Nieda Abbas

Nieda Abbas

As a migrant, then refugee, Nieda Abbas could not control much in her life. But over 11 years moving from Iraq to Syria to Turkey – then New Haven, CT – she carried her chula. Her small gas stove offered the reliable pleasure of cooking. In Iraq, Abbas had made chicken, rice and desert daily for three families, including her own. Abbas insists “I was born” with the gift for making food. As her family readied for resettlement in the U.S., Abbas heard the repeated message: In America you must work: “If there’s no work, there’s no money; if there’s no money, then how are you going to live?” She did not know cooking would become her new profession. That is, until she met Caterina Passoni, a Yale student who tutored her children (while Abbas offered delicious snacks). It led Passoni and two others to create Havenly Treats, a company which sells Abbas’ baklava to Yale butteries and New Haven cafes. Every Sunday and Wednesday, Abbas cooks in borrowed restaurant kitchens, layering walnuts, coconut oil, cinnamon and pistachios and simple, home-made syrup between sheets of phyllo dough. The baklava (it’s vegan!) is in high demand, providing the family $750 to $2,500 in monthly income and giving Abbas pride in her work. “Whenever someone tells me they like my food,” she said, “my heart opens.”

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