Friday, September 30, 2011

Lorig Charkoudian Builds Community With Churtma!

Lorig Charkoudian and her husband Matt Rogers with their children Raffi (left) and Aline
Photo Credit:
Recently, an article appeared in the Armenian Mirror Spectator announcing the candidacy of Lorig Charkoudian for City Council, Takoma Park, MD.  In the article, Lorig  credits her Armenian upbringing for her appreciation of the power of food as an economic engine and community builder. "I grew up eating the churtmah, merjumek, dolma, tabouli, and babaganoush that my grandmothers and mother made from food grown in their gardens.  It fed the community and our souls and it was good for our bodies and the environment."  Soon after the article appeared in print, a reader  from New Mexico tried to make contact. Thinking for sure that the reader was interested in her political stance, Lorig emailed back immediately.  Did the reader need to know more about her position on micro-enterprises? on feeding community?  on the environment?  No.  It was the recipe for churtma that the reader sought.  She wrote, " I looked in all my cookbooks and found no mention of churtma!"  And so here it is, by popular demand. . . Thus, one more time, humble churtma builds community -- this time across the country!

Churtma may be made with zucchini, or yellow summer squash, or a combination of the two.  Select fresh summer squash that are no more than two inches in diameter.  Before preparing the squash, peel and chop one large yellow onion.  Place the chopped onion in a heavy (cast iron) pot, if possible, with about a quarter of a cup of olive oil and set on the stove to simmer.  While the onion is cooking, rinse the squash in clear cold water, rubbing to make sure all soil is removed, trim off the ends, and slice the summer squash into rounds approximately 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.  Place the sliced summer squash in the same pot and stir gently; simmer with the onions, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or longer, depending on whether you want the squash to be slightly crunchy or very soft.  (Marash Girl usually brings the covered pot to a boil and turns it off, letting the squash cook in the iron pot for about 1/2 hour.) Add kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and Aintab red pepper.

You may serve the squash as a side dish, or the churtma may become a meal by simply making little hollows in the surface of the cooked vegetables while still in the pot on the stove, and dropping eggs into the hollows to poach for the next five minutes.  Absolutely delicious for Saturday night supper, especially with slices of freshly baked bread!

N.B. Marash Girl has to admit that she used to hate churtma, and never quite knew why until, as an adult, she realized that her mother would make churtma using only the insides of the zucchini to make the churtma, the inside which was removed from the zucchini in order to prepare the hull of the zucchini for making dolma.  The results were very bland and very mushy so Marash Girl cannot recommend that style of churtma, even though, traditionally, it was often made that way.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ladybugs, Welcome!

And while we're on the subject of insects, let's talk about the beautiful Ladybug -- another blessing from the insect world.  It's considered good luck if the little Ladybug (in New England they're orange with black polka dots) lands on your person. When we were little, we would have to chant the following nursery rhyme before we blew the Ladybug off:  Ladybug, Ladybug, Fly away home.  Your house is on fire, Your children are gone.  We always felt sad that the beautiful Ladybug had such a sorrowful situation to return to, though I don't think we ever really believed the nursery rhyme.

Ladybugs eat aphids, so folks with gardens and orchards (such as we were) welcomed the presence of the beautiful tiny orange beetle with black polka dots. According to the National Geographic, "Ladybugs lay hundreds of eggs in the colonies of aphids and other plant-eating pests. When they hatch, the ladybug larvae immediately begin to feed. By the end of its three-to-six-week life, a ladybug may eat some 5,000 aphids."

That may help us understand why, in a society that was once agrarian,  a Ladybug's landing is always considered good luck.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On Spiders, Armenia, & Mohammed

Marash Girl had always been told never to hurt a spider, that spiders are good, that they trap and eat flies and mosquitos. Thus, she never destroyed a spider or a spider's web and rather saw the spider's web as a work of art.  If a spider happened to saunter into her city house, she would simply pick it up and put it outside where it belonged; if it wandered into the cabin in Wilbraham, she let it stay, unmolested, to feast on all the other insects that made their way through the eaves of the summer cottage.

Marash Girl knew the reason spiders were protected, and when her friend Mariam related that in Armenia, folks never hurt spiders, she assumed that Mariam knew the reason, but Mariam did not.  And so, as a dutiful friend, Marash Girl shared the apocryphal tale of Mohammed, who when fleeing from his enemies, hid in a cave.  The enemies, happening upon the cave some time later, assumed that Mohammed could not be hiding there, as there was a spider's web covering the entire entrance to the cave.  The enemies passed by, and Mohammed was saved from certain death, as was the spinner of the web, the spider who forever after would never again be harmed by the peoples of the Near East.

