In Homs, Residents Make ‘Siege Food’ with Turtle Meat, Weeds

In besieged areas of the city, residents have created wartime recipes including a dough made of seeds and dishes that use birds instead of meat.

Written bySyria Untold Published on May. 1, 2014 Read time Approx. 3 minutes
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A two-year government siege of Homs city has led people here to eat things they would have never imagined, with reports of civilians in the hardest-hit neighborhoods eating horse feed and herbs grown on rooftops.

In April 2014, a new Facebook page called “Siege Food” was launched from the city, focusing on how, in the face of a government blockade of food aid into rebel-held areas, residents have been cooking with unusual ingredients like turtles and wild weeds that grow on the streets.

Some of the posts are jokingly titled “Ten Caliber Steadfast Savory Breads,” “Pressure Cooker: The Friend of the Siege,” “Homsian Burger” and “Siege Sweets.”

The founder of the Facebook page, who chooses to remain anonymous, said that when the old city’s stocks of basic items like wheat and rice were nearly depleted last year, “we started thinking about how to transform anything and everything into food. We started with street weeds because as they say, need is the mother of invention.”

Residents began experimenting with what they had, creating their own unique “siege dishes.” The popular “Ten Caliber Siege Savory Breads” are apparently made from a dough not of wheat but “crushed seeds,” mixed with oil.

He says that residents of rebel-held Homs wanted to launch the page to share their culinary techniques with others in besieged areas of Syria who might need them.

The page publishes the recipes and preparation suggestions of the so-called siege dishes, most of which are made from herbs, nontoxic plants, birds, turtles or insects: ingredients that once-prosperous Syrians would have never imagined eating before the war. After describing how to catch and slaughter turtles, the Facebook page says, “boil the meat and add Indian apricots or figs, or simply make a soup.”

“And by the way,” the instructions add, “turtle meat is very delicious.”

“Hunger breaks down all barriers,” says the founder of the page. “Everyone here eats this food. Nothing is strange about it. It’s become very normal.”

But do their new sources of food, the animals, birds and herbs of their immediate environment, stand the chance of depletion?

“We don’t worry about that because every time we think that there are no more sources of food, God provides us with something we hadn’t noticed before,” the founder says. “No one imagined that we would eat street weeds. No one imagined that Indian apricots could be cooked. From now until the trees are naked, no one can guess what we might think of to eat next.”

Since the start of the conflict three years ago, Homs has been an opposition stronghold and its residents known for having a sense of humor. “Today’s dish is fancy: meat,” reads one recent post. “Well, one little bird is more like a spice than it is like a piece of meat.”

Says another: “The grape leaves are scared to grow because they don’t want to suffer the same fate that befell the mulberry leaves.” Adds the founder, “We may not have rice or bulgur, but we still have our beloved Nescafe.”

This post originally appeared on Syria Untold.