Meghan Markle is starting Thanksgiving early.
As Meghan — wearing a dress and coat by Club Monaco with ankle boots by Givenchy (her wedding dress designer!) — walked to the door of the Al Manaar Community Center, she was greeted with a warm embrace by Zaheera Sufyaan from the Hubb Kitchen and Abdurahman Sayed, head of the Al Manaar Heritage Center.
The cookbook has sold more than 40,000 copies in the U.K., and raised $270,000 so far in the seven weeks since it went on sale. It’s sold tens of thousands more in international sales.
Now, instead of just two days a week, the Hubb Community Kitchen is open for seven. The kitchen is also now preparing 200 meals a day, which are delivered to local groups, including elderly people’s homes, homeless shelters and women’s refuges.
Meghan, 37, wanted to see how the funds from the cookbook are being put to good use — the kitchen has already been completely redesigned and re-fitted.
The new facilities provide “a safe and professional space for the women to cook, gather and run activities within their community,” Meghan’s office at Kensington Palace says.
On Wednesday, she also heard how the women are now embarking on their own projects including supporting a group affected by domestic violence, running a program to deliver freshly cooked meals for women in maternity wards, and a project to produce healthy treats for children.
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Meghan told one group of women, “It starts from one idea and from this one idea starts so much. I’m so proud of you.”
She added, “It hasn’t been a year yet. From that standpoint, what you have achieved in that short space of time — it’s really exciting.”
Kitchen coordinator Zaheera Sufyaan told reporters that Meghan has visited the kitchen privately on several occasions and bonded with the women “really well.”
“She’s down to earth and she’s come and supported the project. She’s part of the group,” Sufyaan says of the Duchess of Sussex.
On Wednesday, Meghan put on an apron (and even cradled her baby bump over it!), rolled up her sleeves and helped cook some vegetables and rice. She then helped the women pack 300 meals for the local community.
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Those involved in the kitchen are “very grateful” to Meghan for the spotlight she’s put on them.
“The women are very inspired, they have their own cuisines and recipes and everything’s brought together and made this project,” says Sufyaan.
Grandmother Intlak Alsaiegh, 62, who is the project manager for the over-55s at the Al Manaar center, described Meghan as “so simple and so welcoming” — and a natural with children.
She recalls, “People on the team had their kids from time to time, and she always put the kids on her lap. And she sit down to hug them, and she said, ‘I love kids.’ I said, ‘For what you did for us, Allah will give you the baby.’ We are so happy.”
Now that she’s a full-fledged member of the British royal family, some fans wondered if she was planning to ring in Thanksgiving at the palace.
Last year, Meghan celebrated the holiday with her mom, Doria Ragland, back in her hometown of Los Angeles, California. One year — and one royal title— later, the Duchess of Sussex is now across the pond for one of her favorite days of the year (the proof is in her turkey brining skills!).
There’s no official royal rule stating that she can’t observe the American holiday. And since Meghan made a point to incorporate several American touches into her royal wedding to Prince Harry in May, it’s likely that the new royal will bring a little Thanksgiving flavor to their palace home.
She and Harry also don’t have any planned outings on the festive day — which frees her up for Thanksgiving Day preparations.