Monday, August 17, 2009

Armenian food in America is old news

I love reading old newspapers, which is natural enough for an old newspaper man.

While poking around fragile stacks of yellowed papers and scrolling countless yards of microfilm over the years, I've always kept an eye out for news of Armenians.

Much of it is grim stuff, particularly from the late 1800s through the 1920s. But there's plenty of fun, too, if you enjoy seeing Armenian names pop up unexpectedly as inventors, soldiers, scientists and athletes.

These days, I do most of my scrolling on the Internet and my focus is on Armenian foods. I'll share some of what I find from time to time. Here's one I got a kick out of, from the Feb. 22, 1935 edition of Maryland's Cumberland Evening Times.

The newspaper, which ceased publication more than 20 years ago, featured a section of food tips and recipes called Modern Homes News. Typical of the day's features, "One Piece Meals You Will Like" and "Tasty Fruit Cake For Tea Table."

At the very top and center of the page is the headline, "Two Oriental Meat Dishes." Both recipes were "secured from one of the Armenian restaurants of New York City." Readers were advised to consult previous editions for such side dish recipes as rice pilaf and "Armenian cereal concoctions."

Cereal concoctions?

The first recipe is called "Roast Beef Armenia." Great name! But the details sound suspiciously like Tass Kebab: cubes of beef filet sauteed with onions, butter and tomato and then braised in water.

Change the main ingredient to lamb and I'll have seconds!

The second recipe is called simply "Oven Roast with Rice." It strikes us as a little odd that this "highly seasoned" recipe seems to be missing seasonings.

What do you think?

Oven Roast with Rice


Ingredients:
Two or three pounds beef
1/2 cup rice
two or three ripe tomatoes OR four or five tablespoons canned tomatoes
salt and pepper

Directions:
Boil the meat in water, removing any scum
When it is half done, place the meat over the rice in a roasting pan and pour over both the broth from the boiling pot.
Add tomatoes.
Season and roast at 350 degrees until well done and water is evaporated.

Was that a big 'ol hunk of beef or cubes or...what? The article doesn't say. Nor does it specify any seasoning other than salt and pepper.

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