By Robyn and Doug Kalajian
FLArmenians Cuisine Contributors
After two years of preparation and anticipation, the 111th Diocesan Assembly and Clergy Conference in beautiful Boca Raton concluded on Sunday, May 5, 2013.
It was a whirlwind week of events with hundreds of attendees from Mid-Western, East Coast, and Southern states. In addition to the planned sessions and meetings, guests participated in luncheons, kef time (featuring the music of Johnny Berberian), area sightseeing, and a gala banquet honoring Armenians of the Year – Janet and Edward Mardigian, and Friend of the Armenians – former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. The week-long gathering culminated with a lavish farewell Sunday brunch for departing Very Rev. Fr. Nareg Berberian of St. David Armenian Church.
I had a mini part in the grand scheme of things, but it was exciting just the same. Many of our seasonal visitors rolled up their sleeves alongside local parishioners to help create the massive menu for the farewell brunch.
Serving stations were set with assorted salads, yalanchi, lahmajoun, cheese boregs, meat boregs, and hummus. A carving station offered sliced-to-order roast beef, ham and turkey. Desserts included kourabia cookies, paklava, semolina cakes, fruit kabobs, and more. The beverage station served-up Mimosas (orange juice and champagne), plain orange juice, and coffee to help wash everything down.
Weeks before the brunch, I was at church working on another aspect of the preparation while a group of seasonal parishioners from Detroit were in the kitchen making the meat boregs. They made Dolly Matoian’s recipe which came from St. John Armenian Church (Detroit) cookbook. This is not a ‘home version’ recipe as it yields 375 to 400 boregs, and requires 20 workers over a 2-day period to complete.
Instead of using phyllo dough or puff pastry, the dough was more chorag-like. The meat filling had a nice ‘kick’ from the blend of black pepper and cayenne pepper in the filling. I got to sample a test boreg as it came out of the oven – it was soft, warm, and so delicious!
I have made an attempt to break down the large-group recipe for the home kitchen, but be warned – I have not tested this version. The new ingredient amounts represent 1/8th the original recipe measurements.
The smaller recipe should yield about 45 to 50 boregs, and I would suggest having one or two extra pairs of hands to assist. Oh yes, it’s important to prepare the meat mixture one day in advance.
Please don’t be discouraged by the lengthy recipe. One thing is for sure, I can certainly appreciate the time and effort the Detroit ladies put into this recipe, and I truly did savor every bite!
Here’s the (untested) home version recipe…
Meat Boreg (Beoreg)
Yield: 45 to 50 pieces
1 lb. chopped onions
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 ¾ lbs. ground lamb
1 ¾ lb. ground sirloin (or chuck)
¾ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. paprika
¾ lb. (3 sticks) butter
¾ c. dried parsley (or 1 cup fresh, chopped parsley)
¼ lb. (1 stick) butter
¼ cup vegetable shortening
1¼ c. milk
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. dry granular yeast
½ cup warm water
2 ¼ tsp. sugar
1 ½ tsp. salt
3 ¼ lb. all-purpose flour (approx. 12 cups)
2 eggs, beaten
Regular or black sesame seeds
1. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet. Saute onions until soft, but not mushy. Strain onions in a colander, pressing firmly to remove any liquid. Set aside until ready to use.
2. In a large frying pan, cook lamb and beef over medium heat until brown. Break meat down with a fork to remove any large lumps. Strain out any excess fat.
3. Place cooked onions and meat in a large mixing bowl. Stir in all of the seasonings. Taste for flavor and spiciness. Make any adjustments, if necessary.
4. Melt the butter in a skillet and add to the meat-onion mixture. Finally, add the chopped parsley.
5. Place mixture in shallow containers; cover and refrigerate until day 2.
Directions for Dough Preparation:
1. Melt butter and shortening in a saucepan. Allow to cool. Add milk to butter mixture; set aside.
2. Using a hand or stand mixer and a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until well-blended.
3. Begin adding flour, a little at a time, to the egg mixture for a uniform mixture.
4. In a medium bowl, combine the ½ c. warm water, yeast and sugar, whisking to dissolve. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof.
5, Add proofed yeast to the flour mixture and knead dough well.
6. Using a food scale, portion the dough into 1 ½ to 2 oz. portions; place on trays, cover with plastic wrap or parchment paper and allow to rest.
7. Portion the meat into 1/12 to 2 oz. portions.
8. On a work surface (no flour should be needed), roll each dough portion into 4-inch circles, and place on platters.
Forming and baking the boregs:
9. Hold each round of dough in one hand; top with meat mixture. Pinch or fold the dough over the meat to completely seal the filling.
10. Place – seam side down – on parchment-lined baking sheets. Lightly press down to make a bun shape instead of a ball shape. Continue the process until the trays are filled. Allow boregs to rest about 15 minutes before baking.
11. Bake in preheated 375°F oven (350°F for convection oven) until golden.
12. Place baked boregs on cooling racks; cool completely. If not serving immediately, place borges in freezer bags in single layers, and freeze until ready to use.
13. Prior to serving, defrost boregs in the refrigerator, and bake in preheated 325°F oven until warmed through.
HOLLYWOOD, FL —On Wednesday April 24, several hundred members of the South Florida Armenian American Community gathered at St Mary Armenian Church to commemorate the 98th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, reported Florida Armenians (FLArmenians).
The evening began with a hokehankist (memorial service), which was offered for the victims of the Armenian Genocide by the V. Rev. Fr. Nareg Berberian of St. David Armenian Church and Rev. Fr. Vartan Joulfayan of St. Mary Armenian Church.
