Koulenje by Goldie Nakashian from Gesaria (Kayseri)

WATERTOWN – This recipe by Janice Okoomian is featured on the Armenian Museum of America website. Janice, Professor of English / Gender and Women’s Studies at Rhode Island College, contributed this recipe in honor of her beloved grandmother, Goldie Nakashian.

Voski Takouhi Victoria Nakashian (née Mardirosian) was named after Queen Victoria of England, whom her mother admired. (“Golden Queen Victoria” is the translation of her name; she was known as “Goldie.”)

“Goldie was born in 1907 in Everett, Massachusetts, where she has lived her entire life,” says Janice. “His mother, Khosrofouhi Arzoumanian, was the niece of Mgr Drtad Balian, bishop of Gesarya and member of the Balian family of architects. His father, Mgrdeech, from Kharpert, was a cooper (barrel maker) and performed with a wrestling team touring the United States. Khosrofouhi believed in the education of women, so she sent Goldie to college, where she completed a year of study. Goldie married Ludwig Nakashian in 1926 and had two children, Phyllis (Janice’s mother) and Martin.

“Goldie was an oil painter and an amateur poet. I have a lot of his seascapes hung in my house, and some of his poems have appeared in magazines. She also developed a hobby to participate in competitions and she became very good at winning them. On her way home from the hospital after the birth of her son in 1931, she stopped at an airfield and won the youngest baby award. The price was a plane ride. My childhood home was full of transistor radios, kitchen appliances, skateboards, and other items my grandmother won in competitions. Often she had to write a jingle or a poem for the contest. She also adapted her Armenian recipes to the American context. In the 1960s, when Jell-O ran a recipe competition using Jell-O, Goldie was one of the winners, with a recipe she called “Mediterranean Jell-O Delight,” which was basically a version of Jell-O mold from jajek – madzoon, cucumbers and mint.

“I learned to cook with him,” adds Janice. “We collected rose petals from his garden and made rose syrup; she taught me how to make “shekher lokhom” (kourabia), paklava and many other Armenian delicacies. My grandfather would make madzoon on the kitchen steam heater, and we would put his madzoon on our pilav.

The Armenian Museum of America in Watertown, MA reopened last month with an updated “art, culture, eternity” exhibit highlighting over 3,000 years of Armenian culture and new contemporary art exhibits in the galleries Adele and Haig Der Manuelian. It is a living museum that collects and preserves religious and cultural objects and works of art, and presents multimedia programs that illustrate the creative efforts of the Armenian people. The museum’s website also features valuable recipes from Armenian families and contributors that reflect Armenia’s rich and diverse history, as well as the adaptability and strength of an enduring people.

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