Monday, August 13, 2007
When the Mr. and Mac were in Alabama visiting my in-laws; they had BLTs for dinner one night. The folks like their bacon fried CRISP (aka burned). Mac likes his bacon almost raw. My mother-in-law wondered out loud if that was because of his Armenian and Hungarian heritage. My mom's Hungarian and my dad's Armenian. The Armenian side makes kibbeh yearly. Kibbeh is served uncooked. Hence the bacon preference? Uh, probably not.
I love the fact that my family embraces their heritage and celebrates with food that my great-great grandparents would've eaten. Today the Mr. is grilling kabobs and I'm making pilaf and cucumber yogurt salad to go with. Daboyz are both out running around but they wanted to know what time dinner was being served to be sure they were here. Another generation caught in tradition.
I promise you should I have sounded the alarm, I'd have had a house full of Armenians by blood or marriage lined up for our simple dinner! It's not just about the taste of the food, although we do love that. It's about the feelings and memories of who we are and of belonging to people that came before us. For me, as I sit down with my pilaf I remember Christmas Eve dinners with my dad's family as well as summer dinners where pilaf was always the preferred accompaniment to chicken, steak or hamburgers on the grill. Chicken paprikash or stuffed cabbage bring back similar emotions.
Kiefles, kolach and baklava are sweet because of more than their sugary goodness.
I come from immigrants although I don't expect that my feelings are different from those of Southern, New England or Latin American heritage. As I prepare and enjoy these foods of my forefathers I think about people who made the same dishes with much less bounty at their fingertips. Those who came before me brought their recipes and traditions to families who ate by candlelight and without air conditioning or copper-bottom cookware. They lived in cramped housing and sometimes without indoor plumbing. They had just enough sometimes and not enough most of the time. They shopped for the ingredients for goulash or kibbeh in shops where they couldn't speak the language and only trusted they weren't being taken advantage of. They walked long distances to make a tiny bit of money so they could come home and make pilaf and shish kabob. Their traditions were the only wealth they had and all they left behind.
I consider my inheritance beyond counting. And the more of it I share, the more remains for my children and someday my grandchildren.
From poor and uneducated makers of stuffed cabbage and kibbeh came me; a college graduate. And my children; just starting their college careers with their dreams at their fingertips. So today I stand in my air conditioned kitchen having spent the day mulling over which new ceramic tile to have installed in my remodeling project. The Mr. has made appetizers for us to munch as we watch a movie waiting for the pilaf to be done. Jay is heading home to join us and Mac just called to say he'd be here soon.
We have so very much. I'm quite sure it's beyond the imaginations of those who took the time to teach my grandma to let the pilaf simmer slowly.
I'm glad we still have the inheritance they wanted most to give us.