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Armenian Cooking and Family Ties

Matthew Maroot
Staff Writer

Yalanchi, Kufta, Paklava… as Armenians we are all familiar with these culinary delights, however, not too many college students spend as much time preparing these dishes as they do enjoying them.

But this was not the case on the weekend of October 17th and 18th, 1997 as a group of 20 students gathered to take part in Armenian Studies 120T:  Armenian Cooking.  Someone passing through the Family & Food Sciences Building who caught the delightful scents wafting into the hallway probably would have never guessed that a group of CSUF students were responsible for such creations.  Under the instruction of Professor Barlow Der Mugrdechian and Mrs. Norma Der Mugrdechian, students had an excellent opportunity to hone their kitchen skills in time for the holiday season.

While the weekend consisted largely of the preparation of various Armenian dishes, Professor Der Mugrdechian also included a discussion on the history and tradition that go along with these delicacies.  It is no secret that Armenians have enjoyed their traditional foods for centuries, indeed, food has long been an important part of the Armenian culture.  In the 5th Century B.C., the Greek historian Xenophon included in his work Anabasis, a description of the abundance of food he encountered during his travels through Armenia.  As well, even the 8th Century A.D. Armenian Folk hero David of Sassoun grew strong on healthy servings of Herisah.

Beginning with Chorag on Friday evening, students dove right into the art of Armenian cooking.  By the end of the night they had successfully made and quickly consumed Valley Wraps, Cheese Borag, Kurabia and Yalanchi.  Saturday morning brought the opportunity to make Kadaif, Kufta, Dolma, Pilaf, Tabbuli and Bourma.  Many students felt more comfortable rolling Yalanchi and Bourma away from the watchful eye of their grandmothers.  Some students had more Armenian food in the course of these two days than they will have all year.  But no one was complaining.  In fact mealtime seemed to be the quietest time of all throughout the weekend.

While the preparation of these traditional Armenian dishes was the primary focus of this course, Professor Der Mugrdechian and Mrs. Norma Der Mugrdechian did an excellent job of providing extensive background knowledge on all of the recipes prepared throughout the course.  They presented us with a tremendous insight into the traditions that have made food such an integral part of the Armenian culture.  From grape leave-picking outings to Dolma-stuffing gatherings, Armenians (particularly Armenian women) have kept these customs alive and have kept us well fed.

Everyone who was enrolled in this exciting course had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the preparation of Armenian recipes.  Those in attendance would agree, this fun and food-filled course presented students with the tastiest unit they will ever earn here at California State University, Fresno.