Ever since the devastating earthquake in Haiti, I’ve felt it quite frivolous to go about daily tasks such as recipe developing, recipe testing and writing about the intricate details and characteristics of food while an entire island nation of people suffer from lack of the most basic necessities: shelter, water food and medical attention.
As I write this, people are still in desperate need of medical supplies, medical care, food, water and shelter. With over 150,000 dead and hundreds of thousands of homeless in Haiti, it makes for an important reminder of all the blessings Allah (swt) has bestowed on each and every one of us who is easily able to answer the question, “what’s for dinner”?
We can answer with a ride to the grocery store, a multitude of lavish choices upon arrival, followed by an exchange of cash for goods. The people of Haiti barely have a single one of these choices. Without stores selling, and what there is to be sold is selling at exorbitant prices, the people simply go without. In many cases, cash is useless.
Even before the earthquake, there was such extreme poverty in the country that many Haitians, especially homeless children, were forced to eat mud cakes in order to stay alive. I know this because two years ago I taught my junior high students current events. They learned that Haitians were making cakes out of mud and water to sell and to eat in order to survive. The kids were so moved by this story that they organized a bake sale to raise funds, which were in turn sent to help the Haitians rise out of their destitute situation.
Imagine that being a reality before the earthquake.
It is my hope that after so much media attention wanes we will not forget how many lives have been altered by such a catastrophic event and that each person suffering will most likely need a helping hand in one way or another.
Whatever you can do- big or small- please do it. If you don’t have the financial means, use the power of du’a (supplication, prayer) to ask Allah (swt) to give the Haitians what they need and what is best for them to make it through another day.
As I watch the suffering of the Haitians, many other natural catastrophic events, and the destruction of the environment, I’m reminded of my grandparents and great grandparents who suffered through poverty, war, and times of famine, yet they lived to tell about it. One of the most basic staples everyone knew how to make was bread. It was equated with survival then and before then and still is a basic survival food in every culture around the world in some shape or form.
Basic Foccacia Bread
This is a basic recipe for foccacia bread (an Italian flat bread). I’ve memorized it, not because I’ve made it so many times or because it’s so versatile, but simply because I’ve always felt it necessary to know the recipe without relying on a cookbook. Made from flour, yeast, water, oil, and salt- five ingredients that sustains us and fills our stomachs in times of excess, but also in times of need, alhamdullilah.
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (+ more, as needed)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil + more, as needed)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1. In the bowl of a food processor or stand mixer, drop the yeast into the warm water. Let proof for about ten minutes.
2. Add only 1/2 cup of flour along with the salt and pulse the processor or use the dough hook of the mixer to blend thoroughly.
3. Add the rest of the flour and the olive oil and mix well until you have a ball of dough that is not sticky, but is smooth and elastic.
4. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise for about one hour, or until it has doubled in size.
5. On a floured counter or flat surface punch out the dough to form either a large circle or rectangular shape. Place onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper or a cotton towel.
6. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
7. Using the teeth of a fork, poke holes all over the dough. Then, using the pad of your fingers, poke the dough lightly in various places to form indentations. Cover with a towel and allow the dough to rest for another 30 minutes or until it has risen.
8. Using a pastry brush, rub the extra oil all over the surface of the bread dough.
9. Place the bread into the hot oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until is a golden brown on top. Be careful not to overcook or it will become very hard.
Serve as a flat bread with olive oil for dipping or make additions to the dough before baking (i.e. cheese, cooked ground meat, thinly sliced veggies)