It was almost six years ago that I was introduced to the one who I now affectionately describe as a “force of nature”- Souad Sharabani. At the time we needed someone to help direct the kitchen at our Monday Drop-In and Souad was willing. Since then she has transformed the way we cook, convinced our community to “eat their vegetables” and become a very good friend.

Souad was born in the Middle East, has lived and travelled all over the world and now speaks five languages. When Souad is not at The Dale she is an independent radio-documentary producer who explores politics and social/cultural trends, a blogger and more recently a published cook book author (check out Scents of Memory). Souad adores her family and shares pictures and stories of them whenever she can. Her cooking is largely influenced by her travels, rich in flavour and extremely healthy. In fact, her food is so full of herbs and spices that we have dramatically cut down on everyone’s salt intake in the drop-in because the food just doesn’t need it.

When things got bleak at PNC (now The Dale) Souad remained present. I remember dreaming together about how to make things work beyond our impending homelessness. We found an alternate location for the Monday meal and Souad adjusted to cooking in a much smaller space, one where we learned to use glorified hot plates to prepare food for more people than we ever had to in our former industrial kitchen. The group of community volunteers has become a real team under Souad’s leadership. She quietly and consistently works to show them her appreciation, constantly recognizing that it is collectively their kitchen.

Souad has always been straight up with me, something I appreciate. I know when she is mad, concerned or pleased. She has endlessly listened to me. We have enjoyed homemade bread and tea at her kitchen table, walks with her beloved dogs and many a coffee with LOTS of milk.

When Souad isn’t in the kitchen, we all miss hearing her call us either ‘Angels’ or ‘Munchkins’, her colourful language and the way she dances to Motown blaring on the stereo. When Souad is in a room you can’t help but notice her dynamic presence. Six years in, we are incredibly grateful for that presence. Souad, thank you for everything: your fierce loyalty to The Dale, your friendship, your food and all the love that you show through it. Here’s to many more years.

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