Home Again: Armenian Recipes from the Ottoman Empire
By Mari A. Firkatian
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018
‘Home Again: Armenian Recipes from the Ottoman Empire’ by Mari A. Firkatian is part Armenian history, part personal memoir, and part recipes given by her family and others from Armenian communities of Historic Armenia.
The first part of the book gives a brief history of Armenia, including the 1915 genocide, and then moves into a personal history charting how the genocide re-shaped her family and started the long peregrinations that concluded with her nuclear family emigrating from Bulgaria to America. Those familiar with the Armenian Genocide will already know of harrowing tales of loss and deprivation and the seemingly random twists and turns of fate for those that survived. Told through the lens of one family, this personal journey stands as a poignant and bittersweet representation of that collective experience. The sharing of recipes and food then becomes a way to preserve culture and traditions and the connection to a people much diminished and a land lost. This is a book about how food knits the family, the community and the generations together, in sustenance, in comfort, in love and in commemoration.
most immigrants find the food of their homeland nurturing in a way nothing else can ever replace
There is an overview of Armenian culinary traditions and approximately 175 recipes across categories including: Appetizers, Salads, Soups, Fish and Meat, Vegetables, Pilafs and Dolmas, Desserts, plus Miscellaneous, with a glossary at the end giving English definitions. The recipes are those passed down through her family and those gifted to her, and they reflect a sampling of the depth and breadth of Armenian cuisine. In that sense, this is a comprehensive collection which offers recipes for many occasions and all tastes.
The recipes emphasize using local and seasonal ingredients with vegetables and herbs fresh from the garden where possible to create simple, yet memorable flavors. Family favorites include Medzmama’s Choreg (Easter Bread), Yalanchi Dolma, Cumin Meatballs, Mom’s Baklava and Tanti Varta’s Boreg. From others come recipes such as Luleh Kebab Aintabtsi (Grilled ground lamb and beef Aintab Style) and Tutmach Abour Malgara (Chicken Soup with dumplings Malgara Style). There are geographical and historical notes and stories from similar families interspersed within the recipes which provide context and anchor the sense of connection with previous generations and the maintenance of traditions. In a similar vein there are instructions on how to make Madzoon (Armenian Yogurt), how to pick and prepare grape leaves and how to make and serve Armenian coffee, amongst others.
It is probably true that most immigrants find the food of their homeland nurturing in a way nothing else can ever replace; especially, for some people, it may be the best, or at times the only way they can find and know they are ‘home.’ For immigrants and the descendants of immigrants (as we all must be), this is a wonderful compendium of recipes and history which acknowledges that cooking has to come from the heart, and understands that food is not simply nourishment for the body, but does—and must—also nourish the soul.