This Armenian Bulgur Salad, called Itch or Eech, is so similar to tabbouleh, but with much less parsley and much less chopping. It’s such an easy, delicious fresh grain salad, filling enough for lunch or perfect as a side dish with dinner.
Fifty-five years ago, my Armenian Father came to the United States from Egypt to begin a new life. He’d traveled the world for business and could have gone anywhere, yet, on a trip to the States as a guest of U.S. Steel, he decided that this was where he wanted to raise his daughters. He chose the United States because of what it stood for. Promise, freedom, opportunity, liberty and community.
“I wondered what country would accept my two daughters…I love America because it is made up of every nationality.”
This move meant being apart from my Mother and two sisters, just eight and five years old, for seven months. When their documents were finally approved, my Mom, with her two little girls in tow, left her family, her friends, her home, everything she knew in Egypt, to begin that new life with my Dad.
On Christmas Eve night, my Mom and sisters landed in New York City. As they stepped out of the plane, for the first time ever, they felt snowflakes falling around them. My Mother says it was magical. They’d never seen snow before and stood with outstretched arms catching the flakes as they fell. My Father drove them to their new home, a poorly furnished tiny apartment that he had decorated with their first Christmas tree. I can only imagine the joy they must have felt, being reunited, yet the overwhelming fear, calling this foreign land their home.
My family thrived in the United States. They moved from their tiny apartment a few times, had a third daughter (me!), and settled happily in a tranquil, suburban area where my Dad owned local businesses. He took pleasure in being an active and contributing member of our community. He joined the American Business Club and spoke at his installation. At the following meeting, one of the board members spoke of my Father.
“…Our newest member…presented one of the finest talks this correspondent ever heard covering his experiences growing up and as a businessman in Egypt before his coming to the United States…Although his lips and mouth formed the words, everyone knew they came directly from the heart. There was no mistake on the point. Most of us, because of the rat race our business life demands, tend to forget and take for granted the enormous privileges and freedom we enjoy, so it is really refreshing to have a man like Loris visibly shake us with facts we know so well, but seldom realize because we take them for granted. Yes, Loris, the entire membership…is proud to welcome you as a member of our chapter and community. May God bless and keep you.”
Whenever I think about this story of my family coming to the United States, my Father’s pride of becoming a US citizen resonates within me. He reminded us daily of how fortunate we were to call the greatest country in the world our home. Whenever I’d say we were Armenian, my Dad would say, “First, you are American, then you are Armenian.” On the day he and my Mother and sisters held their hands up to become sworn citizens of the United States, he asked our local town officials if he could purchase the flags for the town as long as he lived there. He was thrilled that they agreed.
“You can’t imagine how happy this makes me and my family…The flag has a lot of meaning to me…My wife and I decided when we became citizens…to buy a flag for our community. I wanted to thank the United States for being such a wonderful country.”
Having only experienced life in America, we easily take our freedom for granted. My Father’s family, the survivors of his family, fled Armenia after the horrific Armenian Genocide of 1915 and made Cairo, Egypt their home. Although my Father had a successful business of his own in Cairo and the means to live well, he knew that there was much more that money could not buy. He knew that in the United States, he’d find freedom, democracy, community and home.
I’ve joined many in the food blogging community today in sharing our stories of immigration to this fine country of ours. A country made of diversity. A country made better by diversity. Along with our stories of making America our home, we are sharing recipes that our families brought to their new home. Recipes that, many of, have become a base from which American food is rooted.
This Armenian Bulgur Salad is something I could eat every single day. If you love tabbouleh, honestly, you may love this even more. There are so many variations on this salad, but I really love this one. This is my Mom’s version. I love the bits of tomato that are cooked a bit to create a deeper flavor. This recipe is super easy and packs up perfectly for lunches!
Worldwide, bloggers are using #immigrantfoodstories to share their own recipes and stories. I would love to hear your own immigrant food story or hear about your family’s favorite recipes.
Kimberley of The Year in Food
Liz of Floating Kitchen
Elizabeth of Brooklyn Supper
Nicole of Eat This Poem
Lily of Kale & Caramel
Karen of Honestly YUM
Emma of My Darling Lemon Thyme
Sydney of The Crepes of Wrath
Bella of Ful-Filled
Sara of Cake Over Steak
Aysegul of Foolproof Living
Alana of Fix Feast Flair
Jenny of Nourished Kitchen
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 1 large green bell pepper, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes or 15 ounce can petit diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups fine bulgur
- juice of one large lemon
- 4 to 5 medium green onions, sliced
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, warm the olive oil then cook the onions and green pepper just until the onion begins to soften, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for just one minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper and cayenne and cook covered for 10 minutes. Add the water and bulgur. Stir to coat the bulgur. Cover and cook on low heat for 10 more minutes. Remove from the heat, stir and cover for an additional 10 minutes.
- Allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in the lemon juice before refrigerating.
- Top with green onion, fresh parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil before serving.