SAN FRANCISCO — Elise Kazanjian is a poet/writer who grew up in Tian Jin, China where her father managed an American rug factory. She has worked at Sunset Magazine, at CCTV in Bei Jing, China, for August Coppola’s Audio Vision Project at San Francisco State University, and has been a pawnbroker. Her poems/essays have appeared in Poets Eleven, New Millennium Writings, A Kind of Hurricane Press, SF Chronicle and the Marin Poetry Center Anthology. She is a Co-Judge in the Prose Poetry Category, Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, and has a collection of over 150 fountain pens and mechanical pencils.
She is a member of the Wednesday Women Writers, a group of writers who have been meeting for over ten years. From September through November, many Bay Area Armenian churches present fall bazaars and festivals, featuring a resplendent variety of Armenian foods and deserts, the result of months of dedicated effort and capacious freezer space in homes across the area. A member of St. John’s Armenian Apostolic Church in San Francisco, Elise prepared her favorite Beet Leaves with Rice recipe at a sumptuous 2013 multi-course dinner at her home for KQED News celebrating “Food & Spirituality: Fall Feast with Armenians in San Francisco.”
“This is a dish my beloved mother, Alice Artinian Shabas, often made,” says Elise. “She was born in 1906 in the Kadikoy district of Istanbul, and always called the city Constantinople. In 1918, because of the Genocide, her father sent her and her sister to Vienna, Austria to their uncle’s home. She and my father were good friends at the time, and their relationship blossomed in Vienna. They were married in 1928, and moved to Tian Jin, China where he managed A & M Karagheusian’s rug factory. My mother spoke seven languages, and was an excellent cook in French, Italian, German, and Chinese recipes, as well as her mastery of Armenian cuisine. Her yalanchi dolmas, kuftas, and bourma were acclaimed among her many non-Armenian friends. She was equally adept at vegetarian dishes like roasted beets, vospov kheyma, fassoulia, and bamia stews. During World War II, our family were prisoners of war under the Japanese. In 1946, we came to San Francisco where my mother was a devoted member of the St. John Armenian Church ladies, and contributed her vast culinary skills at church events for many years.”