“When I was a young bride, I went to my in-law’s house every week so I could learn how to make the Armenian dishes my husband grew up with and enjoyed eating. And I always enjoyed eating what my in-laws made!” – Crystal Avakian
Amber Balakian at Balakian Farms in Reedley, CA writes: “There’s nothing better than a cherished family recipe that has been passed down for generations. With just one bite, memories can flood in and bring us back to special times and moments. We’re pleased to share this recipe from our dear and talented friend, Kohar Avakian. Kohar’s recipe for tutum (tutumi gud is pumpkin or squash seed in Armenian), has been passed down to her mother, Crystal, from her father’s mother, Kohar’s beloved grandmother, Nene, who lived for many years in Worcester, MA. See: https://www.facebook.com/balakianfarms
“My favorite Armenian recipe comes with a story and a long history,” says Kohar. “This hearty, tomato-based pumpkin stew recipe has been passed down to my Black/Nipmuc mother from Nene, my Armenian (Marashtsi/Beirutsi) paternal grandmother. Thanks to the amazing heirloom tomato products of a Black-Armenian, female-owned farm @balakianfarms, my mother made this dish on my birthday. She made the recipe in a pressure cooker, and the results were outstanding. Nene passed away in 2006 when I was 10, but her memory lives on through her character, spirit and many skills — and the traditional Armenian recipes she lovingly prepared for her children and family during her lifetime.”
“My grandmother, Semagul (Nene) Yeranian Avakian, was born and raised in Beirut. Her mother was Takouhie Boudakian from Gesaria and her father was Movses Yeranian from Marash, a place that she kept alive in her stories and recollections to my family. She passed down a thick red book to us, preserving the history of Marash between its pages, she said. She was a great orator and would always bless our family meals. She was a nurse and my very own Armenian school teacher. She migrated to the United States as a result of the civil war in Beirut because of a dream she had, which led to the rest of my extended family finding refuge in Worcester,” says Kohar.
“Nahabed Avakian (my grandfather) was born in Yozgat, Turkey in 1920,” says Kohar. “As a result of the Armenian Genocide, he fled to Syria as an orphaned child and eventually found refuge in Lebanon, where he met my grandmother Nene. Although he died two years before I was born, my father’s stories rendered him larger than life. The luminous shadow of his life remains imprinted upon mine. I feel the reverberation of my grandparent’s sacrifices today. And through my father’s eyes, I see him more clearly. Through his eyes, I am able to recognize my own.”
“Here’s my tribute to the many exceptional, determined mothers, aunts, and grandmothers like Nene who nourished and sustained generation after generation of strong, independent daughters and granddaughters through the centuries. It’s because of these resilient, spirted women that I continue to have faith that our future daughters, sisters and children will have greater opportunities to thrive and succeed in anything they want to do or be,” adds Kohar. “I cherish my parent’s marriage of 37 years, and my mother’s deep love and support for her family and children. I believe my grandmother is with me and by my side in all that I do — I think of her whenever we make this recipe.”