The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook By Lena Tashjian

The cover of “The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook “

By Arsho Zakarian

The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook thoughtfully puts together recipes to honour the traditional original while adding a mouthwatering vegan twist. Something even the most staunch Armenian grandmothers would be willing to try.  The subtitle already “Recipes and stories from Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora” already tells us that this book entails stories that develop into recipes. It is a cookbook that both warms the heart with Lena Tashjian’s stories of Armenia and Diaspora and is a feast for the eyes with Siroon’s Parseghian’s photography.

The author, Tashjian, spent six years in Armenia moving from rural to urban areas, observing delicious dishes from locals while enjoying the hospitality Armenia is famous for. There, she honed her culinary skills and recorded each experience while experimenting with vegan ingredients. Growing up in Toronto, a graduate of Sourp Khatch and ARS Armenian schools, she already had a profound love for food from childhood and family life which was only enhanced in Armenia.

This cookbook is also a piece of art with its magnificent photography; when you are not using it in the kitchen, move it over to your coffee table. The photos are inviting, enticing and realistic depictions of how your dish will turn out. The photographer,  Siroon Parseghian, grew up in a family of photographers and her husband is also in the industry.  Learning through osmosis and by pursuing her talent in photography, she has achieved an incredible standard, thus making this cookbook a visually appetizing piece.

The Vegan Armenian Kitchen cookbook should be used all year round, and not just for the lent season or for cooking for your vegan family member. There are comfort classics like Red Lentil Patties or Vegetable Tolma. There are also interestingly challenging ones for us, the diaspora Armenians, like Ghapama and Jingalov hats.   The recipes are nutritious, delicious and satisfying even for seasoned cooks.  It is also a very good guide for the novice ones too.

Tashjian has also spiced up the book with Armenian sayings and expressions related to food i.e. “anoush ulla”/Անուշ ըլլայ, may it be sweet or “khoskov pilaf ch’epeer”/խօսքով փիլաւ չեփիր, rice is not cooked with words.  The book is garnished with Armenian motifs. Each recipe name is bilingual, in English and in Armenian.

Tashjian solves the challenges for Armenian cooks who are cooking vegan dishes, such as yogurt for yogurt soup, մածունով ապուր, or butter for tertanoush (Pakhlava) թերթանոյշ and meat for sud mante for մանթը։ I have personally prepared four dishes and they turned out amazing.  As we say in Armenian “yeresus jermagtsouts”/it brightened my face” (gave me pride) երեսս ճերմկցուցին։ I also tasted four others that were very successful.

What makes it even more precious is that it’s self-published.   Shout out to Adrineh Der-Boghossian for copy editing and indexing and to Maria Dermosessian for the cover and book design.  It is so heartwarming that these homegrown talents, born in the diaspora, have come together and had the courage to take the reins and publish such an important, timely, beautiful and unique book. This hardcover book, with 115+ recipes, is an informative guide for spices, herbs, greens, legumes and beans, grains, pastas, nuts, seeds, dried fruits and sweets which can be used in the recipes. It also has suggestions for menus for a magnificent spread on your dining table during special occasions and holiday times. It is thoughtfully divided into chapters. This 265 paged marvel will find its special place in your kitchen and hospitality.

I highly recommend this book to add to your collection and give it as a gift to newlyweds, new homeowners and to new and experienced cooks alike.  It is available for sale in Toronto’s Hamazkayin bookstore, located in ACC and also online.