I wonder if E. B. White knew of this story when he wrote CHARLOTTE'S WEB?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Yellow Summer Squash, East Longmeadow Style

And while we're on the subject of  beautiful yellow summer squash (see yesterday's post),allow Marash Girl to share a recipe, or rather a way of preparing the summer squash that she learned when she was visiting the home of Marash Boy's best friend in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts.  The dish was prepared as we visited.

Pick fresh unblemished summer squash (from your garden, if possible) while they are still young and no more than 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Trim off the ends of the squash. Wash and thinly slice.  Arrange the slices slightly overlapping in parallel rows on a metal baking tray.   Lightly sprinkle grated parmesan or cheddar cheese over the squash.  Grate a yellow onion and sprinkle that over the cheese.  Broil the squash under your oven's broiler for about five minutes.  Keep a close watch to make sure the arrangement does not burn! Serve immediately as an hors d'oeuvres or as a side dish.  The squash should be hot and softened but still slightly crispy.

Lots more uses for summer squash in the Armenian cuisine.  Add to soups, salads (if really fresh), hollow out for Dolma, slice for Churtma & chop for Tava.  (For those of you who don't know how, Marash Girl promises recipes for dolma, churtma & tava in future blogs!  For now you can freeze the hollowed out yellow squash for dolma, sliced summer squash for churtma, and squash chopped in chunks for tava until Marash Girl shares those secret family recipes.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bicycles, Summer Squash, & The Old Colony Rail Trail, Chatham, Massachusetts

All over the Cape (or Cape Cod, Massachusetts, as most folks know it), railroad tracks have been converted to dirt paths in the piney woods, and finally tarred 'bicycle paths'/pedestrian walkways where bicycles have the right of way, and folks can safely bike across the Cape, enjoying the scenery without fighting the clogged streets of summer.  Now that it's fall, Marash Girl decided it was time to take her chances with the bicycles, fewer in number because of the season, and  walk along the Old Colony Rail Trail in Chatham, Massachusetts.  It was a typical Chatham Day, slightly overcast, slightly foggy, with the warmth of summer still hovering..
The path, ( looking more like the Route 20 in Marash Girl's childhood,) was safe for bicycles (no spills because of unseen boulders, no imminent collisions with unaware motorists), was no longer the dirt path in the woods she remembered from ten years ago.  But it was still a  path, and it still allowed a moment of respite from the hustle bustle of the world beyond the trail.  And look, some bicycles have actually reclaimed (on the left)  dirt for a path going up the hill to the left.  Marash Girl walked by this very spot yesterday and spying what appeared to be a squash plant, she walked along the path to the top of the hill and found a plant in full bloom with a baby yellow summer squash just beginning to form.  Marash Girl was delighted to find this plant in the 'wilds of Chatham', (a plant which typically grows only in a cultivated garden), a plant which had survived on the side of a well-travelled (as it were) road.  The wonder of this plant blooming and bearing fruit -- by the graces of the wind? of a bird? of a coyote's fur? of a bicycle rider's clothing?  Whatever it was, it was exciting and a miracle.  She resolved to come back with her camera the next day to photograph the beautiful baby squash.
But when she returned with her camera, and walked up the dirt path to the top of the hill, she found a mangled baby summer squash (see above left) and the plant itself struggling to regain its hold on life.  A bicycle (tire marks to prove it) had taken a fun 'side trip' off of the tarred Rail Trail, and destroyed the infant squash  (the cyclist probably had never seen a squash plant before, much less paid attention to the flora that surrounded him, or if s/he had, s/he was riding too fast to notice).  Marash Girl was saddened by the loss, and by the ignorance that speed and separation from the earth creates.
Marash Girl took heart when she spied, hiding a little farther back in the woods, a fresh summer squash flowering, waiting to grow into adulthood!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New England Fish Chowder

As autumn commences, and cool weather threatens to settle in, the thought of fish chowder is a comforting one.  If you have in your larder potatoes, onions, celery with leaves, thyme, butter, and milk in your refrigerator, you have all you need (except for the fish, of course) to make a tasty chowder.  Marash Girl remembers the first time she tasted fish chowder in the kitchen of a fourth floor walk up in the North End of Boston; her friend Nancy Donovan had, in fact, prepared the fish chowder that day. Marash Girl has made Nancy Donovan's fish chowder many times since, and it always tastes as yummy as the first time Nancy served it to her. Here's Marash Girl's recipe (a slight adaptation of Nancy's).

