Syrian refugee hopes her cookbook bridges cultures

Cooking is second nature to Mayada Anjari. But speaking English? She is still getting the hang of that. Yet just a little more than two years after she came to the United States as a Syrian refugee, Anjari is the author of a new cookbook whose recipes she hopes will help bridge cultures.

The cookbook's title is The Bread and Salt Between Us. Anjari explained that saying those words to someone means that you are like family.

The story behind the cookbook starts at Rutgers Presbyterian Church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The church sponsored Anjari and her family, and three other families, when they came to New York in 2016. The Anjaris were forced to flee Syria years before that.

Soon after her family settled, Anjari invited the church staff that had helped them to a dinner at their home. Nancy Muirhead, who runs the New Americans Committee for the church, attended the dinner. She said Anjari is a fabulous cook and that the dinner was a wonderful "thank you."

After that meal came a series of sold-out dinners at the church that allowed Anjari to generate some income to support her family. Then someone suggested she write a cookbook. She said she was excited and jumped on the idea.

Lake Isle Press agreed to publish the book, and a professional cookbook writer and interpreter offered to volunteer their time to help.

Proceeds will go to Anjari's family and to the church's New American Committee so that other refugees can find the success she has been able to find in New York. Anjari said she is so happy and thankful to everyone who helped.

The Bread and Salt Between Us is available now.

Rutgers Church is holding a book signing with Anjari on Sunday, September 9, at 1:30 p.m.