Introducing The Sussex Squad Cooking Club: Connecting Through Food.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of food? Getting together, tantalizing smells, satisfaction, unique recipes and so much more. This is probably what fueled two Sussex Squad members to come up with the Sussex Squad Cooking Club, an online cooking and baking community.
In case you are just stumbling on this and didn’t know of the Sussex Squad, well, this is a global community of supporters of the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan. And while a significant amount of time has already been spent calling out the racial abuse that the Duchess has unnecessarily suffered since becoming Prince Harry’s wife, it’s not only this justified outrage that fuels the squaddies.
Guendolyn and Furqan thought of something else that will bring everyone who is pro-Meghan together and in a way that is not entirely unique. Food has been very much a tool for healing that Meghan has used in the past and very recent past. We are well aware of the Together Cookbook that registered and continues to register so much success in sales. And so to understand more why these two ladies chose the cooking club route, I caught up with them for this interview.
Hi Guendolyn and Furqan, it’s such an honor to interview you two on this amazing Sussex Squad Cooking Club Project you just started! Could you kindly share with us what influenced the project and what it’s all about?
Furqan: Our friend Guendolyn came up with the idea and was the initial organizer. She asked for someone to help, I immediately volunteered and was honored when she said yes. I like baking and I am a supporter of Meghan. Furthermore, I consider the Sussex Squad to be more of family so doing something like this to bring our community together is really amazing.
Guendolyn: Online, I am known as Guendolyn but my real name is Ilaria. It’s funny because I think this project birthed itself and without much personal effort or planning! Let me explain;
I was scrolling my twitter line and found this funny post of @MaadHureeS who was trying some Harry and Meghan biscuit stamps and she said jokingly that our #sussexsquad needed a cooking club.
Well, I simply retweeted asking “#cookclub anyone?” and you won’t believe, 14 people were enthusiastic! So I just created an email thinking of a blog then asked for help because I had some issues creating one (I have an Italian blog dedicated to Meghan and I couldn’t figure out how to create another one with another email address).
Furqan helped me start the blog, then @Love_duchess_of_Sussex came to help with Social Media and started Instagram…in just a single afternoon! That night, I didn’t sleep because I was suddenly watching this idea growing and growing and I didn’t know how I could handle this. I didn’t know how I could set up a nice blog, the design issues, how to divide the recipes, writing in English (I’m Italian), how to ensure I still had time with my family bla bla bla…. But then I quickly realized that I was just a ripple in a wave movement. I’m just a part of it. I took the first step and the wave created itself.
So I slept very well the next night knowing I’m surrounded by amazing women who came to help (like @forumsmeghan with the blog design) and who are contributing with their amazing recipes, stories and suggestions. I’m humbled because every contribution is an enormous gift. We are a community and we are already proving it.
The project is in fact about sharing. We share recipes and the stories behind them. As Meghan said in the presentation of the cookbook, Together.
“The power of food is more than the meal itself, it’s the story behind it, when you get to know the story, you get to know the person behind it”
Indeed, this is so true! As an Italian, 95% of our national conversation is often about food, not kidding! Through these conversations, we get to share our experiences, our individual lives, our stories and the legacy we are given by our ancestors. I can’t wait to share this on a global scale. We have so much to learn about each other and I hope this blog will serve as a repository of our better selves because our favorite food is always connected to our deepest moments of joy and that is the best feeling for humans.
On a lighter note, I don’t expect fancy recipes. I only expect that recipe that makes you feel good and you getting to share that moment with us.
A lot of stories are often told through food than we would care to normally admit. Are there any stories in particular you would like to tell with the different recipes of food given that Sussex Squaddies are spread across literally all continents?
Furqan: Personally, I would like to tell the stories of the squad through food and how we all came together to defend Meghan as a family. I was really inspired by her idea of the Hubb Kitchen. As a result, we have also came together to share recipes and spread love through food.
Guendolyn: I have many stories connected to my favorite recipes; Simple and domestic moments. Some of them are funny like how I was nicknamed by my husband “meatball-burner” (not all roses in the kitchen) because I come from a big Italian family where everyone was cooking and the little one (me), had less technique than other members in certain things (cookers always occupied! Not my fault!).
Another recipe/story I can’t wait to share is filled zucchini flowers because I learnt how and when to pick these flowers myself. I used to wake up early in the mornings before they twisted and closed otherwise my mum wouldn’t be able to fill them up and prepare my favorite dish! I think these moments give hints about our cultures, our lives and also our personalities! Imagine how much we can learn…
Any future plans to turn this into a business or charitable cause perhaps?
Furqan: I would really like it if we could be able to do some charitable work through this little project one day. But for now, we are mainly focused on spreading the word and getting as many people as possible involved in the project.
Guendolyn: If this project grows and someone helps us in this direction (I have zero experience in publishing or other things, I struggle to find the buttons on my own blog!) we definitely want a charitable future project with all the money made donated to Harry and Meghan’s charities.
With the Together Cookbook’s success which also happens to be the Duchess of Sussex’s first solo project in her royal days, would you also like to curate all the recipes received and turn them into a Cookbook as well?
Furqan: That would be such a great idea! I hope that one day we can be able to do that in honor of Meghan.
Guendolyn: If there will ever be a book then I would like the entire community involved in the choice of the recipes and little things connected, even making little polls, don’t’ know, we’ll figure it out… It’s really too soon to think about this, one thing at a time. I’m sure #sussexsquad will help us in making the right decisions.
What sparked your interest in cooking, what are your favorite dishes and why?
Furqan: My interest in cooking (especially baking) goes back to many years ago. When I was a teen, I decided to bake a birthday cake for my mom so I started watching cooking shows & reading cooking books to learn how to do it. I tried a lot of the recipes and as everyone liked them I got encouraged to bake some more. I bake regularly since then.
Guendolyn: Well, my entire culture is founded on food. My parents have a huge orchard and are practically self sufficient. They grow everything and also keep animals. Every occasion in the year is characteristically connected to food and also some sort of food rituals. And let me say it: I like eating, so my DNA is basically food-oriented!
I’m not a pro, but I like it and have fun cooking! I’m also happy that I’m not food-culture-closed. In Italy, that is really common and stems from growing in an environment where you are taught that you must cook this way, you must eat that, this is good/this is not. I don’t mind trying new things and I’m looking forward to this blog expanding my knowledge on food further. My DNA comes out only if I see a pineapple pizza. That is the only taboo I maintained! You CAN’T do that.
I have several favorite dishes. One is obviously filled zucchini flowers. Another is definitely “pasticcio alle melanzane”. Think of a lasagna but without meat and filled with grilled aubergines, cheese, tomato sauce and besciamella…. delicious!!! Sadly, nobody in my family (husby and daughter) likes aubergines, so I can’t cook it just for me. But for my birthday, my mum cooks an entire tray for me. I then cut it, store in the freezer in pieces and defrost when I’m depressed and I enjoy my hot and smoking endorfines.
Guendolyn’s sister’s super-secret-recipe cheesecake
And my favourite cake? Shall I tell you how it took to me several years of begging to have my sister’s super-secret-cheesecake-recipe? Well… I can’t wait to post it on the blog with a worldwide audience… oooooh sweet revenge…
To share your recipe with the Sussex Squad Cooking Club, visit their About Page for instructions on how to do it.