Melt butter with a bit of olive oil (so the butter won't burn) in a heavy cast iron pot (or the heaviest pot you have).  Saute chopped onions, chopped celery (including the leaves), thyme (fresh or dried), chopped potatoes (with or without skin).  When these have softened, add cubed (white) filet of fish to the pot, (fresh or frozen -- a mixture of fishes makes for a more interesting chowder), stir gently until fish is flaky. Sautee for a few more minutes in butter (add more if need be).   If you like your chowder thick, add white flour to the mixture after the potatoes have softened, and stir until thickened.  Now add whole milk slowly, stirring as you bring the milk to a simmer. Do not boil.  Add salt & pepper to taste. Your fish chowder is ready to serve! 

Note of warning!  When buying your fish fresh, ask the grocer to let you smell the fish first! If not, you may be smelling old fish throughout your house for a full week after you make the chowder!  In any case, even when fresh, rinse the fish well in cold water before chopping and adding it to the chowder.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Once Upon a Time in Brighton, Massachusetts

Once upon a time, in Brighton, Massachusetts, there lived a girl whose name was Ann-Louise. She was a beautiful and good girl.  She loved her mother and her father.  She loved her brother Fred.  She loved her friends.  And she loved mankind.

One day, Ann-Louise was walking along a street which had been newly decorated by the King, decorated with parking meters.   The meters were meant to force the people of Brighton to share.  Ann-Louise already knew how to share.  She understood the injustice of it all.  One day, she noticed a Meter Maid walking behind her, a mean and sulky woman dressed in the uniform that the King had issued, a Meter Maid ticketing the cars of the innocent citizens of Brighton, citizens who were unable or unwilling to adjust to this new system of taxation.

Ann-Louise did not have a lot, but she did have pennies.  And so she ran ahead of the Meter Maid, dropping pennies into the slots of the parking meters that bordered the cars about to be ticketed by the Meter Maid.  In reality, young Ann-Louise had risked her safety in the face of the Meter Maid for the well-being of the citizens of Brighton.  Her valorous action was never recognized, except by Marash Girl, who was witness to her bravery and generosity.

Ann-Louise, all these years later, Marash Girl toasts you for your courageous actions on behalf of the citizens of our Commonwealth.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Some Thoughts on Big Wheels

Walking around the track at the 'Y' today, Marash Girl remembered her father's laughing definition:  He who walks in circles shall be called a 'Big Wheel'.

Going to, Marash Girl read their definition of big wheel: "An important or influential person. In use since 1950, this term is thought to have come from the mechanics’ expression to roll a big wheel; ‘to be powerful or important.'"

What that dictionary doesn't mention is that this expression was used, at least in the fifties, in a derogatory manner, as in, "He thinks he's a big wheel!"

Marash Girl's father was amused by folks who thought they were important.
(see post on Robert Burns poem, A Man's A Man For A' That)

He joked about people who prided themselves on "travelling in the right circles", circles of folks who had money and were too proud of it.   Peter often reminded us of the woman who told her son, "Dghas, park the car in front of the church so everyone can see that we drive a Cadillac!"

But by the late 1960's, things had changed.  Big Wheels were simply tricycles that little kids could ride!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Armenian Coffee with Salt?

All her life Marash Girl had heard the story of Auntie Gulenia and the Armenian Coffee.  As Peter told the story, one day a young man came courting Gulenia (Peter's oldest sister). Upon his arrival, the suitor was ushered into the living room by Gulenia's family while Gulenia dutifully went into the kitchen to prepare Armenian coffee for everyone.  She prepared the coffee in the traditional manner, in a jezveh, bringing the coffee to a boil three times before pouring it into the demi-tasse cups, making sure each cup had just the right amount of froth on the top.  Ceremoniously, she carried the tray of cups full of coffee into the living room where she served each guest and family member.

As the family and guests sat around sipping their coffee, the young man who had come courting took a sip of his coffee, looked around confused, took another sip, looked around confused, took another sip. Everyone else seemed to be very happy with their demi-tasse of Armenian coffee.  All but the man who had come courting, who, after one last sip, got up and left without a word.

It seems that inadvertently, Auntie Gulenia had poured coffee into the one demi-tasse cup that held the salt (every Armenian kitchen had a demitasse cup full of salt sitting on the stove) and again, inadvertently, she had given that cup to her suitor.  

All these years, Peter had made it seem that the salt in the coffee was an accident.  It was only recently that Marash Girl learned that the test for every potential Armenian bride by her future Armenian husband is the way in which she makes and serves Armenian demi-tasse coffee.  Interestingly enough, some brides have been known to switch salt for sugar when brewing in order to create an undrinkable cup of Armenian Coffee, in an effort to avoid an unthinkable marriage.  Was that Auntie Gulenia's ploy?  We'll never know!

