Dinner at the home of Monica Buzali involves an experience as culturally rich as the dishes coming out of her little kitchen in the Eixample district. Mexican born with Syrian roots, this art therapist felt a need to feel the joy that is regularly experienced by a large family around a table. Since hers lives thousands of miles away, she decided to create a family experience with strangers, serving private dinners at home with her husband.
You were born in Mexico, but where did you get your Syrian roots?
Yes, I was born in Mexico, but I’m third generation of Jewish immigrants from Damascus. My family is very attached to their traditions and maybe that’s why the culinary legacy of my grandmothers have remained virtually intact over the years.
What attracted you to come and live in Barcelona?
I wanted to leave Mexico and an experience something beyond my usual circle. I applied to study a Masters in Communication at two Spanish universities, one in Madrid and another Barcelona and it was the latter who answered first, so I ended up choosing the Catalan capital. I think that pure chance played a role in this decision.
From your perspective, what are the things that attract you to the city?
Compared to where I come from, Mexico City, this city offers me an unimaginable freedom. Here I can ride a bike anywhere and at any time return to my house without fear that something bad might happen, the sea, getting lost in the Gothic Quarter, neighborhood life, meet people from all over the world, and don’t forget the value of tradition.
On a gastronomic level, what is special about Barcelona for you?
You can find raw material from all continents, which often makes me feel at home. What I like most which is that most gastronomic formats can coexist harmoniously, the traditional restaurant, the neighborhood staple restaurant, Bar Manolo run by the Chinese, small Michelin star spots, going through the typical street take-away, secret restaurants, home chefs, picnics, etc.
How did you learn to cook?
As a child I used to sit in in the kitchen and accompany my grandmothers. I loved to watch them, even occasionally, helped them, which made me feel like I was part of it. I started cooking in Barcelona for nostalgia, I needed to be closer to family, and I realized that I was doing that through the kitchen.
What are some ingredients that you associate with Barcelona?
Mmmmm, how difficult, mató, the aioli, romesco, rovellons, but on second thought, not only in Barcelona, mores in Catalunya.
Tell me what are some of your favorite ingredients to use in cooking?
Eggplant, almonds, Arabic pepper, cumin, zaa – tar , olive oil, ancho chiles, raisins, tomatoes, mint, etc..
How would you define your style of cooking?
Very casual and based on traditional flavors…experimental.
Why did you decide to open the doors of your house so that people could come and eat in your living room?
I love the idea of sharing some of what I am, and a very important part of that identity is in the kitchen, the core of my tradition. I learned that sitting around a table and sharing food brings people together. And I love the people and of course, eating. Heh, heh, heh.
What are your favorite restaurants in town?
La Bella Napoli, La Báscula, Talaiot, Sushi-ya, La Paloma Blanca, Mundial…
If you would like to eat with aquí.
Fotos: Cecilia Díaz Betz