madrid market of Santa Eugenia. It has been five hectic days, with the stoves working 21 hours out of 24 to prepare about 2,320 orders a day for such unique diners taken by Spain from the hell of Kabul.

“We wanted to give them a hug through the meal; to express to them that they are not alone,” sums up VS, a WCK volunteer from Madrid, the spirit of the initiative. And that is what the dishes that for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner have been preparing for five hectic days under the supervision of the French-Spanish chef have become. Olivier de Belleroche, which, among other tasks, He was the personal cook of architect Norman Foster. A hug of food, and of Afghan food: no omelette or paella. To make it easier to land in their new reality 11 hours by plane from home, they have been offered menus of their own food from Afghanistan.

Olivier has not been alone. To produce about 11,600 hot conduits, WCK first looked in Madrid for an Afghan restaurant to ask about, but the pandemic closed the last two that remained. So he looked at Barcelona, ​​and from there the Afghan writer and playwright Nadia Guhlam, who has been the culinary advisor for this solidarity experience. “He has worked with others without stopping, without rest,” says VS To the point of postponing the reception of a part of his family, saved in Kabul and brought to Torrejón, and with whom, now, he is enjoying the reunion in their new destination assigned by the Ministry of Inclusion: a shelter in Salamanca.

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Nadia Guhlam also advised on the development of what the WCK volunteers call “welcome kit”, a variety of cottage cheese scrambled with cardamom and mint and a kind of cold vegetable patty. “You can’t welcome people with a croissant and coffee that they haven’t seen in their lives anyway,” explains the volunteer. As Afghans are not used to consuming coffee, they have been provided a spicy blend of green and black tea. In addition, the bun may contain pork fat, and “all the ingredients we have used have been halal (according to the proscriptions of Islam).

A lot of carbohydrate

As soon as the news emerged of the evacuation of Afghans to Spain, they explain in WCK, the NGO contacted the Red Cross to offer to cook in Afghan. “And they loved the idea,” they say. It was a way of improving the basic, neutral and packaged supplies provided by the Red Cross in times of crisis.

Since Thursday 26 they have been cooking four daily orders for a little more than 580 people, who had an average stay of 32 hours in Torrejón, according to government data, before their departure to a center of the national reception network of the Ministry of Inclusion. The boxes with hot food that they have been taking in rented isothermal trucks have also gone to the Red Cross volunteers, who have eaten the same.

It was about dishes “with lots of carbohydrates, lots of legumes and durum bread, “says chef Olivier. He has been particularly struck by some macaroni (in the background) under some yellow Afghan lentils and vegetables, underneath in turn a cream cheese with mint and cumin. Or, also, a liquid caramel that was poured, in a fine coating, on a boiled rice, with olive oil and a lot of spice. “We alternated chicken and beef. Not another thing, because fish may be eaten only once a year,” explains De Belleroche.

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“It was a brutal emotional shock, and we had to run, because hunger does not wait,” says the Madrid volunteer. WCK has paid the bill. During the previous week, a chain of WhatsApp asked for people in Madrid to help: “Hello friends, volunteers are urgently needed for World Central Kitchen, Jose Andrés’ NGO – said the one that has run the most – They are preparing meals for the Afghan refugees who are in Torrejon, in addition to serving other groups in need. It would be from tomorrow. and until day 1. They tell me that they need many hands. The place where they collaborate is the Santa Eugenia Market “.

In the end, the action lasted one day less. At an airfield in Washington, the capital of the United States, Word Central Kitchen is also providing Afghan menus to newcomers from Kabul. José Andrés has not been to see him. “Haiti has caught him … and the Louisiana hurricane, you know?”, They explain in the NGO.

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