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It's early Friday evening, April 24th, and I'm cooking for Shabbat. I carefully and mindfully prepare Armenian Squash Soup while listening to the BBC World Service talking about the Armenian Genocide and the Gallipoli campaign. One hundred years ago today, the Armenian Genocide began, with the murder of 800 Armenian leaders and intellectuals in Constantinople, followed by the forced removal and deportation of Armenians. As many as 1.5 million Armenian civilians are believed to have died--many of them little children.
I start the chickpeas in the pressure cooker and begin cubing a squash from Munson Family Farms as I listen and reflect. The moment the Armenian Genocide first came to my awareness is unforgettable. It was 1971 and I was in the cafeteria at St Barts Hospital Medical College. We students liked to mix and mingle at the lunch tables. That day, a strikingly beautiful young woman with almond eyes and long, dark hair came to sit with me. "My name is Katherine in English, but at home I'm Gadarine. You see, I'm Armenian." At once a great sadness came over her beautiful face and her large, brilliant eyes clouded. Without further preamble, she said "We suffered a genocide in 1915." As a descendent of Ashkenazic Jews, I could understand her pain. We suffered the event for which the word genocide was coined.
I wash and chop the green pepper, wondering what was the most striking and unforgettable aspect of my first encounter with Gadarine. Was it the fact that, despite having taken A Level history, I had never before heard of this catastrophe? Or was it that, more than half a century later, this was the first thing my new friend wanted to tell me about? The power of her testimony, to an event her grandparents lived through, impressed me so deeply that I have felt close to Armenians and their tragedy ever since. So I decided to make an Armenian recipe today as an act of solidarity and remembrance.
While the chickpeas were cooking, I chopped and assembled the other ingredients
Then added them to the pot and simmered them.
Armenian Squash Soup
- 1cup chickpeas
- 1 t salt
- 1 1/2 - 2 quarts water or vegetable broth
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 chopped tomatoes
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 1/2 lb. winter squash, washed and cubed (about 1" pieces)
- 1 green pepper, cut in 1" pieces
- Aleppo pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons dried, crushed mint leaves
- 1.5 Tbsp olive oil
Pressure cook chickpeas for an hour. Add salt, squash, tomatoes, tomato paste, pepper and lemon juice. Fry the garlic in a little of the olive oil and add. Simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, until squash is soft. Heat olive oil in small pan. When hot add crushed mint. Blend. Pour on top of soup. Enjoy!
Serving suggestion: Serve with Armenian Cashew Rice Pilaf