It is a simply glorious morning as I am writing this post. The sun is shining, the air is cool and crisp and my favorite trees, our Donald Wyman crabapples are starting to bloom. Nothing makes me happier than the brief time these beautiful trees show off with their abundance of white flowers…
As many of you know from reading the blog from the start, or from being my friend outside of The Kitchen Scout, my Armenian heritage is extremely important to me. It has shaped my life in so many ways, mostly positive. Two years ago, I wrote a post that shared both a recipe for Armenian Rice Pilaf and some background on the Armenian Genocide and my personal connection to it. The post was published on the Genocide’s 100th anniversary on Friday, April 24, 2015. I decided to republish that post’s text below (and the links for all Armenian related recipes on the blog) because today, Friday, April 21, 2017 is another very important day for many Armenians around the world as we anticipate the 102nd anniversary of the Genocide this coming Monday.
The Promise is opening today in 2,000 movie theaters across the country for a very limited run and I encourage you to go see it. I will be attending a showing tonight with my husband and 148 other parishoners from my church. I am very excited and plan on bringing a big supply of tissues.
This film is the first large scale movie to be set during the Armenian Genocide. Co-written and directed by Oscar winner Terry George who also directed Hotel Rwanda, the film stars Academy Award winner Christian Bale, Golden Globe winner Oscar Issac, Charlotte Le Bon and Angela Sarafyan. The Promise was completely financed by the late Kirk Kerkorian, Armenian philanthropist and former owner of MGM. Producer Eric Esrailian said Kerkorian wanted the film to have a love story and be an epic that evoked the feeling of a Lawrence of Arabia or Doctor Zhivago. Most importantly, he hoped the film would help to educate viewers about the first genocide of the 20th century as well.
Incredibly, 100% of the proceeds from the film are going to non-profit organizations, including The Elton John Aids Foundation and other human rights and humanitarian groups. The production company, Survival Pictures has already pledged $20 million to establish The Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA’s School of Law as well.
The bad news is that this film has not been able to receive widespread distribution for reasons producer Esrailian eloquently explains in this article. Charlie Rose interviewed George and cast members who provided even more detail about the film and its challenges and you can watch that piece by clicking here.
Take a look at the movie’s official trailer:
I cannot give you a first hand review of the movie given I have yet to see it myself. However, every review I have read (see links below) are very positive overall and strongly encourage people to go see the film if only for a history lesson about atrocities that sadly, are still being repeated in many places throughout the world today.
From a very young age, I like many Armenians, have always felt it was my duty to help educate anyone who would listen about this Genocide that affected my family and the families of so many of my friends. I remember doing a presentation about the Genocide during middle school with a friend and at the time, Armenia was still a republic of the Soviet Union. My friend and I were taunted afterwards by some bullies in the class who called us Communists as a result of their ignorance. It’s sad that was what they took away from our candid presentation. Nevertheless, it was worth the harassment to bring attention to this piece of history that had been largely neglected.
As I mentioned, at the bottom of the post, I have listed all the Armenian related recipes currently on the blog. The Cucumber and Tomato Salad is my most popular pin on Pinterest and is worth a try! We made the grilled Lamb Kebabs for Easter (as did my friend, Kate) and they were delicious. And of course, Armenian Rice Pilaf should definitely be on your to-try list as it’s a reader favorite!
See you next week.
Reprint from The Kitchen Scout April 24, 2014, the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide (edited).
Chances are you are reading this post on Friday, April 24, 2015 since The Kitchen Scout emails are sent out to subscribers on Friday mornings.
April 24, 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of The Armenian Genocide, an event in world history that has played an integral role in my life as well as in the lives of Armenians around the world.
There have been countless articles written about the Genocide in the week’s leading up to this important anniversary and I have included some of my favorites at the bottom of this post if you are interested in some “light” reading. Like most Armenians, I have spent much of my life trying to educate anyone who will listen about what many consider to be the first genocide of the 20th century. It was something I felt passionate about and my obligation to do. Why?
For one reason, it is not an event that has been widely taught in most history lessons. Armenia was a faraway place that most people had never heard of when I was growing up. In fact, it was a strategically unimportant, landlocked republic of the Soviet Union until it gained independence in 1991. For another, it’s because responsibility for this event has never been taken and there are still countries and politicians who refuse to use the word genocide in reference to the events of 1915.
In 1913, my grandmother, Araxie was about 18 years old when she came to this country as a “picture bride” to marry my grandfather, Mgrdich (me-gr-ditch) who had previously emigrated to the United States. As far as I know, she left behind most of her family with the exception of one sister who also came to America. Her two brothers were photographers and they were early victims of the “massacres”. Of her remaining two sisters, one died in childbirth, and as far as I know, her identical twin sister and her husband also perished. As for her parents, I do not know what happened to them. I still hope that some day I will find all the answers, but for now, this is what I do know. Why don’t I know more?
