Easter...old and new memories
Easter Sunday is now very different to how it used to be, mainly, and very sadly, due to some family members passing away. This year, with lockdown, getting together with family and friends was restricted but with technology we managed to enjoy an element of togetherness, maintained some family traditions and created new ones.
As a child, Easter for me was one of the most exciting holiday periods of the year. It was a more relaxed time for my family. My father was a butcher and the Christmas season was hectic for the family business with so many orders to fill for turkeys, geese, pork, etc. Easter was easier with the main request being for new season legs of lamb.
Easter morning was a rush, trying to get ready to look our best for the day ahead. First stop was the “medz yegeghetsi” (the "big church"): this was the Armenian Church on Gloucester Road in London. The reference to “medz” was to distinguish it from the smaller church in Kensington, Saint Sarkis. The church would be heaving with worshippers and those wishing to see friends and family after the church service. Eventually, we would leave the massive crowd and head to my grandparents' house. My grandmother, "Medzmum", would have made many wonderful dishes just to make sure we all had our favourite foods such as soubereg, sometimes mante, shoulder of lamb stuffed with rice with chopped chicken liver ( I have to confess I wasn’t a fan of the rice), beetroot mixed with tahini, kofte and these are just some of the dishes I remember.
I distinctly remember the house being full of family - cousins, in-laws from my uncle's side and friends from the Armenian family next door paying a visit. In the middle of it all, my grandmother's sister would call from Cyprus to wish us all Happy Easter and of course the main topic of conversation between the sisters would be what they had cooked for their respective families.
Wine was not a feature or consideration at these family gatherings. The glassware on the table was for beer and soft drinks. The drink of the day was whisky and this was drunk before the meal. I can clearly recall my grandparents drinking whisky along with a few handfuls of pistachio nuts and roasted almond nuts which my grandmother used to make.
Easter weekend 2021, at my house in north London, started on Good Friday with a conversation via zoom with my grandmother. My grandmother still has an amazing memory at the age of 93 and I asked her how to make choreg. Without hesitation, she explained the method and “atchgi chap” (literal translation – eye measurement) of each ingredient. For extra help, I turned to my good friend Youtube! This was more to see the technique of making the choreg and mapping out the method in my head. I followed Alin’s kitchen choreg recipe and you can see from the photos, it actually turned out quite well. Not bad at all for my first attempt!
Unlike my grandparents' table, our Easter table had the wine glasses set and the two Zorah wines I had recently purchased - see my post on discovering these wines. We had decided to keep the tradition of having lamb for lunch but with variation on the rice. Instead of the chicken liver rice, we had bulgur pilaf which is one of my son's favourite homemade dishes. The 2018 Zorah Areni Noir definitely paired really well with the lamb.
Luckily, the sun was out, which was great as the new lockdown rules permitted two households or groups of six to be in the garden together. My brother came over and we sat on the terrace to have some cheese I had purchased from the Cheeseshop of Muswell Hill. Cheese was never on the table at any family dinner as we were normally far too full to consider eating anything after dessert.
So, despite Easter being a bit different this year, I feel that with food, wine and technology, we managed to connect with the past and enjoy the present. I forgot to mention that I will be doing Easter again in a few weeks - 2nd May to be precise. Why? I am part Greek-Cypriot and this year, Greek Easter is later than those who follow the Gregorian calendar. My aim is to make some flaounes - I already have mahlab (used in the choreg), I just need to get some mastic. Keep posted!