Wrapping up another year–in grape leaves

Wrapping up another year–in grape leaves

A birthday haiku

Twenty-five began
with moments I’ll treasure as
slivers of silver.

I think the best way to celebrate another year of adulthood is to find a way to look to the future and indulge your inner child at the same time.

I just turned twenty-five this past weekend. It felt good and tasted even better. In the midst of a weekend of dinners with friends and family, I devoted an entire morning and afternoon to cooking a traditional family recipe with my two oldest friends, Malvina and Nairi. The order of the day was stuffed grape leaves, which can be called, depending on who you ask, dolmayalanci dolma, or sarma. They’re Turkish words that signify stuffing or wrapping. In my family, we’ve always just called them dolma, but we also use that term to refer to peppers, tomatoes, or cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and ground meat.



The dolma we cooked were grape leaves stuffed with rice and onions and cooked in olive oil and lemon. These are a delicious vegan side dish, and we figured there was no better time to give them a go than while we’re eating vegetarian for Lent. We followed Nairi’s mother’s recipe, since she’s recently embarked on a mission to try out and perfect her family’s favorite meals. You can read a little more about her forays into Armenian cooking on her blog, Dandeegeen in TrainingDandeegeen is an Armenian term that roughly translates to ‘woman of the house.’ Here’s my absolute favorite of her observations so far:

“Most Armenian Khmoreghen (things made from dough) rise twice. I’ve come to the conclusion this is to allow for time to clean dishes, cook other things and take care of the children.”

Our results were fairly successful, but as with any first attempt, there was room for improvement. Certainly a valiant attempt for three novices, but my overall review—and I can actually feel myself turning into my father as I say this—“it’s delicious, but it’s not like my grandmother’s.”

According to Nairi, the best part was when we got to try the hot finished dolmastraight out of the pot—we are not the types to let anything cool for three hours, no matter what the recipe says! But as fun as that was, I think the best part was just getting to cook with each other—enacting tearful melodramatic scenes as I chopped a dozen onions, washing and drying grape leaves while belting out ‘90s hits, and laughing endlessly at our questionable leaf-wrapping skills. (We got pretty good by the end!)


It’s comforting to know that even at twenty-five, as grown-up women carrying on our families’ traditions, that, at heart, we’re still the little girls who played with dolls and laughed together.