This salty tradition has become an institutionalized joke in Turkey, where today at engagement parties, the fiancee puts salt in the coffee which she serves to her future husband!

Recipe for Armenian Coffee

Ingredients (depending on the size of the jezveh):

  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2 tablespoons of extra finely freshly ground (almost powdered) Armenian coffee (available at Middle Eastern Stores)
  • 2 tablespoons (or less) sugar
  •  NO salt (unless you want to chase away a potential suitor)
In a jezveh, bring water and sugar to a boil in ibrik.  Add coffee and stir. Put jezveh back over the flame and bring to a boil, remove from heat, bring to a boil, remove from heat, bring to a boil (three times in all).  Avoid stirring as this will cause the foam to dissipate.

Pour into demitasse cups, a little at a time (a bit in the first cup, a bit in the second cup, a bit in the third cup, etc.), making sure each cup has equal amounts of coffee and equal amounts of foam, unless you want to 'dis' someone that you are serving by giving them very little foam.
When folks are finished drinking their coffee, and only the sludge is left at the bottom, they should turn the cup toward them, upside down onto the saucer, leaving it for several minutes.  If there is an old Armenian lady in the room, she is sure to be able to read your fortune in the pattern of coffee left on the insides of your cup.
N.B.  The incident Peter related occurred in the 1930's in Newtonville, Massachusetts; Gulenia, who was born in Marash, married the man she loved,  an Aintabtsi. She is still living at 106 years old in Pasadena, California!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Guava: The Heart of the Matter

Guava in Marash Girl's Kitchen. Photo Credit: Marash Girl
Marash Girl had never seen guava before; sure, she had drunk its wonderful nectar (heavily sweetened by Goya), but there her knowledge of guava ended.  Until one day, she saw some odd looking green vegetables/fruits at the greengrocer's (no identification visible) and decided to purchase them.  Setting them aside on the kitchen table to wonder about, she promptly forgot about them until later that afternoon, when Irene, once Peter's caregiver, now a close family member, arrived for a visit.  (Actually the visit occurred on the day the tornado hit Wilbraham, June 1, but luckily Irene and Marash Girl and the guava were NOT in Wilbraham!) 

Marash Girl invited Irene (who, by the way, is from Uganda,) into the kitchen for a late afternoon snack.  Immediately  after we settled in, Irene eyed the unidentified green fruit on the kitchen table and exclaimed, "Where did you get these?" 

"What are they?" Marash Girl queried.  

"They're guava, and when I see them, they bring back my childhood in Uganda!  You know the way Peter stole apples (see Marash Girl's post on Boursalu Mari), we stole guava and mangos.  I haven't seen one since I've been in this country!  Cut in half, if you're lucky, the seeds form a heart."  

(The one we cut in half that day DID form a heart, but the recently purchased guava pictured here were heartless; they must have known that Marash Girl needed the photo for this blog!)

"We eat the guava, seeds and all - no peeling.  They're slightly tart as if lime has been squeezed over them, and crisp like an apple.  And I love them!"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Yervant Chekijian (right) poses next to his favorite Karsh  photograph,  famous Armenian composer Aram Khachatourian.  
Karsh photograph of Martin Luther King hangs on the wall to the far right.
Photo Credit: Marash Girl

At the ALMA banquet celebrating the opening of the new permanent installation of 50 photographs by the celebrated photographer Yousuf Karsh, Jerry Fielder spoke of his early
experiences working with Karsh. When Karsh (during a photography shoot), asked Fielder to bring him a lampshade, Fielder brought Karsh the shade, but was surprised to see Karsh's disappointment.  Fielder, nonplussed, questioned Karsh, who answered, "Don't give me what I ask for; give me what I want!"   

Jerry Fielder talking with Levon Charkoudian at the opening of the Yousuf Karsh Exhibit, CELEBRATING HUMANITY.  Photo Credit: Marash Girl
The Winston Churchill photo elicited another favorite story. Apparently preparing for the photo shoot, Karsh asked Churchill to remove his cigar; Churchill did not.  Just before he photographed Churchill, Karsh walked up to the cigar and forcibly removed it from between Churchill's lips. Returning to his camera, Karsh took the photograph of Winston Churchill that now graces the walls of ALMA's galleries.

Fielder noted, "Karsh looked for the truth and drew it from his subjects in order to share that truth with us." 

