I often wonder about this one, a lot comes to mind when I think of the words “food” and the concept of “preservation of culture”.
A bit of context here, at the tender age of 23 unlike most “good” Armenian Boys, I decided to move out of home. Up until this point in my life, like most of my friends in the “ethnic” category I was living the 5 star luxury hotel lifestyle.
Personalised BPAY services
But most importantly….. Home Cooking.
Reality rapidly changed, I not only decided to move out, I also decided to take it further by moving 2 hours away from any family.
“Mamayis Sirde Gdretsi” (Broke my mothers heart).
Whilst the experience was eye opening and life changing it also started to hit home some truths around facets which would be lost within our culture if not cared for or explored in a more genuine manner.
The practices of generations past until very recently advertised and propagated a mentality of; the man goes to work, whilst the woman stays at home taking care of the babies and cooking/cleaning.
Most millennials will reject this ideology, quiet rightfully so, however I feel currently we are on the cusp of that change. In doing so we are also stuck with a generation of confused individuals wedged between the belief of parents and beliefs of our own.
Fast forward about a year into my newfound arrangement of living near a beach and embracing an Aussie lifestyle.
One lonely Thursday night, the memory induced aromas of Armenian food decided to artificially fill my nostrils, as I sat in my small 20×20 apartment my mind was consumed with how much I would do anything to have a hearty meal prepared by my mother.
Then it hit me.
Yes my mothers cooking is fantastic and has its own elements outside of flavour/presentation, however why did it need to be prepared by my mother?
I started thinking about it further it became more and more apparent that not knowing how to cook some sort of a dish from your homeland is in a way, discrediting a long heritage that has come before you and losing one of the strongest advocates for cultural identity.
Men are at more risk of not having this fundamental skill set. The more we rely on others to cook for us the more illiterate we are in the universal language of cuisine.
As I sat there on the aforementioned Thursday night, lonely and not knowing what to do, I decided to take matters into my own hands. A quick dial to both my mother and grand mother put me on the path to prepare my very first home cooked Armenian meal. Sini Goxvadz Kefte (Flat Pan Pressed Kofta).
I wrote the recipe and rough measurements down and within two hours I had made myself a meal which not only satisfied my urges but also had a very interesting bi-product.
Given the nature of the dish naturally like most Armenian dishes I had made enough to last me a week, I decided it was a good opportunity to bring the dish to work the next day and share some with my colleagues. Offering food lead to discussion, discussion lead to my colleagues completely enthralled with Armenian culture and cuisine which lead to interest in our history and language.
What a result! All this from about 2 hours work something that through more basic means would take a lot more effort. I find that cultures which advocate equality for men and women in the kitchen generally have a more reputable standing in the international community. French, Chinese, Indian, Italian and Mexican to name a few.
When we order takeout why is Armenian never an option? Having more of an interest in food can lead to a stronger presence in diaspora communities. The above cuisines can be found in droves and are not only prepared by people who are of descent from thos particular countries but also by those who have been drawn to it through their experiences over time.
Gentleman, challenge yourself. Bring the heat to your frying pan and the fire to you heart. Its not emasculating to cook and its certainly not emasculating to be proud of where you come from. Seize the opportunity to embrace something different which could genuinely have a positive impact in your life and community.
Next time you decide to just light a B.B.Q and cook some skewered meat have a little think about it. Don’t have the mentality of leaving all the other dishes to the women in your life. Take some time to learn a recipe, write it down, share it with friends. One of the most powerful statements one can make for its culture is sharing it. One of the best ways to do it is over an interesting meal.
More importantly there will come a point where you may be the only person available to pass down a family recipe to the next generation, that my friend is the point where like I speed dialed my grandmother and mother, someone may speed dial you with the same question.
What will your answer be?