Recipe Corner: A Hundred Years and Still Cooking, Recipes from First Armenian Presbyterian Church of Fresno


“Dried fruits and nuts were often set out in bowls after dinner or when guests stopped by for a Sunday afternoon visit in many Armenian homes in Fresno in those early days,” remembered the late Victoria Jamgochian. Victoria’s famous stewed fruit recipe is another way the San Joaquin Valley’s harvest bounty was enjoyed by Armenian immigrants and their families throughout the year.

Two of Victoria’s favorite recipes are reprinted below.  They are featured in a remarkable collection that includes recipes by the pioneering women who first settled in Fresno more than 120 years ago: A Hundred Years and Still Cooking, from the First Armenian Presbyterian Church (FAPC) of Fresno Fidelis Women’s Society Centennial recipe collection. Victoria passed away in Fresno on July 15, 1980.  She was a native of Harpoot; her husband Donabed was a native of Diyarbekir.  She arrived in the United States in 1913; he arrived in 1910.  They were married in Parlier on October 2, 1914 with Reverend M.G. Papazian, early-day pastor of Fresno’s Pilgrim Church, officiating. Victoria’s maiden name was Tutunjian.

As the introduction to A Hundred Years and Still Cooking says, “This cookbook is a combination of our best in Armenian and American cuisine. Meals are a big part of our lives because we enjoy the work, we relish the fellowship, and we savor the finished product.  It is our desire to keep our Armenian heritage alive through the foods of our parents, grandparents, and forebears. We also believe it is important to include foods that are important to us as Americans.  We hope you enjoy the goodness of these recipes spanning five generations of members at California’s oldest Armenian church.”  Food writer Barbara Hansen, a James Beard Award winner, reviewed A Hundred Years and Still Cooking in the January 14, 1998 edition of The Los Angeles Times under the headline, “Leaves from Fresno.”

The FAPC was established on July 25, 1897, it is a member congregation of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and Armenian Evangelical Union of North America.  Forty immigrants from Marzovan chartered the Fresno congregation in a rented hall on July 25, 1897.  The boyhood church of authors William Saroyan and A.I. Bezzerides and filmmaker J. Michael Hagopian, FAPC today is a multigenerational evangelical congregation drawn from the Old and New Worlds.

First Armenian Presbyterian Church of Fresno was founded in 1897.

First published in 1993 by H. Markus Printing, this significant 496-page volume cookbook includes instructions for preparing 636 different recipes, a “Cooks in the Heavens” and “Cooking for the Multitudes” sections, a glossary, index and references.  To order copies of A Hundred Years and Still Cooking for your friends and family, please send a check or money order for $35.00 each to: First Armenian Presbyterian Church 430 S. First St., Fresno, CA 93702, Attention: Marine or write to:

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Stewed Fruits

3/4 cup dried apricot halves

3/4 cup prunes with pits

5 cups water

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup raisins, rinsed and stems removed

1 small cinnamon stick


Rinse apricots and prunes, and place them in a 4-quart sauce pan together with 3 cups of water.  Set aside for 1 hour.  Place the saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook gently for 10 minutes.  Add remaining water, sugar, raisins, and cinnamon.  Cook an additional 20 minutes or until fruit is soft.  Remove from heat and discard cinnamon stick.  Let fruit cool, then refrigerate.  Serve chilled.

Serves 6.

Gatnabour (Rice Pudding)

1 cup water

3/4 cup rice

1 quart milk

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

Cinnamon to taste


Wash and then cook rice in 1 cup boiling water until water is absorbed. Heat the milk, add the sugar and rice, and cook on low heat for approximately 45 minutes, stirring constantly.  Pour into individual dishes or Pyrex bowl.  Cool and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Serves 8.



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