Rebuilding in a New Home
A Syrian kitchen (and family) comes to town
For Abdullatif Dalati, hospitality runs in the family. When he was a child, his father owned a restaurant in Syria, their home country. Dalati later took over ownership, expanding the business to four restaurants in Aleppo and Alrka. “The Syrian kitchen is famous all over the world!” he says through an interpreter.
“We were very famous there,” explains his wife, Fatima. The restaurant’s most popular dish was minced meat called a kebob, although not like the commonly known shish kebobs in the U.S.
In 2014, Abdullatif, Fatima and their six children fled Syria for Turkey. They applied for refugee status with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and requested resettlement through the U.S. State Department. Kentucky Refugee Ministries, Inc. (KRM) welcomed them to Louisville in July 2015.
From their kitchen in Louisville, the children share cell phone pictures of family meals their parents have made since resettling in a new home. Typically, a traditional Syrian breakfast is comprised of bulgur, minced meat and spices. “There are more than six different kinds of preparation for this,” Abdullatif says. “Oh, and the stuffed chicken!” he exclaims, smiling and closing his eyes. “These foods — they remind me of my homeland.”
To find the ingredients they need for traditional Syrian recipes, the family sometimes has to visit multiple grocery stores. Their home is full of kitchenware, partly due to the support of the Muslim Community Center, which created a co-sponsorship team to collaborate with Kentucky Refugee Ministries in welcoming
the family. Before the Dalati family arrived, the team gathered furnishings and household items for their rental house. “We did buy a lot more kitchen items!” Fatima says, gesturing to utensils and appliances.
Their oldest daughters Malak and Noor are learning from their parents. Abdullatif adds that their son Abdulrazzak serves as the family’s judge: “He has a good taste in food! He can tell what is good, what is bad.”
People are encouraging Abdullatif to open a Syrian restaurant in Louisville one day, he says. “This is one of my goals,” he says. “I need to be financially stable first.” Last fall, he began his first job in the U.S., working full-time at Ingram Micro, an electronics company. His third-shift hours allow him to help his family of eight, he says.
Already, Abdullatif is cooking for different crowds, inviting new friends to his home to share a meal. He cooked for over 30 at a Syrian community gathering and at another event at the Westport Road Islamic Center, he barbecued. “Eastern food, Western food ... I can prepare this!” he says. “It is a victory for me, seeing how happy people are with the food.”
Christine Gosney is a proud member of the Kentucky Refugee Ministries staff in Louisville.
Kentucky Refugee Ministries (KRM) resettled the first Syrian refugees in Louisville in February 2015. Since then, a total of 100 Syrians have arrived through KRM, mostly families coming from Turkey and Jordan, where they lived either in refugee camps or in cities.
The U.S. pledged to resettle 10,000 Syrians over the next year and 85,000 refugees in total. For 25 years, KRM has been welcoming refugees to Kentucky. Each year, KRM serves over 1,200 refugees and migrants through comprehensive services to support their self-sufficiency and community integration.
For more information about Kentucky Refugee Ministries: KYRM.org.
SOUP FOR SYRIA
Soup. Uttering that word can make you feel warm, loved, safe. When we want to comfort and nourish those around us, soup is what we turn to.
When Lebanon resident and author Barbara Abdeni Massaad wanted to do something to aid the Syrian families in the refugee camp near her home, she began with soup. Every weekend, she and her husband began cooking gallon upon gallon of soup to bring to the camp. Her friends saw what she was doing and joined them. Feeling like she should do more, Massaad turned to her friend and publisher Michel Moushabeck.
Moushabeck suggested that they combine efforts to have a greater impact. With Massaad’s background as a food writer and TV host and Moushabeck’s experience as publisher and editor, the logical choice was a cookbook. The two of them began making phone calls, requesting recipes from friends and acquaintances.
The result is Soup for Syria, a collection of over 80 lavishly photographed soup and stew recipes. [Visit ediblelouisville.com for four recipes] The international family of contributors includes celebrity chefs and authors such as Paula Wolfert, Alice Waters, Mark Bittman, Yotam Ottolenghi, and Anthony Bourdain. All the proceeds from the book’s sale go the United Nations Refugee Agency UNHCR. — Mary Reilly
SYRIAN REFUGEE CRISIS
»» There are over 4.6 million registered Syrian refugees
»» Nearly 8 million Syrians are internally displaced.
»» Thousands of Syrians continue to flee their country every day.
»» Half of all Syrian refugees are under the age of 18. Most have been out of school for many months.
»» More than half of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million is in desperate need of urgent humanitarian assistance.