Dandeegeen Diaries—Chapter 4: Bamya

The first week after Easter provided great indulging. There was Easter candy, malted eggs, ice cream, Mike’s Pastry and plenty of chips, soda and popcorn to go around. The binge was in full swing, and the sugar high was heavy. All in all, we consumed all our forbidden fruit in one week to make up for lost time. It was quite comforting during this pandemic Stay At Home phase called week 6. 

Like any good dandeegeen, the freezer and cupboards are full. But grocery store shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables has been stretched to every two weeks or more. I no longer do the shopping, as I am immunocompromised, so my husband Ara forges out into the world to grocery shop and pick up our phone orders at Eastern Lamejun for us. The grocery list is created, but not all items are available, so Ara will occasionally improvise. Cooking an Armenian dish every week for the column is a bit of a challenge in a pandemic. Sometimes, when there’s a dish I want to make, I don’t have the ingredients readily available and Ara cannot get them. So this week our dish was selected unknowingly and arbitrarily by Ara.  

Ara brought home okra, better known as bamya. I have no clue why. Honestly, I probably would have never chosen this meal if I had to pick, but I do like bamya. But it’s not a Krafian household favorite. I do remember my mother making it when I was younger, but I had never tried to make it myself. So I figured this would be another opportunity to learn. And it was the only dish I had the ingredients for: plenty of onions and garlic in the house, cans of crushed tomatoes and my trusty St. Stephen’s Armenian Church cookbook. I even called my mother, Aroxie Apigian in Detroit, to let her know this was the dish I was preparing for this week’s column. She was pleasantly surprised! Cheering me on like she always does, I searched for the right recipe, as there were several to choose from on page 106.

The simple ingredients

I never knew there were so many bamya variations until now, and I had no clue that several recipes called for apricot. I didn’t have any on hand, but I also never tried bamya with apricot. I am sure it tastes great. Who doesn’t like apricot…but not with my okra. This meatless dish was a breeze. I sautéed onions, added a can of crushed tomatoes, sugar and garlic. I let that simmer for 10 minutes and then poured the mixture over the fresh bamya, added water and let it cook. That’s it. I couldn’t believe it. How could this be so easy? It looked great, smelled wonderful and was very tasty. It always seemed to look more complicated than that.

Sometimes we fear trying new things, because we are afraid of failing. This is my underlying issue in the kitchen. In life, I don’t fear failure at most things. I jump right in with two feet, and I never look back, except in the kitchen. So from now on, it’s full speed ahead, two feet in and no looking back. I plan to continue trying new dishes (that I have ingredients for). I keep surprising myself. Who knows, at the end of this quarantine, I just might be a decent Armenian dandeegeen after all.

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Heather Krafian

Heather Krafian

Heather Apigian Krafian was born in Detroit, Michigan and was one of the founding students of A.G.B.U. Alex Manoogian School in 1969. She graduated Michigan State University in 1988 with a bachelor’s in International Relations and cognate studies in German and Russian. She holds a master’s in Early Childhood Education from Lesley University. As an ANCA intern, Heather worked for the Minority Rights Group in London under Ben Whittaker. She’s also worked at Zoryan Institute as its Armenian Studies Coordinator. She began her career in education in 1990 after which she became the assistant principal of St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School from 2006 to 2008; she currently serves on its Education Committee. She has also served on the Board of Trustees at St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church. Heather is a member of the ARS Cambridge “Shushi” Chapter and a member of the ARS Eastern Region Board of Directors. Heather was the 2010 recipient of the Knights of Vartan “Community Leader” Award and the 2015 recipient of the Eastern Prelacy’s Certificate of Merit. She is married to Ara Krafian; they live in Belmont, MA with their four daughters Araxi, Nairi, Anoush and Knar.
Heather Krafian

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