FRESNO — Family recipes from Christine Vartanian Datian of Las Vegas and her mother, Alice Vartanian, of Fresno are featured in the current Fresno Bee November 2014 Flavors Magazine. Datian, a Fresno native, is a copywriter and technical writer who has been published in Sunset and Cooking Light Magazines for more than a decade. She is a graduate of California State University, Fresno (CSUF) with a master’s degree in mass communication. She attributes her accomplishments and interests in writing and creating new recipes to her mother and her late grandmother, Peppy Sarkisian, a native of Adana, Turkey, who lived in Lowell, Mass. and Los Angeles.
Vartanian was born in Lowell, and was married to the late Arthur Vartanian of Fresno, and has two other children, Philip and Steven Vartanian and two grandsons, Justin and Brian Vartanian of Fresno. She recently celebrated her 85th birthday and is known for her superb yalanche, dolma, rice and bulgur pilafs, cheese boureg, and specialty cookies, nut breads, gata, Italian biscotti, and desserts, including her celebrated Armenian “shakarishe” sugar cookies she has made for many family events and holidays for 40 years. “My mother and grandmother are energetic, talented, and exceptionally generous women and mothers who 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, talk (in Armenian and Turkish) and work together in our kitchen in Fresno, and 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 Datian adds. “They cooked with love and that made all the difference…”
She added, “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.”
Her grandmother was born in Adana, Turkey and endured a turbulent and tragic childhood; she lost her beloved father at an early age and was in an orphanage when she was 4 or 5 years old, and survived with the determination to ultimately come to America with her new husband, Levon, a successful barber, build a home and a family business, and raise three children in Lowell with many other new immigrants at the time.
“My grandmother was a beautiful, accomplished and dedicated wife, mother and grandmother who was a true survivor in many ways; she was creative, thoughtful and worked her entire life, and always told us never to give up…she inspired us with her determination…and made us feel special and loved when she made her homemade baklava and Armenian breads and gatas when we were children.”