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Tearfund Sept 06

Two East Sussex Christians have travelled the world to compile a recipe book with a difference …

Travelling through the Honduran rainforest in a dugout canoe on a daily diet of rice and beans can do strange things to people.

For Gordon and Brenda Wilkinson, it was the start of a two-year journey into territory more familiar to Delia Smith and Jamie Oliver. Quite a departure for two PhD science graduates. 
Says Brenda: “Eating rice and beans every day for over two weeks when we visited with Tearfund made us think about subsistence foods in other poor countries, and led us to the idea of producing a recipe book. But we wanted it to be a recipe book with a difference – a collection of recipes plus thought-provoking stories about the countries of origin and how Tearfund’s Christian partners are bringing hope to people there.”

It’s a journey that has prompted them to scour the length and breadth of the planet to compile a tasty collection of more than 40 recipes from Argentina to Zambia, including Spicy Bolivian Beef, Peruvian Prawn Chowder and Liberian Chicken Casserole, entitled Recipes for Disaster … Relief and Development.

The couple aim to raise more than £25,000 from book sales to aid Tearfund’s disaster relief work around the world.

“The title of the book certainly isn’t a comment on Brenda’s cooking,” says husband and co-author Gordon. “We’ve tested all the recipes and my particular favourites include one using the Burundian green banana, and the Bengali fish in mustard sauce.”

However, unlike most recipe books, the couple deliberately included one or two bland recipes to highlight what life is like in countries where food is limited.

Says Brenda: “We have visited Tearfund’s partners in Honduras, Colombia and Thailand and have been inspired by the way they are transforming lives and communities. Our hope is that before people tuck into a mouth-watering dish of Cambodian sticky rice and mango they will say a prayer for the people of that country.

“The problems they face are huge, but the love and compassion displayed by Tearfund’s church partners is making a real difference.”

The journey from idea to completion has been both challenging and amusing. Says Gordon: “We had a lot of fun translating some of the recipes where the computer suggested we use ‘worn out meat’ or ‘dangerous eggs’!

“I have to admit that we had one or two minor disasters whilst checking some of the recipes, necessitating a few long distance calls to check ingredients and methods, to which one Indian contact commented: ‘Why on earth do they want the amounts? Everybody knows how to make biriyani!’”

Perhaps the book’s most challenging test came earlier this month when more than 50 primary school children made and sampled Argentina’s equivalent to fish and chips, Burkina Faso’s take on rice pudding and a smoothie from Honduras.

“Eight-year-olds can be tough diners to please and after some initial reluctance I think they were won round,” says Gordon. The book received praise from the school for broadening the children’s horizons to their links with the wider world as well as expanding their palates.

Leonore Oxley, 8, a pupil at St Mary’s School in East Grinstead, said: “Children in poor countries are not as fortunate as us. It makes me grateful for what we have.”

And fellow pupil Cameron Henderson was clearly a fan of wabul, a banana and coconut smoothie from Honduras, “It’s lovely. We can help people by buying fairer things.”

Worshippers at St John’s Church, Felbridge, near East Grinstead, Gordon and Brenda have supported Tearfund for more than 20 years. Since selling their science publishing business in 2000, they have been volunteering almost full-time as Area Volunteer Co-ordinators (AVCs) for the charity – encouraging and enabling more than 100 other volunteers and supporters in the south-east.
•    Copies of Recipes for Disaster are available from or send a cheque for £7 payable to B Wilkinson at PO Box 78, East Grinstead RH19 2YW. At least £5 goes to Tearfund.
If you would like to know more about volunteering or supporting Tearfund, please visit; or call their enquiry line on 0845 355 8355.

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