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Monthly Chef Q&A: Majida Hamdo

This week, we are bringing you a Q&A with one of our chefs, Majida Hamdo, who travelled to Canada from Latakia with her family in 2016. 

Can you describe what your life in Syria was like before the war, and what you miss most about it?

My life in Syria before the war was very easy and wonderful. I was a student at the university and I was building my own project, which was a school to teach children. I have a big family and many friends.

How did you feel during your first weeks and months in Canada?

I arrived in Canada on June14th 2016, during the first weeks and months I was feeling lonely and nostalgic for my country, my home, my friends and everything in Syria. I found myself in a new culture, customs and traditions completely different from mine, and it was not easy for me to integrate into a different and multicultural society.

It’s very difficult to move to a new country without any roots, family or immediate job prospects at hand. How did you navigate this period and come out the other side smiling?

I was always afraid and I wondered if I would have a job and friends? Will I be able to have a social life again? But when I started working in Tayybeh kitchen and had friends there that I see every day, I was sure that I would be able to build a social life. It might be different from the one I had in Syria, but with certainty it will be wonderful. 

What is your favourite dish to make?

Peas with meatballs stew is my favourite dish, because it is the first dish I cooked. I was 13 years old. 

What would you say sets Syrian food apart from other Middle Eastern cuisines?

In my opinion, the Syrian cuisine is distinguished by the variety of the dishes, the old traditional dishes, the types of appetizers, the many salads, grills, kibbeh, and drinks such as blackberry syrup, Qamaruddin syrup, licorice and Tamarind, and the famous and well-known Syrian sweets in the world.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about Syrian food? 

The biggest misunderstanding about Syrian food is that everyone thinks that it is fatty and unhealthy. But when they try it, they discover that it is very healthy, because most of it is cooked with olive oil.

What is the most popular dish you have at Tayybeh?

Probably the beehive. People love it very much because it has a beautiful shape and made of soft and crisp dough stuffed with cheese, mint and olives.

If you could only cook with one ingredient, what would it be and why?

Potato, as I consider myself a potato lover! I can make more than one plate with this ingredient only.

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