Excerpt from: Newsday, NY
Aug 14 2005
Office manager for her husband's orthopedic surgery practice. Lives in Old Westbury and East Hampton with her husband, Varvartkes. They have three adult children, Peter, Jennifer and Lori.
What is your ethnic heritage?
My husband and I were both born in Cuba. The Armenians migrated there in the '20s, since they couldn't come into this country. My parents lived in a small Armenian community in Santiago for about 25 years. I came to the U.S. in 1943, when I was 3 weeks old. My husband, coincidentally, was also Armenian and grew up on the other end of Cuba in Victoria de las Tunas. He came here in 1948, when he was 13. When my husband went to medical school in Italy, he met my brother there. It so happens they were both Armenian and from Cuba. Talk about fate. We've been married 39 years.
How has your ethnic heritage influenced your cooking?
We had two cultures growing up - the Cuban and the Armenian cultures. Our Christmases are always celebrated in the Cuban style. We have fresh ham with black beans, white rice, fried bananas, yuca with garlic, lemon and olive oil. Some of the Armenian dishes my husband and I make are shish kebab and pilaf for Easter, tabbouleh, bulgur and baba ghanoush, which we make from eggplant we get at the farmstand. We grew up with yogurt and cucumbers mixed with fresh garlic, which also was good. We make baklava a little different from the Greeks. We use walnuts and ours is not as sweet. Something else that you won't find in the recipe books that we were brought up with is yaglee. It's got many layers of phyllo on top and curd cheese in the center. You have to eat it warm and sprinkle it with granulated sugar.