Food in times of war

The Takeaway

This story was originally covered by PRI’s The Takeaway. For more, listen to the audio above.

After spending seven years covering war in the Middle East, Annia Ciezado knows the power of food to bring people together and find some peace. The journalist considers this subject in her new book, “Day of Honey: a Memoir of Food, Love, and War.”

“I found that if I either ate, or particularly if I prepared food with people, that it was this automatic easy way to get them to open up.” Ciezado told PRI’s The Takeaway, “and it was something… just… it was uniquely fun and also it was uniquely accessible to me as a woman.  I could often sort of sit down with people and say, ‘Hey! Wow, how do you make that thing?’ And next thing you know, we’d be talking about their everyday grievances, talking about what they really felt about things. It was a very good icebreaker.”

Food’s capacity to create community was particularly evident during the Lebanese civil war, Ciezado recalls. “In Lebanon, you have to get these big sort of propane tank things — they don’t have municipal gas.  And so when that would run out, people would have to go to their local neighborhood bakery.” In these periods of gas shortages, the bakery became, as author Barbara Abdeni Massad put it, a hangout equivalent to an Irish or English pub.

The social nature of the Lebanese bakery had the potential to make the setting either a peaceful refuge or a battleground. Ciezado explains, “you would have people, maybe from rival militias, would meet each other and sort of suspend their conflict at the bakery, but it could also be a place of conflict — you would have militias would show up and take all the bread.”

The author recognizes that the power of food to bring people together can be idealized, but she celebrates its ability to remind citizens of more peaceful times and loved ones they have lost.


“The Takeaway” is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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