Syria’s refugees are feeding the world
July 22, 2017 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Food has always been at the heart of Syrian identity, and for nearly a million refugees that is true in a new, sharper way. When homes are destroyed and families scattered, food is a rare constant. It can also be a means of survival. For those who have lost jobs and professional status, cooking is an easily transferable skill, so conflict tends to spread cuisines.
~ source article
posted by infini (13 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
One of the things I really hate about the usual framing in public discussion about refugees and immigrants is the idea that they are bringing nothing to the new country, that somehow it's all petitioning and taking and not an exchange between people and cultures.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:50 AM on July 22 [12 favorites]


Of course, it would be great if there were clearer ways for refugees (and immigrants, but especially refugees) to gain accreditation for their full skill sets. I'm glad people are able to open restaurants and feed (and clothing and house) themselves and their families by feeding other people, but it sounds like at least some of them would prefer to be the engineers, doctors, lawyers, academics, and so on that they spent their lives to this point training to be.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:58 AM on July 22 [8 favorites]


Nearly all lawyering wouldn't work, they don't even have a common law system in Syria. Academia does work in practice, if(f) they're highly published. The associations wouldn't have it for the engineers and doctors. One of my friends just hired a Syrian software guy to do software. So this complaint is a statement that there's cartels controlling a lot of professional work in America.
posted by hleehowon at 11:24 AM on July 22 [5 favorites]


at least some of them would prefer to be the engineers, doctors, lawyers, academics, and so on that they spent their lives to this point training to be

This makes me think of the Egyptian man who runs a (terrific! tasty!) small local restaurant specializing in Mediterranean-style foods. He trained as a veterinarian. Now his heart is breaking over the size of a lunch crowd.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:34 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]


Such an inspiring and uplifting post! Now I want to both try a lot of the recipes and organize a Syrian pop-up here.
Many years ago I went to Syria and didn't like it much, but the food was magnificent! I specially remember visiting a famous restaurant in a verdant courtyard where we had lots and lots of different dishes all very tasty, and everyone there was having such a nice time, eating family style. Don't remember the name of the restaurant, but I've often seen pictures of it in articles about Syria.
posted by mumimor at 1:29 PM on July 22


Coincidentally, I was out with my family driving around Prince Edward County (a 'cottage country' summer vacation area in Ontario) and we stopped in at a farmer's market in the village of Wellington. Sandwiched between a woodworker and a honeymaker was a Syrian family selling their food, with a local woman serving as the salesperson/intermediary. It was great to see a migrant family getting involved in the local economy (i.e., seasonal tourism), with what appeared to be the support of residents.

That said, I can relate to GenjiandProust's comment above, regarding the recognition of skills. My parents were highly-skilled migrants, and they had very different experiences in getting their skills recognized in Canada. Historically, lots of migrant cohorts in North America have used their culinary heritage as a resource for surviving the initial stages of migration, but it often means that it is only the second or third generation that achieve upward mobility into skilled trades and professions.
posted by LMGM at 3:04 PM on July 22 [3 favorites]


yeah I used to know a guy from Ecuador. a doctor, as in Dr. MedicalDoctor. working in construction in the US...
posted by supermedusa at 3:49 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]


One of the cashiers at my local Safeway is a Copt with degrees in Chemistry, Business Administration and Political Science. He speaks four languages fluently and can get by in several others. He doesn't seem unhappy with the work. Nice guy.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:00 PM on July 22 [2 favorites]


You have to re-qualify in medicine but in engineering if you have transcripts I think you'd just need to do your PE. Of course transcripts might be hard to come by. And lots of jobs just don't transfer well like lawyer or specialist in Syrian agriculture for example. If you fled with some money opening a restaurant is a good option and opening your own business opens a lot of immigration doors that being an employee doesn't. Many countries in Europe, if you have enough to start a business there, that's the easiest path to permanent residency and citizenship.
posted by fshgrl at 6:08 PM on July 22 [3 favorites]


My parents-in-law gave me a great Syrian recipe book this year that's part of a #cookforsyria fundraising thing. I admit I haven't cooked anything from it yet, but the recipes look delicious.
posted by lollusc at 11:35 PM on July 22


A lot of refugees are resettled in our part of Georgia. I have had a number of students who were already doctors, pharmacists, etc. in another country who are now coming back to take the pre-requisites for admission into the same program in the US. I'm always awed by the determination to pay to do the exact same coursework all over again because of a driving passion to help people, even the people in this country who can be so hostile to them.

I also get fed by a Syrian-American fairly often. He's an English professor who has the very best backyard garden I've ever seen, and it seems like he gives most of his produce away to his colleagues.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:35 AM on July 23 [7 favorites]


I am another beneficiary of Levantine cooking. I count among my blessings the regular hosting of dinner (including Iftar) by my colleague and his wife, both Syrians, as well as a delicious series of meals from a Syrian trainee and his wife as well as a Lebanese trainee and his wife.

It's no replacement for Damascus or Homs, but with a bellyful I make them all feel appreciated and at home.
posted by adoarns at 8:16 PM on July 23


in engineering if you have transcripts I think you'd just need to do your PE

You do not have to have a PE to be a practicing Engineer. It can open some doors, and is more important to Civil Engineers than most others, but it's really only required if you're personally signing off on projects or are acting as an expert witness.

The associations wouldn't have it for the engineers and doctors...So this complaint is a statement that there's cartels controlling a lot of professional work in America.

You don't think there should be professional oversight for doctors and engineers?
posted by kjs3 at 4:04 PM on July 25


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