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Week of 21 January 2000

Vol. III, No. 20

Feature Article

Recipes for disaster relief

Humphrey Fellowship Program's cookbook will benefit Rwandan orphans

By Eric McHenry

In early 1994, at their government's instruction, Rwandan Hutus slaughtered half a million of their Tutsi neighbors with machetes. Many of the children and teenagers orphaned by the massacre now depend for their lives on small parcels of land they don't know how to farm properly. And new legislation stipulates that fallow or inefficiently used land may be seized by the Rwandan government.

What the country desperately needs, says Ksenya Khinchuk, director of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program at Boston University, is an agricultural consulting center -- an organization that can help Rwandan orphans help themselves.

That's where the World Family Cookbook (Andover Green Book Publishers, 1999) comes in. Created by the Humphrey Fellowship Program through a project called Children of War in Africa, the cookbook features 101 recipes from almost as many countries. Since most of the work that went into its production -- writing, editing, printing, publishing -- was donated or done at a discount, nearly 100 percent of the money brought in by its sales will go directly to the establishment of the Agricultural Consulting Center for Households Headed by Children in Rwanda. If the book sells out of its 5,000-copy first edition, Khinchuk says, that will provide enough revenue to create the center and staff it with Rwandan agricultural experts.

About two years ago, Khinchuk saw a compelling television news segment on the Rwandan orphans. The genocide, she learned, left behind about 85,000 parentless households. Not only are many of the children living without parents, "they're practically adultless. There are no grandparents, no aunts or uncles. Often, the oldest member of the family is 17.

"There are some international programs to help the Rwandan government," Khinchuk says, "but these kids will be the last in the chain to get special support. And it's not only money that they need. They need education to help them be successful citizens, which is not easy in that region."

Khinchuk showed a videotape of the segment to colleagues in the Humphrey Fellowship Program, and the group decided to begin raising money for the establishment of an agricultural consulting center. They quickly realized, however, that straightforward calls for donations were not going to generate the needed funds.

"We thought it would be easy -- we'd talk to people about Rwanda and our project, and everybody would contribute something," says Khinchuk. "And we collected about $2,000, which is not much. So we decided to do it in a different way."

Khinchuk, Assistant Director Eric Romano, and members of the 1997-98 and 1998-99 classes of Humphrey Fellows began soliciting recipes from all over the world. The Humphrey Fellowship Program is a Fulbright exchange activity through which midcareer professionals from developing nations come to BU for a year of advanced study. With alumni in 97 different countries, Khinchuk says, they had tremendous resources from which to draw.

Along with the recipes, contributors provided regional proverbs, jokes, anecdotes, and interesting facts. Khinchuk and her colleagues also solicited handsome original illustrations by artists from as near as Boston and as far away as Ghana. The result is an elegant and various collection -- in every sense, full of flavor.

The book's six sections, ordered according to a good meal's course chronology, offer everything from Danish Gravlax (dill-marinated salmon) to a rice pudding from Guyana. The ingredients and instructions for preparing Soufflé au Fromage appear alongside Mark Twain's take on American provincialism: "I spoke to the Frenchman in French . . . He said he couldn't understand me. I repeated. Still, he didn't understand. He appeared to be very ignorant of French." The recipe for Turkish Chicken Borek is garnished with the proverb, "No matter how far you have gone on the wrong road, turn back."

Such common sense tends to accompany columns of common ingredients. For the most part, the recipes call only for foodstuffs available in the typical American supermarket, making the book as practically useful as it is genuinely exotic.

"There's a lot of great recipes from all over the world," says Janine Sciarappa, assistant director of special programs for Metropolitan College, who served as the book's culinary editor. "There's no reason readers should feel they can't tackle any of the recipes. They're all pretty approachable."

Those who would like to sample The World Family Cookbook's diverse bill of fare can enjoy An Evening of Global Cuisine on February 16 at BU. Live African music will complement a 10-course meal prepared by members of this year's class of Humphrey Fellows. Proceeds from the event will go directly to Children of War in Africa.

"It's such a good cause," says Khinchuk. "These kids have suffered a lot. Yet it's such an important thing to know that people can rebuild their lives, even people so young."

An Evening of Global Cuisine will take place February 16 at 808 Commonwealth Ave. Reservations are $45 and include a copy of The World Family Cookbook. For more information, call 353-9677.

To order The World Family Cookbook, send a check or money order for $25 plus $2 shipping and handling to Children of War in Africa, Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program at Boston University, 704 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02215. Include your name, street address, city, state, zip code, phone number, fax number, and e-mail address. For more information, call 353-9677 or e-mail ksenya@bu.edu. For more information about the Humphrey Fellowship Program, visit www.bu.edu/hhh.