Showing posts with label 1915. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1915. Show all posts

Saturday, February 2, 2013

An Armenian Homecoming

A group of Armenian Americans, many of whom lost relatives in the genocide of 1915, traveled to Turkey in 2012, and the Armenian church in America produced this video. The fact that this travel was possible speaks to the possibility that it is safe for Christians and Jews to travel throughout Turkey.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Balakian Book: Baking Choereg & Fate

In a nod to Armenian Christmas on Sunday, the fates left on my office desk today a book apparently delivered in August - !!! - that was lost in the bowels of our mail room.
It was Peter Balakian's historical memoir that I ordered long ago: "Black Dog of Fate." It starts with a timely description of making a bread called "choereg."
I am amazed that my mom, when I said the word choereg, which I don't recognize and can't quite pronounce, conjured up some Greek: "Of course. Tsourek-i. Our recipe for holiday sweet bread."
Balakian writes of spending an afternoon with his Armenian grandmother, who was born near Turkey but lived in New Jersey. They prepared bread, which helped her tell deeply buried, moving stories:
"To make choereg, we mixed milk and melted butter into a ceramic bowl. I poured [yeast] into a glass measuring cup and watched it fizz. Eggs, sugar, salt, rising agent, and my grandmother poured in the mahleb."
Mahleb, or mahlepi, is a spice that looks like a small nut, but is the essence of a cherry pit, his grandmother explained. Then she quoted the Song of Solomon on spices and praised the merits of memorizing the Bible and prose.
"She sifted flour and we mixed it all with a large wooden spoon until it was dough. Then she scooped the dough out and put it on the flour-glazed bread board. We squeezed and pressed it with our hands. I liked how the wet dough stuck between my fingers. I liked how she took it to another bowl and turned it all over its oiled surface, then covered the bowl with a towel and put it in the unlit oven. It was warm there and free from drafts, and when we opened the oven two hours later, the dough was an airy saffron-colored mound. I loved punching the dough down so that it's porous insides collapsed. We pulled it into pieces and made ropes, braids, and rings."
You can see ours, a vasilopita, but always with mahlepi and sesame.
Perhaps it was again fate, but tonight I also received the latest Columbia Journalism Review offering this feature: "Where Truth Is a Hard Cell: Although Seen as Modern & West Leaning, Turkey leads the World in Jailing Journalists," by Stephen Franklin, a former Chicago Tribune Middle East correspondent.
"The most dangerous problem is self censorship," according to one veteran Turkish editor who's quoted. "You don't even ask questions. And that kills journalism."
A recipe for disaster, not bread, in that case.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

We Are So Fortunate

The curls and somber face on a used book have transported me each night in a rather delirious week ... with only a little bread and water, feeling ill .... over mountains, through villages, past gendarmes ... on a horse-drawn wagon full of refugees. It was 1915. This biography has gripped me because the narrator, Veron, not only looks like my grandmother and was the age of my grandmother in 1915, but lived near my grandmother in Turkey. She tells a story my grandmother never wrote down, but could have, about the refugees' escape and the futility of hate. And what motivates hate and war: money and power.
Seared in the mind of a child and written for posterity by her son, Veron speaks simply without judgement and tells of violence, starvation, lies, death and, miraculously, hope and love.
Each day we breathe, we must remember our unlikely fortune. Each of us is a survivor with a purpose.
Read "The Road Home," by David Kherdian. A Newberry Honor Book. 1979, Greenwillow Books, New York.