Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What do family visits and aluminum foil have to do with each other? Read on...

After being in the Catskill Mountains of New York for the past 3 months, we’re finally back in Florida. What a journey it was! Our daughter and son-in-law’s wedding was the highlight, of course, but we managed to squeeze in some visits to family. First, we spent a few days with my sister Dawn and brother-in-law Ara, whose gracious hospitality was much appreciated. Then we popped in on two of Doug’s family members we hadn’t seen in years.
Doug and his cousin Charlotte Ermoian
One such visit was to Doug’s cousin Charlotte Ermoian, who manages—and lives in—one of those tall condo buildings in Fort Lee, NJ where Palisades Amusement Park once stood. She’s really awesome—keeps fit, works hard, and lives life to the fullest. Charlotte treated us to lunch at a trendy place on the Hudson River, overlooking NYC while we caught up on family news.
Aerial view of the former Palisades Amusement Park, Fort Lee, NJ which overlooked the Hudson River and New York City
As we were parting, Charlotte said she was going to call her aunt Alice Bakalian to tell her about our visit, which meant Alice would be expecting us to visit her too.

Personal Aside:

After we said our good-byes to Charlotte, Doug and I drove through his old stomping grounds, Ridgefield, his hometown and Cliffside Park. While driving down Cliffside Park’s Anderson Avenue, we spotted an Armenian/Middle Eastern grocery store, ‘Arenie.’ We stopped in to check it out.

Dining Out - summer-fall issue 2016

The store was chock-full of delicious-looking items. Before we knew it, our arms were loaded down with lots of goodies—lahmajoun, manti, string cheese, etc., and a magazine called ‘Dining Out’ which features restaurants in New Jersey’s Hudson and Bergen counties. We snatched-up two copies, mainly for these reasons: #1- Doug’s cousin, Paul Turpanjian is the publisher, and #2- Doug had an article featured in that particular issue, ‘Food Culture:Armenia – An introduction to Armenia, plate by plate.
If we hadn’t stopped at Arenie, we would never have seen his printed article – oh, and the food we bought there was really good, too! Dawn and Ara agreed.
Doug with Alice and Azie Bakalian

The day we departed my sister’s in North Jersey, we detoured to South Jersey to have lunch with Alice and her husband Azie, who live outside of Atlantic City. Both are in their 90's, but you'd never know it. They’re in great shape – physically and mentally, and could, literally, run circles around the two of us.

While having lunch at their clubhouse sports restaurant, Azie gave us a clue to his longevity - he ordered a BBQ pork sandwich, with French fries and beer. No kidding!

They insisted we return to their house for coffee and dessert before heading south, but we were eager to get back on the road to Florida. We compromised, however. Before leaving, Alice insisted on giving us dessert–to-go (her homemade brownies), plus bottled water, a roll of paper towels, and a roll of aluminum foil.

She tucked it all into a fancy gift bag she'd brought home from one of the local casinos. It was decorated with the words “Thank You” in numerous languages including—you guessed it—Armenian.
Notice the Armenian 'thank you' near the bottom!
I thought the addition of the foil was a bit odd until Alice told us the story behind it: She'd bought her usual brand (Handi-Foil) at a local grocers and didn’t think anything of it until her granddaughter pointed out these words on the label: "Packaged in U.S.A. from foil made in Armenia."

What were the odds of coming across that? You'd probably have a better chance of winning big at the casino, but that wouldn't be nearly as much fun!


  1. Oh my gosh. I'll take a look for that foil to represent my roots! :)

  2. My deceased husband, Harry Bakalian, was Alice and Azie's nephew! I decided to do a search on 'Uncle Azie' today 11-11-18, being his 99th birthday, and came upon this article! What a delightful surprise and SMALL world! I have one cookbook with many of your Armenian recipes listed here. Lule Kabab is my FAVORITE! Since my husband Ken and I are vegetarians now I was able to find a 'lamb' substitute that comes very close to the taste of what Harry's mom Lucy and 'Auntie Alice' make. I will be 'visiting' here often. :)

    1. Doug, well it IS a small world! I just got off the phone with Harry's mom, Lucy Bakalian who knows y'all (Ken and I moved from NJ to VA and prefer y'all over 'youse'-lol) and she shared some 'family' history too. :)

    2. Reading your comments was such a delight! In fact, Doug and I just called Azie today to wish him a Happy 100th - turns out his birthday is on the 15th! Anyway, he and Alice sound wonderful. Please email me at: I'd love to know more about the family connection.

  3. PS Lucy DIDN'T know about the aluminum foil. lol

  4. PPS - oops! Azie is 100 today!!!