Haig derManuelian (left) and Estrellita Karsh cutting the ribbon to open the Karsh exhibit at the Armenian Library & Museum of America. Photo Credit:  Marash Girl

Monday, September 19, 2011


 Eulogio Guzman, Professor in the Visual and Critical Studies Department at the Museum School, Tufts University, lines a plinth in preparation for mounting an ancient piece of Armenian needlework to be on display at the Armenian Library And Museum of America.
This past Saturday afternoon, final preparations were in progress for the opening of the new exhibition of 50 original Yousuf Karsh photographs, a gift to ALMA from Karsh's wife Estrellita, a permanent installation at the Armenian Library and Museum of America (housed in the Benjamin Thompson designed structure in Watertown Square, Watertown, Massachusetts).  A stellar cast including Eulogio Guzman, Professor in the Visual and Critical Studies Department at the Museum School, Tufts University, Keith Crippen, head designer of the Boston Museum of Fine Art's new wing, and Jennifer Munson,  Senior Exhibition Graphic Designer at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, joined Michele Kolligian, Bob Khederian and Gary Lind-Sinanian in putting the finishing touches on the elegantly quartered exhibition.  A private reception for the viewing of the newly installed Karsh exhibit was held at the Armenian Library and Museum of America on Saturday evening, Sept. 17,  for patrons and members.

Add caption

Keith Crippen, (right), head designer of the Boston Museum of Fine Art's new wing, measures a wall at the Armenian Library and Museum of America in preparation for mounting a text panel.  An ancient Armenian vessel is on the table to his right.
Jennifer Munson, (left), Senior Exhibition Graphic Designer at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, sharpens the text on a panel describing the Highlights of the Collection being exhibited along with the Yousuf Karsh photographs.
Michele Kolligian, Gala Chair, Trustee & Executive Council Member at the Armenian Library and Museum of America, readies a plastic case that will protect Armenian antiquities.  In the background can be seen on display a rare 19th Century Armenian carpet.
Photo Credits for above photos: Marash Girl

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Perfect Wife

And while we're on the topic of teeth (see yesterday's blog below), let me share with you a favorite (old country) story of my father's. It went like this.

I knew a man in Marash who was married to a woman, a woman who took endless trips to the dentist.  The man complained constantly that he was spending all his money paying for the dentist to pull one or another of his wife's rotting teeth.  So after she died (could her death have been caused by an unpulled rotting tooth?), the man decided that this time when he chose a wife, he would look for a woman with perfect teeth.  [Now this man must have been Armenian, since Turkish men were not allowed to see the faces of their wives before marrying.]  Hunt as he might, he could not find a single woman with perfect teeth, until one day he did.  He was thrilled.  He immediately arranged the marriage and soon it was their wedding night.  He was happily ensconced in bed with his new wife when suddenly he heard a crash.  Startled, he called out, "What was that?"  "Oh, dear," cried his new wife.  "My false teeth just fell to the ground and shattered!"

Saturday, September 17, 2011


I lost a tooth today, a tooth that cannot be replaced or repaired; the problem is that the tooth is more than 40 years old, and even the dentist didn't want it.  Maybe the tooth fairy will!   I'm going to place it under my pillow tonight in hopes that the tooth fairy can recycle it and leave me a surprise the way she used to.  Here's hoping!

Friday, September 16, 2011

From Godiva to Whitman's - Bir yumurshak var mu?

Recently, at a planning meeting  for the Harvard Radcliffe Reunion (won't tell you which one), Marash Girl and Harvard Man were assigned the task of ordering a souvenir fit for Reunion attendees to carry home with them.  In jest, Harvard Man suggested a box of Godiva Chocolates, which Marash Girl thought was a fine idea except for the fact that the box would never make it home intact, much less become a souvenir, unless the celebrants would consider an empty box a fitting memory of their college years -- now there's a thought!

Beyond that, the box, in order to be a proper souvenir, would have to be a Whitman's Sampler, for in those days, Godiva was an English lady who rode naked through the streets of Coventry on horseback and not a box of chocolates.  Whitman's Sampler -- you know, the yellow box that opens on a hinge and has a plan printed inside its cover identifying the different types of candies in the box so that those among us who could read English could decide which candy we should sample.

All of the above (does the phrase remind you of a multiple choice test on a college entrance exam?) reminds me of my childhood when, wherever our family went to visit a relative in our old Chevrolet (won't tell the year), just before arriving at our destination, Marash Girl's father would pull up in front of a drug store to buy a box of -- no, not drugs --  a Whitman's Sampler to take to the home of our hosts.  Almost always, it was a home where there would be a very old lady all dressed in black, a widow who had survived the Armenian genocide, an aunty who knew no English, whose eyes would light up when she saw the box of Whitman's chocolates.  

