Hi! My name is Antonio José Tahhan — I was born in Venezuela to a Middle Eastern family and grew up in Miami. Conversations at home were a mix of English, Spanish, and Arabic. The question, “where are you from?” never had a quick answer for me, but food was how I understood my identity.
In 2010, I received a Fulbright research grant to Syria where I studied lunch. Stories that started with a recipe ended in a million personal revelations. I spent nine months in tiny kitchens listening to women who showed me the value of an afternoon rolling grape leaves.
Food is a natural vehicle for cultural exchange. My Fulbright experience taught me that representation and being able to share your own story matters. Over the last ten years, I’ve continued to expand on my initial research by hosting pop-up dinners, cooking classes, and writing about Syria’s rich culinary heritage.
More recently, I launched a web series called “Teta Thursdays: a virtual conversation on food, culture, and identity.” Each week, I interview fellow food writers and researchers about their work. I’m also working on a documentary project that tells the story of how Syrians in the diaspora use food as a way to reconstruct home and a sense of identity.
This fall, I look forward to starting graduate studies in anthropology at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University. The Fulbright Program is a fantastic opportunity to explore research and teaching interests abroad. Given the devastating situation in Syria today, I am forever grateful to the Fulbright Program for supporting my research and for entrusting me to be a cultural ambassador between the US and Syria. This is a tremendous honor and a responsibility that I am devoted to. I would encourage anyone with creative ideas for cultural exchange to apply!
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