In Toronto, the taste of Syria

Liam Mahoney for M The World Magazine

From Chloé Aeberhardt

True to its multicultural reputation, the Canadian metropolis accommodates many Syrian refugees. Makdous, fatteh, shawarmas … They try their tasty gastronomy, invent a future far from the war.

At the descent of the bus the procession had something fun: fourteen women wrapped in black, jackets, scarves, gloves, wool hats, hijabs. It took all the necessary to cope with the cold of this biting morning of February 2016. Since their arrival in Toronto a few weeks ago, these Syrian refugees had not paid the hotel by the government, not far from the airport. Some had never taken the metro of their lives, let alone taking an escalator, or seen the snow that covered the sidewalks on the sidewalks and made their walk hesitant.

But as soon as they entered the kitchen, where stoves and provisions were waiting for them, fear fell with their coats and coats. "They unhooked their shawls, ripped off their coats, and threw themselves on the shopping bags, and ten minutes later they were laughing and singing.It was a miracle, these women were cooking and they were coming back to life." Cara Benjamin-Pace works at the Depanneur, an incubator of restaurants that makes her kitchen in the center available to Syrian refugees one day a week. She runs this project, called Newcomer Kitchen, "cooking newcomers".

A recognized kitchen

On this day of October 2018, the zucchini caviar and fatayers with musakhan, small slippers of bread dough filled with a preparation based on chicken, onions and sumacoeder, a red berry to taste slightly astringent acid. For five thousand years, gastronomy has been an essential part of Syrian culture. "Damascus and Aleppo are the culinary capitals of the Levant"says Len Senater, a passionate forty-year-old chef who left his marketing agency to found The Depanneur in 2011.

The Depanneur welcomes Syrian refugees who prepare dishes that are sold online (here, Ghana, Alabdullah and Ahd Alobi).
The Depanneur welcomes Syrian refugees who prepare dishes that are sold online (here, Ghana, Alabdullah and Ahd Alobi). Liam Maloney for M The World Magazine

It is in Syria that women prepare the most sophisticated regional specialties, such as malty, young aubergines stuffed with a mixture of nuts, garlic, Aleppo pepper and marinated in olive oil. In Damascus alone there are twenty-five different types of kebbeh, these dumplings stuffed with meat and seasoned with herbs and spices. "If you are an Egyptian, you better take a Syrian woman", advises a regional proverb – a very sexist devotion. "Women in Syria put a lot of creativity, enthusiasm and know-how in the kitchen, because they do not always have the opportunity to invest elsewhere"Len Senater continues.