My grandmother was almost 70 when I was born. She had five children, my father being her youngest and I was the second youngest of her ten grandchildren. While we were very close and lived only two streets apart (my big fat Armenian wedding?), we did not have heart to heart conversations about her youth. She spoke “broken” English as they used to say and was a very conservative woman as is typical for our culture, Kim Kardashian nothwithstanding. We never spoke openly about her family or the genocide. Her greatest joy was cooking for her large family and spending time with one of her dearest friends and sister-in-law, Pyloon.
If I could turn back time, I might try to talk with her more about her life before she came to America. I would like to understand how it must have felt to leave her family behind to start a new life, perhaps knowing that theirs was destined to end. I would have asked more questions and hope she was willing to answer them.
But, I can’t turn back time. And I don’t have the power to make large countries or politicians say the word genocide out loud.
What I can do, is to honor my family and this event by perpetuating our culture and to share the stories that I do have and hold in my heart. Which of course, leads us to the discussion of food, an important piece of any culture’s continuity.
Pilaf is a staple of the Armenian diet and I ate it all the time as a child. I continue to make it for my family. It’s a simple dish, but it is like a warm hug in a bowl. Made with either white rice or with bulgur wheat, pilaf is usually a side dish served with chicken, lamb or beef. I don’t serve it with pork or fish, but I suppose you could. Pilaf can also serve as a main dish for vegetarians.
Everyone’s pilaf is a little different. Some like it super dry and some like it wet. Most will agree that the pilaf at the bottom of the pot is the tastiest. If you’re a regular reader of my posts, you may recall Easy Roast Chicken? I mention in it that pilaf is always served with chicken in an Armenian home. I thought this week was the perfect time to share the recipe. This is not your boxed rice pilaf, or the kind they read off in your options of sides at a restaurant. I hope you make it sometime soon.
Which leads me back to my grandmother and the Armenian Genocide. For 100 years, Armenians like me have wanted the world to acknowledge the events of 1915 as a systematic attempt to eliminate them from the Ottoman Empire. From the Wall Street Journal, “Most independent scholars have described it as genocide, however, and more than 20 nations have formally recognized it as such. Pope Francis and the European Parliament voiced agreement last week.” If there ever were a time for universal recognition, it would be now.
And from The World Post comes an article that might be my favorite. The author beautifully writes about how the lack of closure on this topic impacts not only the Armenians, but also each and every one of us. Among his eloquent statements is this, “The Armenian Genocide is a piece of history that is not allowed to be history. It continually seeps into the present and cannot find its own historical finality.”
Thank you for allowing me a somewhat serious post this week about a topic near to my heart. Now go make some pilaf.
Articles on The Armenian Genocide:
A few articles about the movie, The Promise
Some of my favorite Armenian inspired recipes!
Fassoulia (Green Beans in Tomato Sauce). One of my personal favorites.
Armenian Cucumber and Tomato Salad
See you next week!
Great post, Val. It’s more important than ever to remember the Armenian genocide and your delicious Armenian recipes are a link to all those lost. I’m so grateful for my hands-on pilaf lesson and just bought more vermicelli in Belmont so I can make it again soon. Still haven’t bought the College Inn broth…but still….!
Thank you for the inspiration and for the delicious recipes. I made the lamb kebabs, veggies, rice pilaf, and the tomato and cucumber salad last night for my son who was returning from a community service trip (tired and hungry). We all loved it! Not a bite left. The marinade was especially tasty.
This is the sweetest, Madelene! Thank you for coming back to the blog and leaving a comment! I am so glad you enjoyed the recipes! xoxo
Well written! (Both the 2015 & 2017 posts) I too agree that Armenia was once “A faraway place that people hadn’t heard of” during my childhood too. And I never thought I would see the awareness/attention that has been brought to the Genocide in my lifetime. Pilaf will always remain a “warm hug in a bowl” for me and my family as well. Lastly, while i did not know your aunt Pyloon, I am lucky enough to have some of her handwritten recipes (passed down from my grandmother). God bless!
Hi Lee! Thanks so much for commenting! I would love to see those recipes!!! xoxo
So thoughtfully composed Val. I always enjoy your writing and recipes, but this tugged on my heartstrings. Well done my friend!
Thank you so much, Sue! xo
Made the sweet potatoe nest for Easter brunch. It was so easy and so delicious. Everyone loved it.
I just grated the sweet potatoes with a hand grater. Thanks Val, I love all your recipes and comments..
Thank you, Katie! I appreciate your putting a comment on the blog 🙂 xoxo
Hi Val- Love all your Armenian recipes and stories about your family! I wish I had more time with my grandmother to share her story and teach me to cook some of her delicious food- looking forward to hearing what you thought of the movie- xoxo Sue
Thanks Susan! I really enjoyed the movie – glad I went to see it. Very emotional at the end. I hope you get a chance to see it! xoxo
Great post Val:)
Thank you my friend! xo