Syrian Refugee Mawda Altayan Has Found Community in St. Louis Through Her Food
By: Sara Bannoura | September 27, 2019
In the dark, intimate, black and gold dining room at The W Karaoke Lounge in University City, Missouri, I saw my entire childhood in Palestine spread out across a table. These days, only a handful of things connect me with my youth: Arabic, my first language; the random artifacts around my Maplewood home; and Middle Eastern food, specifically dishes from the Levant.
That evening, I could smell the charred eggplant in the baba ghanoush and the nutty, smoky freekeh topped with juicy braised lamb. I could see dishes decorated with fresh herbs and toasted nuts, taking me back to big family gatherings over the holidays. I could taste memories.
For the first time in six years, I felt connected to my culture in St. Louis – and I owed it all to Mawda Altayan, who catered the night’s meal. The chef behind the dinner series is one with a lengthy journey: It starts with a story of a refugee and ends with a movement to empower and build bridges in a new community.