Pam Dayinian’s Red Lentil Vegetable Soup (Photos: Courtesy Margaret-Ann Yessian)

Pam Dayinian’s Red Lentil Vegetable Soup


SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — During the COVID-19 lockdown, the Women’s Guild of St. John Armenian Church in Southfield looked for ways to stay connected while staying apart. Normally, the Women’s Guild’s calendar is filled with activities and events through the year. Maintaining connections to each other while remaining homebound meant thinking in creative new ways. The group divided up their church phone directory and took turns calling each member to check in regularly.

A suggestion by Fr. Aren Jebejian led to the creation of Guild Gatherings, a series of instructional videos recorded by volunteers in their homes and posted on YouTube. The Guild has posted 33 homemade videos that have been viewed over 8,000 times, covering a variety of subjects and topics. “Millions of people go to YouTube to be educated, informed, motivated, or just plain delighted. Our members demonstrated how to make souboreg, katah, dolma, and comfort foods like soup, breads, yogurt, manti, and choreg.

Other topics include designing holiday planters and tablescapes, cake decorating, watercolor painting, knitting, exercise, and more,” says Denise Karakashian, Guild Gatherings co-chair. “These imaginative and creative videos have inspired many viewers to learn new skills and activities during the quarantine.”

One special recipe featured at the Guild Gatherings YouTube page is the late Pam Dayinian’s Red Lentil Vegetable Soup. Though Pam passed away in 2015, she was instrumental in the creation of the Armenian Cuisine: Preserving Our Heritage Cookbook by the Women’s Guild of St. John Armenian Church (she served as co-chair with Dolly Matoian). Pam was recognized for being an outstanding home cook, baker, planner, and church organizer who worked tirelessly in support of the Women’s Guild for many years. (The cookbook’s fourth printing was in 2019.)

Pam’s recipe (it makes about 11 cups) is listed on page 37 of the cookbook. In the YouTube video, Guild member Susan Reizian demonstrates an updated version of Pam’s recipe that can be made in an Instant Pot, go to:

Note: Instant Pots are a brand of electric pressure cookers or multicookers. Pressure cookers work by creating heat under a tight seal, so the temperature is much higher than the boiling point of water and the steam can’t escape. The steam cooks food much more quickly than traditional stovetop or oven cooking.

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1 large onion, chopped

4 carrots, chopped

2-3 stalks celery, sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups red lentils, rinsed and drained

8-10 cups broth (vegetable, chicken, beef or lamb or bouillon)

2-3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper (to taste)

1 tablespoon cumin

2 tablespoons tomato paste or 14 oz. can crushed or diced tomatoes (optional)



Sauté lentils, onions, carrots and celery in olive oil in a 6-8 quart pot until softened. (These vegetables may be chopped in a food processor).

Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add bay leaves, seasonings, and tomato. Stir and simmer for 45 minutes to one hour. Remove bay leaves and adjust seasonings. Add more broth or water if soup is too thick. Serve as is or cool slightly and puree using a wand mixer or in a blender.

Serves 8.

Note: In addition to presenting Pam’s original recipe, Susan added the following ingredients to her version, these are optional:

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried basil

1-1/2 teaspoons curry

1 teaspoon pepper

Pam was the cherished wife of Jerry Dayinian, and the mother of Olivia (George) Andonyan and Margaret-Ann (Brian) Yessian. She was the grandmother of Evan, Gia, Lula, Felix and Beau. She was sister to Edwin Neffian. Pam’s daughter Olivia shares some fond family memories about her mother’s life:

“Our mom served as the Chairperson of the Women’s Guild for three terms during the 1980s and 1990s, and spent 3-4 days a week at church working in the kitchen and making various foods. We lived in a two-story colonial home and most nights while we were was upstairs, we would listen to her on the telephone downstairs until the late hours calling members of the Women’s Guild about upcoming meetings and events. Her specialty was making 30 trays of spinach pie for the annual food festival. She would recruit 10-15 women and a few capable men to help with the preparation and planning duties. She would send dad to Babylon Market to buy the phyllo dough. And to GFS to buy 20 bags of spinach and six 5 lb. blocks of Wisconsin brick cheese, feta, onions, and the eggs. Together, they would defrost the spinach and wring out the liquid in large cheese cloth towels.”

“Dad served on the Sunday School Board, treasurer of the bazaar, an usher, and estimates he’s cut 300 to 400 legs of lamb into kebabs for church picnics over the past 45 years. They served as chairpersons for the church picnics from 2000 to 2005. Dad said he learned how to cut lamb from Suren and Art Aprahamian who owned a neighborhood meat and produce market. (This was in the 1950s before there were large supermarkets or box stores.) The group would cut up 7-10 legs of lamb at a time. He said he would go to Kroeger and load up 25 watermelons in the back of his minivan for the picnics.”

