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A guide to Syrian food: we seek out the flavours



A guide to Syrian food: we seek out the flavours:
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 Back in the 1980s and 1990s, weekends in the Middle East fell on Thursday and Friday. “My mother would shake us awake just before dawn on Thursday mornings, while my father was finishing up his morning prayers,” says Dana Al Lozi, 39, recounting memories of a childhood growing up in Amman, Jordan, with her Palestinian father and Syrian mother. “We’d get dressed quickly and my brother and I would pile into the back seat with my parents. We’d listen to music by Fairouz for the three hours it took to drive from Amman to Damascus, where my grandmother would be waiting for us with the world’s best breakfast – two types of fatteh, swimming in hot ghee and pine nuts and a fava bean stew made in tahini sauce, and afterwards, the best halaweh with pistachios I’ve ever had. And the olives. So many types. The works.”  There was hardly any packing required for these weekend trips (just a small overnight bag), which always ended with a drive back to Amman on Friday afternoon.  “My father would insist that we bring no clutter with us at all, so we’d have as much space in the car as possible for all the food he always brought back with us. ‘Everything tastes better in Syria,’ he’d say. I think our weekend trips were more about the food than visiting my grandparents,” she recalls fondly.  Those days are long gone, laments Al Lozi, who is now a teacher in Amman. Weekend trips to Syria became a thing of the past when the strife began in 2011. She has never taken her children – five-year-old twin boys – to her mother’s homeland, which she says is “unnatural”.  “For a while, we had to make do without the fresh produce we had become so reliant on. We used to bring back sacks of sweet peas, broad beans, white beans, artichokes, green beans, all fresh and all ready to pack into our freezers, and that’s just the vegetables. We’d bring back everything, whether fresh bread or pantry items or frozen food or meat pastries from my father’s favourite butcher. Seriously, there’s nothing in the world like Syrian food.”  It’s a sentiment that has been echoed right across the Middle East for millennia. Syrian food has a special something, and although the quintessential dishes of the Levant are largely similar, Syrian cuisine has a particular reputation for finesse.  Much more than just sustenance, for Syrians, food is a reflection of a rich and diverse culture that has been forged and blended through years of conquests, migrations and trade, and which brings together the dishes of so many cultures: Arabs and Turks, Circassians and Armenians, Kurds and Assyrians. For Syrians, food is an expression of multiculturalism and a source of pride.  According to a report by the United Nations, more than four million Syrians have fled the country since 2011. Of those, there are well over a million in Jordan, and where Syrians go, good food follows.  With the war in Syria preventing tourists and food-lovers travelling there, Amman has become the closest hub for sampling Syria’s cui
#A guide, #Syrian food, #we seek out, #flavours

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