Save the Date is a podcast about food, culture and conflict in Syria. The podcast tries to use Syrian food as means to promote interest in its culture, in respect of the county’s rich history that extends much farther than the current conflict. The project was a collaboration with Bernice Wong.
The first episode, which is about the importance of bread in Syrian culture, can be listened to below.
The title of the podcast is a reference to the fact that dates have been prominent in Syria for centuries, being depicted in even ancient Babylonian Assyrian tablets, and the date palm tree is one of the holy trees in Syria. Since the beginning of the war, agricultural production has decreased due to soil exhaustion and lack of condensed fertilizers. Syria’s irrigated land has decreased by 47 percent.
We initially started by using food served to refugees (bread and jam) disguised as regular food (spaghetti and steak) to generate empathy for refugees’ conditions. We hoped to conduct a food workshop where we would serve this disguised food, but soon realized that this would be something that would only have momentary impact on the participants and be limited to the small audience of the workshop.
Through a series of conversations with food experts—Ghinwa Alameen of syriancooking.com, chef Angelo Sosa, designer Ilona Coutarelli working for the United Nations Development Program and star chef Mike Anthony—we decided to broaden our scope and try to reach a larger audience in the form of a podcast.
The project was preceded by a class trip to upstate New York where we visited several local farmers, spoke with experts in food and urban planning, and agricultural experts to gain a holistic understanding of the role of food and the systems surrounding it. A detailed look at our trip upstate can be viewed here.