Although she was baking cheoreg in the oven for us (and we could smell the wonderful sweet yeasty aroma of those Armenian sesame rolls as soon as we entered her home),  our hostess upon settling us in her living room, would break open the cellophane wrapping to the box of Whitman's chocolates we had brought and offer the candies to us, her guests.  The eyes of her elderly mother (or mother-in-law, as the case may have been) would light up and Aunty would ask (not knowing English and eyeing the box of chocolates), Bir yumurshak var mu?  Is there a soft one?  To this day, I remember that phrase, because we kids HATED soft centered chocolates and if at home, would furtively press our thumb under the chocolate to see if white gooey stuff would emerge, and when the goo appeared, we would replace the chocolate in its paper nest to hide the fact that it had been mutilated.

So how do I end this post?  What do you say, Harvard Man?  Do we get those Godiva Chocolates?  Are we at the age yet where we'll have to ask, Bir yumurshak var mu?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Photoshop, Johnny Vaich Style

Do you remember Johnny Vaich?  I picture him to this day, a gruff man, short and swarthy, with a shock of black hair, an unlit, burnt down cigar clenched between his teeth. A photographer himself, he had the only photo shop (not Photoshop) in Newtonville Square, on Washington Street near the corner of Walnut.  He was my father's good friend. 

I first met Johnnie when I was five years old, in my father's shop, Newtonville Electrical Company, Inc., on Bowers Street in Newtonville, and then many times after that at my dad's newly built shop around the corner on Newtonville Avenue.

Johnnie always said what he thought and thought what he said.  He kept a German Shepherd dog by his side, except when he sent the dog alone to the Newtonville Savings Bank (Walnut Street at Highland) with that day's cash deposit in its mouth.  Without his master, Johnny's dog crossed busy Washington Street and Walnut Street in order to accomplish the task.  The tellers took the deposit and sent the return receipt back to Johnnie at the Vaich Camera Shop in the jaws of his trusty dog.

I bought my first SLR camera from Johnnie Vaich; and my first and only Kodak Instamatic, Carousel slide projector and slide film for my first (and only) trip to Europe and the Middle East. And I learned all I ever needed to know about taking pictures from this seasoned photographer.

What makes a good photographer? I asked him.  His answer? Someone who knows which photos to throw away!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Worcester Art Museum: Nourishing the Body, Nourishing the Soul

In the heart of downtown Worcester, Massachusetts, moments off of the Massachusetts Turnpike and Route 495, nestles a surprise.
a surprise containing nourishment for the soul, yes, 50 centuries of art, and

nourishment for the body, a selection of delicious sandwiches, salads and quiche in a lovely shaded garden
a garden which connects the museum to the city that surrounds it, and continues to nourish the soul with traditional

and contemporary art work, all with the visitor central to the design (see above).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Brewfest 2011, Holyoke Canoe Club, Holyoke, MA

Saturday,  on the shores of the Connecticut River in Smiths Ferry, Holyoke, Massachusetts, the Holyoke Canoe Club hosted the annual Brewfest where hundreds of folks, young and old, met to enjoy the beer brewed by local breweries, the beautiful Connecticut River, the Holyoke Canoe Club (did you know such a club still exists?), the perfect fall weather, and good company.  If you didn't make it this year, put it on your calendar for next year.  Folks from as far away as New York City and Boston, and as close by as the OxBow attended this festive event. Marash Girl's allergy to wine and beer (she sneezes at the first sip!) left her taking photos of this event, so if the photos look tipsy, it's not the fault of the breweries!

In  1911,  ladies with parasols and long dresses promenaded along the riverside at the Holyoke Canoe Club, while  waiting for their dashing husbands to take them for a canoe ride. In 2011, gals and guys in shorts and t-shirts sipped the fresh brews from all over New England and, no, there was not a canoe in sight.  Join us as we wander among the beer vendors and try sipping a few of those freshly brewed offerings!
The Connecticut River looking East from Smiths Ferry, Holyoke Canoe Club.
The tent protecting the brewers and their brew.

And which brew is your favorite, my dear?

Modern jazz with professional acoustics lent an air of festivity to the already festive day!

This pig was hiding behind the booth which offered pulled pork!

