Welcome to Savoring Syria: Documenting the Syrian Kitchen in Exile, a special story-telling project dedicated to stories of Syria and Syrians through the lens of food. Here, you’ll find complex human experiences entwined in a rich culinary, cultural and political history, and the recipes from Syria that sustain them.
Dalia Mortada, the creator of Savoring Syria, is a Syrian-American freelance journalist based in Turkey since 2011. She initially moved to Istanbul with the intention of continuing on to her family’s hometown of Damascus after the nation-wide protests calmed down. There, she hoped to cover the Syria behind the headlines of political discord and violence by telling intimate human stories of Syria’s rich history and culture. But as Syria’s protests plunged into all-out war, Dalia’s focus shifted to humanizing the war coverage in nuanced ways, and five years after the Syrian uprising began, Savoring Syria was born.
Savoring Syria does more than tell the stories of Syrians scattered across the globe and within their own homeland. By using food as a way of understanding the deep impact of war and displacement, Savoring Syria also celebrates a vibrant Syrian culture so rarely talked about, from one of the most intimate places: the kitchen.
It’s easy for the word “Syria” to warp into a place of distant horror and hardship in our minds. After all, that’s most of what we’ve seen since 2011: bombs and blood, scenes of an exodus of biblical proportions, poverty and suffering. These are daily realities for Syrians, but so are a huge range of other experiences, so much more complex than the simple narrative of “victim” or “hero”, that often start in the kitchen and continue at the dining table. Food is the lifeline of Syrian culture, easily defined by almost boundless generosity, as can be witnessed in the mounds of food piled high for any given guest. For Syrians, a friendship isn’t truly established until “bread and salt” are shared.
Until recently, Syrians have largely lived inside Syria, in homes passed down through generations – much like their recipes. But in recent years the conflict has displaced half of Syria’s population, driving at least a quarter of its people from Syria itself, leading to the largest exodus of refugees since World War II. They have packed with them the bare minimum in terms of physical items – always a smart phone and an extra pair of socks, maybe some photos or the keys to their house in Syria. They carry with them in abundance their culture: their language, their arts and, crucially, their food.
Some of the stories you can listen to. Others, you’ll read. We’ll show you the people we befriend and the food they make in photos and sometimes video. And with these tales we’ll present to you recipes, so you can taste the flavors of Syria – the tastes Syrians want you to enjoy with them – right from home.