“How was your dinner”? I asked my husband as he departed from our evening meal heading for the comfort of the recliner while waiting for the Red Wing play-off hockey game to begin. “It was fine,” he replied nonchalantly with the tone of a person expecting to be indulged in thoughtfully prepared food. This evening, as usual, I witnessed a man who ate quite well, so I said, “I don’t see a tip on the table.”
The words of my mother came to mind; she would say it frankly but certainly not with malice, Gardzes teh mor-oun doun-e adank geragour geradz eh? (Do you think they ate food like that at their mother’s house?)
This particular evening I had made a meatless meal of bulgur pilaf, moist as we tend to prefer it, breaded sliced eggplant served with thick Karoun brand yogurt (my favorite) mixed with diced cucumber, fried hot peppers, and finally, bamyah geragour known as okra stew.
He would not eat the okra stew. He tried it and said, “I am not a southerner. I just don’t care for it. I never ate that at home before I got married.”
I shot back, “So what, now you eat a lot of things you never got at your mother’s house and you relish all of it.” No dice.
I am not fazed by his refusal. I had finally bitten the bullet and succeeded. So many of my friends, all good cooks, had for years urged me to make the bedeviled okra stew and I just could not bring myself to do it. I was okra challenged! My mother always made it, especially when company was expected, and I loved it.
How many times had I eye-balled beautiful fresh green baby okra in the Middle Eastern store and just walked away in fear?
I had heard all the horror stories of it becoming slimy and gooey. That put me off, like the white of a fried egg unless flipped over for a few seconds. I thought about it often but never ventured to try it, till finally one day while shopping I picked up a package of frozen baby okra. Still, I let it remain in the freezer for weeks. Deciding to make the bulgur pilaf triggered the decision that it needed the accompaniment of bamyah geragour to make the meal complete.
I am not faint of heart when it comes to tackling Armenian cuisine. In my over-four decades of marriage, I have met the challenge of the kitchen and come out victorious, never being daunted by Khapertsi, Sepastatsi, Kegeghtsi, or Bolsetsi recipes.
Being married to an odar (non-Armenian) I could have, granted, taken the easy road, but I think I had something to prove to myself. What’s that old saying, “Converts try harder”? Well, I didn’t convert but all my life I saw my mother’s expertise in everything that had to do with maintaining a home, and I didn’t plan on being less. I frequently tell him how lucky he is, and ask where he thinks he could find a wife like me.
He tells me, “I can find one in the old country.” He does possess old country ways himself, believe me.
I don’t spend as much time preparing these intricate foods as often as I used to. I think I deserve a breather now and then. The more women I talk to, the more I hear the same thing: “I am tired of cooking. We go out to dinner as much as possible.”
Here is my version for bamyah geragour. I hope you enjoy it. But if you don’t, no letters please.
** RECIPE **
In a sauce pan:
A couple of tablespoons of butter, plus the same of canola oil melted (use less if you can).
Dice and brown a medium onion in the butter until transparent.
Add a bag of frozen baby okra.
Add 1 1/2 cups of cold water.
Add 2 tablespoons tomato paste.
Add juice of l lemon.
Add salt and pepper.
Cover and cook over medium heat for 10-12 minutes.