Armenian Bulgur, Parsley and Tomato Salad {Eetch or Mock Kheyma}

There is a lot of chaos happening in our world right now. And it’s left me feeling anxious, sad, overwhelmed and at times, small and insignificant.

Like, am I suppose to just sit here and talk cheerfully about a guacamole recipe, all while our elected officials are planning to build a wall at the Mexican border? That doesn’t feel right to me. It seems silly to be excited about food when there is so much hate and fear circulating around us.

But then I remember that sharing food, and the stories behind our food, is a big part of who we are. It defines us on every level: as individuals, as families and as a nation. To share food and food stories is to be human. So no matter what happens over the next few years, I’m going to continue to do that.

We are a nation of immigrants. And today, myself and some other food bloggers are celebrating that fact by sharing our #immigrantfoodstories. I hope you feel inspired and uplifted. And I hope you feel the urge to share your immigrant stories as well (both food and non-food related). Because I don’t think we can afford to be silent any longer.

I’m half Armenian. All four of my Great Grandparents on my Mom’s side immigrated from Armenia in the early 1900’s to escape the Armenian Genocide. My family, like so many other Armenian families during those years, found safety and security here in America. In time, they became dedicated community members in their newly found country – raising families, erecting churches and managing small businesses. One of those businesses (now called Donabedian Bros.) is still in operation today, and is owned and run by my Mom and Uncle.

I grew up being mainly influenced by my Armenian side of the family (simply due to the proximity of where we lived). They were a hard working and proud group of people. But never too proud. The Armenian Genocide had inflicted a deep scar that still ached from time to time. A scar that was often kept covered and hidden away from prying eyes.

There was a lingering shame and a general quietness about them.

Except when it came to matters regarding food. Then there was no holding back! As a family of great cooks (and even greater appetites!), meal times and Holidays were always a celebration of our traditional foods. My Great Aunt Margaret proudly made the best toorshi (pickled vegetables). My Great Aunt Dorothy made the best lahmahjoon (flatbread with ground lamb) and roejeeg (grape juice and walnut candy). And my Mom always had the most sought after paklava in town!

Today, I’ve recreated my Great Aunt Carrie’s recipe for Eetch (also sometimes called mock kheyma or meatless kheyma). It’s a bulgur based-dish that can be served either as a salad, or spread onto crackers/bread. It has a somewhat similar flavor profile to tabbouleh, so if that’s something you enjoy, then I would encourage you to try Eetch. It’s also a recipe that gets better with age. So it’s a great dish to make for a party or potluck, because you can prepare it up to a day in advance. {Oh and if you’re curious, those little round baked goods in the photos are something called simit, an Armenian bread/biscuit that I’m still trying to get just right.}

I want to leave you with a few excerpts from an essay written by my Great Aunt Beatrice that details the experiences of her Mother Agnes (my Great Grandmother) in Armenia during the Genocide. It was a school assignment in which she had to write about someone she admired. It’s pretty powerful.

Be sure to check out the hashtag #immigrantfoodstories to see more inspiring stories and recipes.

Cheers,

Liz

“Sure enough, in the winter of 1985, while Agnes was still an infant, a massacre took place. The women and children of Harpoot fled into the nearby mountains, while the men and older boys tried to fight off the Turks and protect their homes. Mrs. Soorsoorian, carrying Agnes and pulling and coaxing the four other children, was having a difficult time of it. The path up the mountainside was narrow and steep. She was making no progress, as the children stumbled and fell on the rocks. The child in her arms was an extra burden. Despairing and in tears, she dropped little Agnes into a snow bank and helped the other children ascend. I suppose she thought that if one of the children had to die, it would have to be the youngest.”

“Soon the Turks gave the order that all the Armenians who were not fighting where to abandon their homes and leave the country. Agnes, now twenty years old, and her aged parents where among the thousands of unfortunates who were forced to leave their homes. It must have been a sad procession that marched away from it’s native soil. Thousands were massacred, and I don’t know whether my mother’s parents were among these, or whether, exhausted, they fell on the wayside, but I do know that they died during this time. I have never asked my mother about these facts, because I know she refuses to discuss this horrible phase of her life with anyone.”

“In two years she had money enough to purchase a steamship ticket, which she did without wasting anytime. A few weeks later, her boat docked at New York Harbor. Agnes’ brothers were there to greet here. In one way, it was a happy reunion, but on the other hand, it was pitiful to think that these three were the only living members left of their family. Agnes lived with her brothers for two years, after which she met my father George Kerkorian, whom she married. They came to Newburyport to live, and here their two daughters, my sister Louise and I, were born.”

Armenian Bulgur, Parsley and Tomato Salad {Eetch or Mock Kheyma}

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup bulgur (also called dried cracked wheat)
  • 3 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored and chopped
  • 6 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

Directions:

  1. Add the bulgur and tomato sauce to a large bowl and stir to combine. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if desired.
  3. Refrigerate until well chilled. You can serve this as a salad, or as a topping for bread and crackers.
  4. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator for 2-3 days.

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