Family Dinners with Nana



by Karen Topakian

“Armen, what do you think about the steak?”

My father didn’t answer.

My Nana frequently asked my father this question during Sunday afternoon dinners where my grandfather, a funny man with sharp mind for business and big smile, always sat at the head and my father, a practical man of few words, sat at the foot. Nana half sat on her chair, nearest the kitchen ready to jump up at a moment’s notice to add more food to the table, as needed. My mother, sister and I filled in the empty seats.

During most of my childhood years, my parents, sister and I often ate these dinners at my maternal grandparents’ house in Cranston, RI.

Nana served roast beef or steak, vegetables, rice pilaf, a salad and a homemade dessert in the dining room, seated at the mahogany dining room table, set with a tablecloth and cloth napkins.

She prided herself on her cooking. She enjoyed and encouraged everyone’s compliments about her culinary accomplishments. But she mostly sought out my father’s approval.

Shortly after we arrived on Sunday at 2:30, Nana ushered us into the dining room to eat dinner. We took our seats and started passing the food.

“Mom, thank you for going to all this effort today,” said my mother passing the bowl of green beans stewed with a lamb bone, tomatoes and onions.

“Armen, have more pilaf,” offered my Nana waving a big spoonful in his direction.

“This time you made it right,” declared my grandfather in Armenian, enjoying his second bite of green beans.

“Armen, did you try the steak yet?” inquired Nana beaming.

My father didn’t answer.

“Mom, the pilaf came out perfectly,” praised my mother.

“Alice, pass Armen the salad. He doesn’t have any,” chided Nana.

“Mom, I heard Anna wasn’t feeling well,” mentioned my mother. “Do you know how she is?”

“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” responded Nana. “Armen, I almost made potatoes instead of pilaf but I know how much you like my pilaf.”

My father didn’t answer.

“Dad, do you want us to give you a ride to the bazaar next Sunday?”

“Armen, you haven’t said what you think about the steak.”

“Leave him alone. Let him eat,” grumbled my grandfather. “I’m not going. There’s too many people and it’s too loud.”

“Don’t say that. You know you’re going,” declared Nana. “Armen, it must be good because it was an expensive cut…”

My father didn’t respond.

“I’ll only go if the girls go,” announced my grandfather smiling at my sister and me.

“Does anyone want madzoon (yogurt)?” asked Nana as she started to rise out of her chair. “Armen, does the salad need more dressing?”

“Dad, we’ll pick you up in time for the chicken and pilaf dinner,” offered my mother.

“Armen, what do you think of the steak?”

“Why do you keep asking him?” challenged my mother.

“Armen, I made a delicious apple pie and I’m sure you’ll like it.”

“Dad, have you talked to Kuzoian’s lately?” inquired my mother.

“Armen how’s the steak?”

And finally my father answered, ”Tough.”






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