At Eat Offbeat, they create dishes that offer a link to the past and some hope for the future.
Carmen’s kitchen once looked out upon a municipal garden full of flowering fruit trees in a working-class quarter of Aleppo. Then, in 2012, the Syrian civil war erupted and, with it, life as Carmen had known it ended. The garden was destroyed, its beds torn up by repeated bombings. The kitchen may still be standing, but Carmen isn’t in it. She’s joined the 11.4 million Syrians forced from their homes by the brutal war. Those who have managed to get out are the lucky ones, and many of them—most of them—will never see Aleppo again.
To be driven from one’s home means to leave behind not only all that is familiar, but also all the combinations of familiar things that make home feel like home. It is impossible to catalog all that is lost. It is not just the window; it is the view. It is not just the stove—Carmen had recently saved up to buy a new one when she had to flee the city with her husband and two young daughters—but the particles of dust dancing in the steam from the kettle every afternoon.
Now the Aleppo she knew is gone. What was once a many-hued identity, built over millennia of trade as the terminus of the Silk Road, is known now through its absence. One of the innumerable things that has been erased is the subtlety and richness of what Aleppo was—namely, the best food city on earth.