A Village Remembered: The Armenians of Habousi - The Compatriotic Union of Habousi

Chapter 7:

Household Economy

The women of Habousi contributed their full share to the economy of the village and to the prosperity of their homes.

In those days it was impossible for women to go to the grocer or to the butcher for their daily food. They were supposed to prepare a whole year’s food in one month, in autumn, when the harvest was abundant. A portion of the harvested wheat was allocated to each individual. Most of the wheat, though, was ground into flour for the purpose of baking bread in the tonir. The dough was spread very thin, and sometimes thicker, adding some sesame seeds for a delicious taste. The rest of the wheat was turned into cracked wheat (bulghur) by first boiling the grain before drying and grinding it. With bulghur women cooked pilav, kufteh with or without meat or yogurt, kheyma (adding chopped onion, parsley and pepper to the meat), soup (with fine bulghur), and sarma (bulghur rolled in grape leaves). Barley was used in the preparation of keshgeg or herisa (when meat was added), as well as a soup with pepper, mint, and other spices. Barley was also widely used with salted fruits and vegetables such as small watermelons, squashes, pickles, tomatoes, and cabbages. These salted foods were very handy and useful in the winter time.

People bought meat in Habousi on Saturdays only. By tradition, family, no matter how wealthy or poor, slaughtered cows, sheep, and goats. The meat was cooked with the bones in large copper pots. Additional salt was added to preserve the meat. The result, called khavoorma, was kept in especially prepared casks.

Families took care of fruits and grapes also during the autumn harvest. Women prepared basdegh, rojik, and roob from the grape juice. Basdegh and rojik were made by mixing grape juice with wheat starch and then allowing it to dry to a paste. Nuts were added to rojik. Roob was a syrup obtained by boiling grape juice until it thickened. Habousetzies also prepared dried fruits like raisins and mulberries. During the harvest, wine and oghi (ouzo) were also made. The villagers stored these in casks or bottles to be used for special occasions like engagements, weddings, and feasts.

Since sesame was abundant, women extracted oil from it by placing it in special mortars (hollow stone) and beating the seeds with wooden sticks until it turned into liquid. Sesame oil was added to the roob to make a special delicacy. Food was cooked with sesame oil during Lent.

Oil extracted from cotton seed was used for lighting. Habousetzies knitted, worked, read, and wrote by the light of a jerak (lamp). Family members would gather by the light of their lamps until late night to converse, to recite tales to their children, and finally to pray before going to bed. Lamps were commonly flat clay dishes as big as a hand with a handle. A cotton wick was placed in the dish full of cotton oil.

The lamp was placed in a special place called jerakagal (lamp-holder) on the wall or on a pillar five or six feet high.