A Family That Loves to Cook: The Vartanian-Datian Story

Christine Vartanian Datian of Las Vegas, NV and her mother, Mrs. Alice Vartanian of Fresno, CA love to cook. In fact, some of Christine’s recipes have been featured right here on The Armenian Kitchen website. 

Alice Vartanian, left, and her daughter Christine Datian

Christine and I have been ‘sharing’ recipes for a number
of years via email. Most recently she sent me a link to  her recipe for ‘Armenian Rice Pilaf with Raisins and Almonds’
which appeared in
The New York Times

Christine’s Armenian Rice Pilaf with Raisins and Almonds (Photo by Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times)

In addition to this, Christine’s recipes have appeared in Armenian-American publications such as the Armenian Mirror – Spectator.

Both her mother’s and her recipes appear in the November 2014 edition of the  ‘Fresno Bee Flavors Magazine’. It’s a great collection of recipes mostly featuring California products. If you take the time to read through it, and I recommend you do, you’ll see all sorts of delicious recipes including some from other Armenian ladies from the Fresno area.

Christine’s love for her family and Armenian heritage is inspiring. 

Here is The Vartanian – Datian Story

Datian, a Fresno native, is a copywriter and technical writer who has been
published in Sunset and Cooking Light Magazines for over a decade.  Christine is a graduate of California State
University, Fresno (CSUF) with a Master of Arts Degree in Mass Communications.  She attributes her accomplishments and
interests in writing and creating new recipes to her mother Alice, and her late
grandmother, Mrs. Peppy Sarkisian, a native of Adana, Turkey.  

Mrs.Vartanian, who recently turned 85, is originally from
Lowell, Massachusetts and was married to the late Mr. Arthur Vartanian of
Fresno. Their family consists of their three children Christine, Philip and
Steven Vartanian, and two grandsons, Justin and Brian Vartanian of Fresno. 

Mrs. Vartanian is known for her superb Armenian dishes – yalanche,
dolma, rice and bulgur pilafs, cheese boureg, and desserts such as specialty
cookies, nut breads, gata, and “shakarishe” sugar cookies which she has made
for many family events and holidays over the past 40 years. 

Christine stated the following: “My mother and
grandmother, two energetic, talented, and exceptionally generous women, took
pride and effort in creating memorable dishes and recipes for our family
celebrations, parties, and special occasions throughout our lives.  I learned by watching and listening to them
laugh and talk (in Armenian and Turkish). While working together in our kitchen
in Fresno, they instilled in me an attention to detail and interest in Middle
Eastern and traditional Armenian recipes, flavors, spices, ingredients, and
cooking techniques at an early age.” 

Christine added, “They cooked with love, and that made
all the difference. I can still taste my grandmother’s fragrant Armenian
“fassoulia” green bean and lamb stew she made when she came to Fresno from Los
Angeles with fresh green beans, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, spices,
mint, and lamb.  This dish was a feast
all by itself.”  

Christine’s beloved grandmother endured a turbulent and
tragic childhood in Adana. She lost her father at an early age and was placed in
an orphanage when she was 4 or 5 years old. Fortunately, she managed to survive. 

With great determination, Christine’s grandmother vowed
to come to America with her new husband, Levon, a successful barber. Ultimately,
they built a family business and home, and raised three children in Lowell, MA as
did many other immigrants of that time.  

Christine recalled, “My grandmother, a true survivor in many ways, was
beautiful, accomplished, and completely dedicated to her husband, children and
grandchildren. Working her entire life, she taught us to never give up. We were
truly inspired by her determination. Grandmother made us feel special and loved
– especially when she made her homemade baklava and Armenian breads and gatas
when we were children.”

Christine is following in the footsteps of her mother and
grandmother, however, she doesn’t just cook; she creates dishes that will linger on
ones lips, as well as in their memories. Her recipes reach a global audience,
something her grandmother could never have imagined.

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