“This recipe was passed down to mom from her gifted mother, Lucy Neffian. Lucy’s mother’s name was Olombion Sahagian. Lucy was born in Gesaria, Turkey. She had two sisters. Miraculously, my great-grandmother, grandmother and great-aunts were spared from the Armenian Genocide and survived to immigrate to Detroit. Our mother’s father’s name was Charles Boghos Neffian. He was also a survivor of the Armenian Genocide. He was rescued from an orphanage in Istanbul, Turkey, by one of his uncles and immigrated to the United States at age 18. Our grandmother Lucy was not only an expert at creating many traditional Armenian dishes, she made contemporary American foods like standing rib roast, pizza and homemade French fries. She had a reputation in the family and the church community for being the ultimate Armenian-American cook. Her specialty was Kharpert kufte. She made everything unbelievably good and from scratch. The best khalka (simit), shekerlemeh, manti, individual cheese boregs, spicy meatballs, and wedding pilaf. Our grandmother hosted family gatherings at the holidays, preparing each of the food and setting the centerpieces and tables to perfection.”

“Mom carried on her family’s tradition of outstanding Armenian cuisine, cooking and food preparation. In her lifetime, mom lived and breathed all things cooking and baking in order to nourish her family with love and attention. She created a library in our home devoted to her cookbooks, magazines and newspaper clippings of many recipes. One of her favorite celebrity chefs was Ina Garten.”

Pamela Neffian Dayinian (Photos: Courtesy Margaret-Ann Yessian)

“Her love for her church and the Women’s Guild became her lifelong passion. She was a Sunday School teacher for 25 years, and served as Women’s Guild Chairperson in 1984, 1985 and 1994. She was Co-Chair of the Women’s Guild Cookbook, Armenian Cuisine Preserving Our Heritage. She served on nominating committees, and made khadayiff and spinach boregs for church bazaars. She was always there for her lifelong friends. She took great care of her family, nurturing and visiting her elderly relatives. And made sure they got to their hair appointments, doctor appointments, and picking up their medication from the pharmacy. She embodied Christian values and believed in serving others. She also found time to organize family reunions, parties, and holiday celebrations. She raised her daughters to value a Christian education, academics at school, music, piano lessons, dance and creative arts.”

“I am honored to own one of mom’s cookbooks with her hand-written notes in the margins. And I am honored to own the Armenian Cuisine: Preserving Our Heritage Cookbook she took so much pride in and helped publish with her committee. It is inscribed, ‘May you enjoy cooking some delicious Armenian recipes from your family tradition. My Love Always, Mom 2010.’ Once a month for three years, the cookbook committee met at our home to finalize the cookbook before publication. Each recipe was tested to ensure it was the best version to publish. The committee included multiple variations of ingredients to account for different tastes, recipes, techniques, and family traditions. This cookbook is still an invaluable resource in our kitchens today.”

Pam Dayinian with her husband Jerry celebrating a birthday with their beloved grandchildren. (Photos: Courtesy Margaret-Ann Yessian)

“When mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2010, she did not let the diagnosis stop her. The same loving smile was always there. She maintained a positive attitude and caring outlook for all of us when she was ill. She proudly wore the color teal in support of all ovarian cancer survivors. Sadly, she was diagnosed with a second cancer in 2014. Pancreatic cancer took her life at the very young age of 69. She was never sad for herself, but only worried about her younger brother and other family members. Her passing has left a huge void in our family and the church community. Our mom can never be replaced. We will always cherish her memory…”

Connect to Guild Gatherings to learn more about Pam’s outstanding soup recipe and for information about the Women’s Guild at: or

Also see:



Armenian Cuisine: Preserving Our Heritage Cookbook

Over 450 tested recipes from the Detroit metropolitan Armenian community, updated using modern techniques and equipment. Detailed description of cooking and baking methods including tips for preparation. $35 with free shipping.


Pomegranate Apron

With 2 handy pockets and adjustable straps. Great for the kitchen, garage, or garden. $20 with free shipping. To order, go to:

Consider a donation to support the growing mission of the Women’s Guild of St. John Armenian Church: the Women’s Guild strives to nurture fellowship and service to our church and community through a variety of activities and events. Your funds will help us continue outreach activities in Armenia such as sponsoring orphans and supporting Mer Doon, which provides young women with a safe home and instructs them in life skills.


Women’s Guild of St. John Armenian Church

22001 Northwestern Highway

Southfield, Michigan 48075

Tel: (248) 569-3405

Fax: (248) 569-0716

Copyright © 2022 Women’s Guild of St. John Armenian Church


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