In our “our Syria” recipe, women share stories to ensure food distribution.
Because millions of people have fled Syria, they have been unable to contact them on their travels. Families often have to give up reminding them to go home. So it’s very valuable to take them back to where they left off.
Dina Mousawi and Itab Azzam are the authors of a new recipe called “our Syria: recipes come from the family”. They interviewed Syrian refugees in Europe and the Middle East. The book collects their stories and recipes to remind them to go home.
Azzam grew up in Jordan, south-west Jordan, and moved to Britain six years ago. She is mostly a film producer and theater producer, not a professional chef, but food is what she takes up when she doesn’t work.
“I didn’t come to Britain as a refugee – I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to do my master’s degree in London,” said azam. “So I came here in September 2011, just a few months after the uprising… And I stayed.”
The following points have been edited for length and clarity.
I think my love for food became even greater when I moved to England, because I felt that cooking Syrian food was the only thing that kept me in touch. You have this sense of loss, and then only when you cook for yourself – when you grow up with food, you will feel the relief that you have almost brought back in this period of time.
What did she do when she felt homesick?
Here’s a dish called mleheyya, which is my Sweida restaurant in my hometown – it’s an hour south of Damascus – my mother has been cooking. It’s a hot yogurt sauce, turmeric, carmel Onions, potatoes and chicken. Every time I cook, it’s like I’m almost back in Syria with my mother.
Our Syria: collect Syrian refugee stories from home cookbooks, and remind them of recipes to go home.
People are resilient, life goes on, and in fact it’s a hope that we can move on. If not, then everything is gone. We have noticed Syrian refugees – they are really very resilient. They have hope and hope that the positive element of Syria is the only way we can get out of this darkness.
What is Syrian food?
It’s very similar to middle eastern food, but obviously Syria is really big and affected by different countries. So we were influenced by irak and Iran, from Turkey — and Syria on the silk road, so aleppo was affected by the far east, Asia and China. So we have a lot of food, and we use fruit, like sweet and sour — that doesn’t exist in any other middle eastern country.
If Syrian food can survive people leaving the country.
I don’t think it will go away. We’ve seen it with other countries – Lebanon is one example, they’ve had a long civil war, and people have to flee. Lebanese food is very active and thriving. When you say middle eastern food, people think of Lebanese food. So I don’t think the food in Syria is going to disappear, especially the syrians — wherever they go, they continue to cook, and they’ve been talking about it. Syrians are opening restaurants around the world, and that’s how we keep it.