And they all lived happily ever after! [Connecticut River in background]

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tin Can Trading Post, Jughead & Archie, 60 years later

It was like walking back in time.  We were in the Catskills, drinking wonderful coffee made for us by the proprietor of Cafe Devine (Lower Main Street, Callicoon, NY).  Energized, we started to explore the 'downtown' when almost immediately, we found ourselves ambling past an alleyway. Always curious, we backed up and decided to explore, and glad we were, because  at the end of the alley was none other than Jughead!  But where was Archie?  We didn't have to wait too long to find him, and when we did, we immediately asked him to pose with his friend for us, and if he did, we promised to write a blog post on his newly opened funky antique shop, a shop like the ones we remembered from the 1960's, a shop where you could still feel like you were exploring grandmother's attic.  If you're ever in the Catskills, after you drink coffee at Cafe Devine, be sure to visit Jughead and Archie, better known as the Tin Can Trading Post, Callicoon, New York. (This is the blogpost we promised you, Archie!)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Peter Bilezikian and 9/11/2001: Newtonville, Massachusetts

Marash Girl was at the Newtonville Post Office, shipping books from to her customers, when her postal worker friend walked out from the back room, face ashen.  "Hey, Ann, what's up?" Marash Girl quipped, hoping to urge a smile onto her friend's face.  "A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center," Ann's shaking voice answered.  "My son -- he works in Tribeca, just a few blocks north of the World Trade Center.  I have to get home and try to reach him," thought Marash Girl.  Which of course, try as she might, she could not.  All telephone lines to New York City were inoperative.  In a panic,  she kept trying to call, to no avail.  Alone with only her books for company, Marash Girl silently prayed and in answer to those prayers, her son called to report that he had witnessed the crash of the second airplane, but was alive, and walking north out of New York's Financial District with thousands of other New Yorkers.

Marash Girl tried to call her father, but there was no answer.  "Let me drive over there . . ." she thought,  and she did.  Hugging her dad, she told him of the Twin Towers. Once Peter, this Armenian-American man, born in Marash in 1912, a survivor of the Armenian genocide, understood exactly what had transpired that morning, he knew what he must do.  They went together, Marash Girl and her father, to the house next door; they sat in silence, side by side with Mohammud and his family . . . they sat in solidarity throughout that day and the next, without speaking, "sitting shiva", as it were, with their Muslim neighbors in Newtonville, Massachusetts.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Rambutan: The Fruit with a Mind of its Own!

My latest discovery?  Rambutan.  Not the most attractive to look at, but oh, the taste!  I've always loved lichee nuts as an after Chinese dinner treat, but rambutan are fresh and crunchy and sweet, and they don't even need the sugar syrup to make them delicious. Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned the following.  A relative of the lychee nut, Rambutan is native to the Malay Archipelago, from where it spread to Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka and India; and east to Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia.  I loved it even more when I learned that rambutan is a stubborn fruit:   non-climacteric, rambutan refuses to ripen unless on the tree.  How do you like that!!!!

I still haven't figured out how to remove the center seed from the delicious white meat of this fruit!  I finally decided that I could not serve this delicacy; I would have to eat around the hard center nut all by myself.

These perfectly ripe husked rambutan still need their center seeds removed in order to enjoy the succulent white fruit.

Anyone out there have any suggestions?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Dancing around a fountain to the music of Frank Sinatra, Villa Roma

We thought the dance would go on forever . . .  We had arrived late one night -- not Rome or Italy.  We were in the Catskills,  Callicoon, New York.  Not Dirty Dancing.  Just moving together to the music of Frank Sinatra and the splashing fountain -- it was our first night at Villa Roma.  After parking our car, we had walked to the main hotel in the moonlight and danced under the stars. It was getting late, and we planned on coming back every night for that sweet romance.

But we were wrong.  Frank Sinatra never sang for us again, and the fountain never again founted (or whatever it is that fountains do).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Uskudara Gideriken, the Boys of Provincetown, Eartha Kitt & Peter Bilezikian

And while we're on the subject of music from Marash Girl's fatherland, allow her to tell you of the strange convergence of that music with oriental rugs and Provincetown.  Yes, from the loudspeakers of the first shop Marash Girl entered in this famous Cape Cod town wafted the distinctly oriental strains of Uskudara Gideriken, a favorite of the boys of Provincetown, a song Marash Girl's father knew from the time he was a child in Marash, a song he used to sing, albeit laughingly, (and sometimes along with Eartha Kitt) as he explained that the lyrics  were NOT about a romance between a man and a woman, as men and women would NOT be traveling together unchaperoned in the world of Marash OR Uskudar.   

