Refugees share their favorite dishes in book and photo exhibition Aan Tafel! (rant)

De Verhalenweverij, which has been reading stories to the children in the Broechem asylum center since 2017, heard so many stories during her visits that the idea grew to publish them with a photo exhibition about the residents’ favorite dishes. Cooking together is binding. During eleven cooking afternoons from January to June this year, the residents prepared the typical dishes from their motherland together with a few volunteers. Photographer Griet Van Wesemael captured everything on screen.

The stories, photos and recipes were bundled in the book ‘At the table!’. It wasn’t always easy for the authors, because most of them don’t weigh anything and cook by feeling. With a lot of patience it was ensured that all grams were neatly noted, so that the reader can recreate the dishes from the world cuisine at home. And it’s worth it, because the tastings during the book presentation smelled and tasted delicious. The farni pankeeti, oil balls with honey, from Isatou from Gambia resemble our smoutebollen, but without powdered sugar.

Eggplant rolls

Beka fled Georgia with his niece and nephew. “Here in Belgium I can be who I want to be,” he says. According to author Gitt, Beka enjoyed the cooking moment immensely. So much so that he chose not one but five favorite dishes and hummed while preparing his cheese lasagna. Aubergine rolls, beef liver with nuts and pomegranates: Beka is a kitchen hero. The photos of him cooking were included in his interview with the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons.

“I received a positive decision,” says Beka. “I am now recognized and can leave the reception center in Broechem. I found something to live in Mortsel. Tomorrow I will do my last working day at a logistics company in Grobbendonk. I am now also allowed to go to Instroom, the training academy of Seppe Nobels, four times a week to learn how to cook even better. In recent months I combined the academy with my work in Grobbendonk, but it got tough. Living in Mortsel allows me to concentrate on my Dutch lessons and integration in combination with the Seppe Nobels academy. I am now really starting my new life here.”

Beka is also proud to be featured in a book for the first time. “The first time, but maybe not the last time. I am full of plans and ideas. A Georgian friend and opera singer from Lier who came to see the performance also thinks it is a beautiful book.”

The covers. — © rr

Right Beka with his stuffed eggplant rolls and olives. — © Griet Van Wesemael

Beka and Sabina with the book and the photo from the photo exhibition.

Beka and Sabina with the book and the photo from the photo exhibition. — © kma

Sahra from Somalia.

Sahra from Somalia. — © Griet Van Wesemael

Oliebollen and meal soup

Isatou is from Gambia. She made farni pankeeti, donuts with honey. “When you cook, you have to put a lot of love into it,” she says. “You have to enjoy the warmth.”

Sahra fled Somalia. Her daughters were not allowed to go to school by the terrorist group Al-Shabaab. Together with her daughters and friends she prepared maraq, a meal soup with chicken.

Maya, Abeer, Rawia and Naya are from Palestine. They want to build a new life and prepared musakhan, a dish of layered flatbread with chicken.

A photo exhibition accompanies the book. The exhibition runs in the library of Ranst and then travels through the province.

At the table! (28 euros) by Gitt Smans, Marlies Algoet, Lutgarde Daniëls/photos Griet Van Wesemael can be ordered from De Verhalenweverij via the website The book is also for sale directly in the library of Ranst until the end of January.

Maya, Abeer, Rawia and Naya (left to right) from Palestine.

Maya, Abeer, Rawia and Naya (left to right) from Palestine. — © Griet Van Wesemael

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Refugees share favorite dishes book photo exhibition Aan Tafel rant

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