What started out as a whim 18 months ago has now turned into a staple for Lisa Kouchakdjian. Her plateful of love is being served in heaping portions to an audience that’s constantly asking for seconds.
Her nutmeg is called “Love on a Plate” and quite frankly, dispels the myths associated with making these wonderful traditional Armenian foods.
Since I first wrote about Lisa a year and a half ago, she’s come forth with six videos and a website that’s catching everyone’s attention. An attorney by trade, she’s well versed in the field of public speaking and gets her point across quite nicely at public appearances.
But honestly, it’s more about the food than the voice behind it. Lisa waters your taste buds when she talks and writes about the various recipes she has spiced into her presentations.
It’s her way of celebrating and embracing a unique cultural heritage. A second generation Armenian, Lisa was born and raised in Natick, received her law degree from Suffolk University, and practiced as a litigation attorney for almost 10 years.
She and her husband Ara enjoy the company of four wonderful children and make their home in nearby Sudbury just outside of Boston where she is involved with the School Committee.
Her intent is to teach both Armenians and non-Armenians about traditional foods in an easy and efficient way.
“We’re so busy these days, we think we don’t have the time to prepare the foods our ancestors made,” she tells you. “They came here literally with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing but brought with them the heart and soul of a nation.”
Vivid memories of certain foods have stuck in her mind for years. There was always something cooking on the stove. Even her dad could often be seen firing up the grill and giving her tips on how to properly skewer kebab.
“Whether it was going to church, Sunday School, or a kef, being Armenian encompassed my entire life,” she tells you. “And food played an important part in my upbringing.”
Lisa soon found herself developing efficient ways to multi-task and streamline her concoctions, creating healthier versions of many traditional foods we’re apt to enjoy as Armenians. Her recipe for success can be summed up in six different ways:
– Celebrate our heritage through food.
– Teach Armenians who might not have watched their family members cooking foods they enjoyed.
– Teach Armenians who want to try traditional foods that they never tried making or eating.
– Teach anyone who wants to learn how to cook healthy traditional Armenian foods.
– Make traditional Armenian foods in a simple, easy and efficient manner.
– Put a modern twist on traditional Armenian recipes.
We caught her presentation at an Avak luncheon conducted in my church with about 30 people present. It’s safe to say that all of them were enamored by the talk. Lisa made no heed to a power point and electronics. Instead, she was more comfortable talking candidly and informally about her subject matter.
As questions arose, she offered answers. It was as if she was built for her audience and even the men in the crowd could relate, whether they cooked or not.
“One does not have to be a trained chef to learn how to cook these traditional recipes,” she maintains. “I do encourage watching others and learning from them. Many of their recipes were right inside their head and not on paper.”
I can recall my mother and grandmother working the kitchen, especially during the holidays. They were absolutely frenetic when it came time to setting up a dinner table. It usually sagged with food. And with my own wife, she made the time to watch them prepare and devise.
It never ceases to amaze me how ambidextrous these cooks were in their environment and how they could produce such specialties at a moment’s notice—whether it was a tray of baklava or an oven’s worth of cheoreg.
No two ever made pilaf the same. And when it came to yalanchi, one would often try to outdo the other. I prefer mine moist. I remember bringing samples of their cuisine to work and sharing them with my fellow co-workers. They found a certain mystique in this cooking.
I can say the same for other ethnic varieties. People often judge us by our culture. Food tends to become a common denominator.
Lisa Kouchakdjian has become somewhat of a self-anointed missionary as she moves forward with her passion. She does tours, private classes and parties. She’s the whole package. And as she looks you square in the eye, she has two words for you.
Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-West