Turning the corner, Marash Girl (now for all intents and purposes in Uskudar), discovered an outdoor bazaar where she found not a kerchief, but a kilim, an antique flat weave oriental rug, all rolled up,  beckoning to her from under the cover of an ancient blanket chest.  Yes, the proprietor said, that rug is for sale. I was just using it to prop up the cover of that old wooden box.  I'll take it, said Marash Girl, as she handed him 45 kurush.

Thanks to for the above musical notation of Uskudar as Marash Girl remembers it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Listening to the music of John Bilezikjian, the songs of my childhood

This morning, I could not bear to listen to any radio station, as all I heard was the rehashing of the grief and torment of 9/11/01.

So I flicked on my CD player where I keep for just such occasions a CD by my cousin, my wonderful musician cousin who has saved the songs of our people on tape, film, vinyl and CD. As I write this, I listen to the CD John gifted me, "The Magic of John Bilezikjian ..."

Don't let the cover art mislead you. On this rainy September day, I can only tell you how this music has captured my heart and soul, and, in fact, has me dancing, as John sings and plays his oud to the tune of Istemem Babajim, Bekledim de Gelmedim . . . How can Marash Girl ever explain to those who do not descend from Marashtsi survivors of the genocide, what it feels like to be a first generation Marashtsi-American, (albeit a second generation Aintepsi-American)!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A mother-in-law by any other name . . .

"I've hated you since the day my son was born," she said to her daughter-in-law.   And that's a true story!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Reminiscing on Labor Day

Labor Day always marked the end of the summer for us, the end of endless days of summer 'labor' in the out of doors, of sunshine and walks through the woods, of cooking over the outdoor fireplace on a fire created of the fallen branches and dried leaves and white birch bark from our 20 acres of trees, of planting and gathering the harvest, of filling the long days with cooking and crafts, swimming and games, of answering the coyotes calling as evening fell, of watching the sun set.  For some reason, Wilbraham made labor feel like joy. 

Clearing out his files, Marash Boy came upon the pictured ad from the 1980's, an ad designed and produced by children who lived their summers on the very top of Wilbraham Mountain, children who wanted to make themselves useful and earn a few sheckles in the process.  The ad was delivered to all of the rural postal boxes along Ridge Road, much to the dismay of the one legalistic neighbor who made clear that rural postal boxes are meant only for US Mail, much to the joy of the neighbors who were delighted to have strong reliable 10 and 12 year olds to clear twigs from their driveways after a storm, to move wheelbarrows full of (heavy) gravel from one location on their vast acreage to another, to cut their lawn (a promise a teenager had made to his mom and could keep only through the new young workers on the road), to paint the baseboards in a recently renovated ranch house down the road, to weed gardens, to rake leaves, to be there for the neighbors in their time of need!  But that was, of course, long ago, long before the tornado leveled the cabin on top of Wilbraham Mountain and erased the hope that the next generation could follow suit.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Diamond Sue walks into a Bar, an Ice Cream Bar, that is!

Diamond Sue walks up to the bar (at Lewis Brothers Home Made Ice Cream Shop on Commercial Street in Provincetown,) and asks for a drink.  The fellow behind the bar says, "We sell ice cream here."  (He's thinking, "What is this, a joke?")  Diamond Sue insists on a drink, so the ice cream man finally asks, "What do you want to drink?"  And Diamond Sue, to his surprise, asks for an egg cream.  "We don't have that," he says, "but I can make it up for you if you tell me how, and I'll charge you the same as a soda."  So Diamond Sue shares the recipe for an Egg Cream with the "bartender", while Marash Girl listens:  "The drink (so delicious) is called an egg cream (in name only - no egg, no cream!).  It's made with some chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer - soooo good!"  And it cost Marash Girl (who was treating) the same as a soda (or as we say in New England, a tonic)!

N.B.  Diamond Sue says that if you're in the mood, you can even add ice cream!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Provincetown and the Boys

Commercial Street in Provincetown is a carnival for tourist and resident alike, not just during the summer, but every day of the year. On this beautiful Thursday afternoon, the tourists and the residents got to know each other!
Wearing only a towel around his waist with siempre tattooed just below,
one of the Boys on Commercial Street in Provincetown stops to chat
with Diamond Sue.

Posing for the camera on Commercial Street in Provincetown, one of the Boys hands out cards to tourists, cards advertising the latest show in Provincetown

A necessarily truncated version of the card that one of the Boys was passing out on Commercial Street in Provincetown, advertising the Provincetown show, NAKED BOYS SINGING, produced and directed by Tom D'Angora and Michael Dulling, "a hit with gays, straights, and everyone in between", according to the New York Daily News.