Armenian pasta

Ayp oo Pasta and Armenopoly — the Kalayjian Family of Wisconsin Gets Creative


RACINE, Wis. — With social and community activities of all kinds grinding to a halt during the pandemic, people found different ways to use their time. Some found new hobbies; others binge-watched TV shows. Fr. Avedis Kalayjian and his family decided to enter the creative cottage industry by coming up with two family-friendly products celebrating the Armenian heritage: “Armenopoly,” an Armenian themed Monopoly board game, and “Ayp oo Pasta,” a custom made dried pasta in the shape of the letters of the Armenian alphabet.

Fr. Kalayjian is a native of the DC area where his father, the late Fr. Vertanes Kalayjian, pastored St. Mary’s Armenian Church. His wife, Karen, is a native of New Jersey. With their two children, they are now living in Wisconsin where Fr. Kalayjian is pastor of St. Mesrob Armenian Church in Racine.

Fr. Kalayjian

Kalayjian says that the inspiration for the “Armenopoly” game came from his son Aram, who was 10 at the time. “Armenopoly came about because we were stuck at home during the lockdown,” said Fr. Kalayjian, “And someone gave my son ‘Fishin’-Opoly.’ I was totally unaware of the different themed versions of Monopoly. I thought it would be a nice project for Aram and I to develop an Armenian version.”

The father and son came up with a list of the top sites of interest in Armenia, and added some sites outside Armenia but “related to the Armenian Nation,” like the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The property cards, which represent these historic Armenian sites, include an educational element in a few sentences about the site’s significance on the flipside of the card. Though some Armenian script is included, the board game is primarily aimed at the English-speaking Armenian Diaspora.

Initially, the Armenopoly game was intended as a fundraiser for the St. Mesrob church, but with the advent of the Azerbaijani attacks on Artsakh, it was transferred into a fundraiser for the war effort. But Kalayjian wasn’t done thinking up creative ideas.


Get the Mirror in your inbox:

Many Armenian language nerds are familiar with that tongue twister yergaraglorakhmoradzag, literally meaning long, round pasta, but Kalayjian opted for the simpler “makaron.” But how did he think up Armenian pasta, called Ayp oo Pasta, of all things? “Being a parent and looking for products related to Armenian culture is a huge challenge,” says Kalayjian, and “since there was already [English] alphabet pasta, it seemed like a long overdue idea. It would be something that could show our kids and kids in the diaspora that there are people out there interested in keeping the heritage going. And this would be a tool that parents could use to inspire interest in a small way. And I have to say that the report a few years ago about Western Armenian being declared a dying language had an effect.”

Playing a game of Armenopoly

To have pasta made in the shapes of the 38 letters of the Armenian alphabet was no easy task, however. Kalayjian looked into a couple of firms, before deciding on one that imports pasta direct from Italy. Special molds had to be created for each of the letters, and the pasta is manufactured in Italy. The Italians were pretty excited about the project, Kalayjian said, because it was a unique challenge for them and something new and different. However, “they weren’t as excited about having to work with someone who was a complete beginner,” Kalayjian laughed.

The new pasta is already popping up on Armenian social media at dinner tables as far as New Jersey. Like the Armenopoly game, it’s being sold for charity, and is available on the website Proceeds will be divided between Fund For Armenian Relief (FAR) and the Armenian Wounded Heroes Fund. It can also be bought at wholesale prices to churches, schools, and other institutions for resale.

Armenopoly, on the other hand, is available on Etsy.

The projects have clearly brought the Kalayjian family together, and delighted their many friends and new customers across the Armenian community in a tough time. As for Yeretzgin Karen? “She’s been my cheerleader – and primary investor,” said Kalayjian with a laugh.

Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: