WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – From 2007 to 2017, 48 of 116 refugees resettled in Winston-Salem were from Syria, according to an Associated Press statistic.
Aisha Al Masri and her husband Mohammad Jabor of Daraq, Syria, resettled with their five children in May 2016, fleeing the civil war.
The family first left their home in 2012 and resettled in Jordan in hopes of finding a new permanent home.
With the help of members of Knollwood Baptist Church and others in the community, the Muslim family began transitioning into their new lives in the United States.
“Diane, Sara, the group [are] very nice,” Aisha said.
On some occasions, Aisha and other refugee women would cook for members of the church. It was their way of saying ‘thanks.’
The church members were delighted with the food they made, filled with color and flavor, and recalling their roots back home in Syria.
It was then that Diane Lipsett, professor of Religion and Philosophy at Salem College and member of the church, realized that catering traditional Syrian meals would be a good way for the families to supplement their income.
From there came ‘Syrian Cuisine WS,’ the family’s first business in the U.S.
Aisha shared that she comes from a family of cooks and that she is actually used to cooking large meals for family and friends, which she did at least twice a week back in Syria.
“[In] Syria, every week maybe two day[s] or one day, [we had] big food,” Mohammad said, joking that it was like having Thanksgiving twice a week instead of once a year as we do in the U.S.
Mohammad, who works at the Salem College dining hall, also became involved, taking advantage of the skills he learned as a street food vendor in Syria, making Arabic favorites like hummus, falafel and kebabs.
“[I] don’t understand this,” Mohammad said pointing at Aisha’s beautiful and complex dishes.
According to Mohammad, he would make at least 100 falafel wraps in just one hour, and fifteen in a minute.
While Mohammad and Aisha handle the cooking, Diane and her friend Sara Pennell facilitate cooking class and catering opportunities around the Triad.
“Family, not friends,” Aisha said about how they view those that have helped them in their journey, such as Diane and Sara.
This week, Syrian Cuisine WS will be catering the Media Preview of ‘Frederic Church: A Painter’s Pilgrimage’ at Reynolda House.
Aisha and Mohammad said that in the future they would like to open their own restaurant serving the same delicious food that they prepare for catering for more people to eat.
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