After the service, a cross-cultural, multimedia program began delving into the history surrounding the Armenian genocide, as well as the emotions that are shared not only by the survivors and descendants of survivors, but also the survivors of many of the numerous other genocides of the 20th century.
Armenians worldwide commemorate the genocide on April 24 of each year, the day when, in 1915, Ottoman authorities arrested 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. Soon after, the Ottoman military ripped Armenians from their homes and began a systematic extermination of Armenians which was implemented in two phases: the killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and forced labor, and the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches to the Syrian Desert. The total number of Christian Armenians who perished as a result between 1915 and 1923 has been estimated at around 1.5 million. The Turkish government has yet to formally acknowledge that the genocide even occurred.
Mr. Raffy Yaghdjian, member of the St Mary Armenian Church parish council, served as master of ceremonies. In Yaghdjian’s opening words he stated, “We are gathered here today to remind ourselves that the struggle is not over. The world did not learn. There were many more genocides following ours. The Assyrians, the Greeks, the Jews, the Cambodians, Rwandans, and those in Darfur. So we continue with the struggle. We must continue to educate. We must continue to publicize. We must continue to publish books and write papers. We must continue to make the effort. We must continue to be creative in how we do it. After all, and I quote, ‘all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’”
As the program continued, Mr. Harry Pilafian, a survivor of the genocide who was in attendance, was recognized with standing applause. Lilit Mnatsakanyan and Tanya Lusararian read papers they had composed regarding their perspectives on the genocide, and Roubina Majarian of St David Armenian Church presented Armenian poetry. Guest speaker Professor Hannibal Travis of the Florida International University (FIU) College of Law addressed the audience about his ongoing study of the Armenian Genocide, particularly how it has been addressed by the United States. Professor Travis is the author of the first comprehensive history of physical and cultural genocide in the Middle East and North Africa, entitled Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq, and Sudan. A short screening from the documentary “Orphans of the Genocide” was also presented by south Florida film producer Bared Maronian. A musical interlude followed, with Alique Mazmanian performing “Karouna” by Komitas on piano, Mrs. Audrey Pilafian performing “Manoushak” and “Yeraz” on cello, Joseph Yenikomshian playing “Lord have mercy” on clarinet, and Sage McBride performing “Krounk” by Komitas, on violin.
Before the conclusion of the program, Mr. Yaghdjian unexpectedly once more approached the podium to excitedly say, “I was just given a note that the Florida State Senate just passed a resolution recognizing April 24 as Armenian Martyrs Remembrance Day for the first time in Florida history,” to a round of thunderous applause.
Fr. Joulfayan offered in closing, “Many thanks to you, dear South Floridians, families, youth, and children. But, in a way, I should not be thanking you. We do not thank each other on this day. Today, we simply come to remember and never forget.”
The South Florida Armenian Genocide Commemoration was held under the auspices of St. David Armenian Church of Boca Raton, St. Mary Armenian Church of Hollywood and Florida Armenians, together with the Armenian Assembly of America, the Armenian National Committee, and the Knights of Vartan.
Photo Caption 1: St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church of Hollywood, Florida.
Photo Caption 2: Florida Armenians joined by human rights and anti-genocide activists to commemorate the 98th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and all genocides of the 20th Century.
Photo Caption 3: FIU Professor Hannibal Travis presents his studies on the Armenian Genocide.
Photo Caption 4: Armenian Genocide survivor Harry Pilafian recognized by South Florida Armenian American community.
Photos courtesy of Michele Kevorkian McBride for FLArmenians.com.
By Diane C. Lade
Four striking billboards, crowded in among beer and cosmetic surgery ads along two South Florida highways, contain one sentence starkly lettered in white on a black background: “Thank you for officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide — April 24, 1915.”
It’s a bold move to bring public attention to an almost century-old tragedy that Armenian Americans say takes a back seat to other large-scale human rights violations: the killing of 1.5 million of their ancestors during World War I in what is now Turkey.
But until now, the identity of those behind the signs was a mystery. Small wording at the bottom of the 672-square-foot billboards states only that they were “paid for by individuals concerned about the plight of Armenians.” They list no names.
That’s because it’s not about publicity, it’s about bringing larger awareness to the issue, said George Pagoumian, 70, a Fort Lauderdale businessman and philanthropist who came forward only after the Sun Sentinel began researching the signs.
The four billboards are located at Florida’s Turnpike-Interstate 595 interchange; and on Interstate 95 at Southern Boulevard in West Palm Beach, at Atlantic Boulevard in Pompano Beach and at Northwest 79th Avenue in Miami. And the campaign was organized and financed through Armenian community members, said Pagoumian, declining to list the other contributors or how much was donated.
“We don’t want money to dictate this,” said Pagoumian, whose parents were Armenian and who lost his grandmother and other relatives to the killings. “Our grandmothers, our family who died are paying. They are sending checks from heaven.”
Twenty countries have officially recognized the killings as genocide, and those nations’ flags are on the South Florida billboard, under the words “thank you.” The United States is not among them — something Armenian Americans have fought passionately to change for years. They are pressuring President Obama to make an executive declaration.
But calling what happened in Armenia almost 100 years ago a “genocide” is a very touchy subject — especially in South Florida. About 4,000 people of Armenian descent live in Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to the Census, alongside about 5,000 of Turkish descent. Turkey denies that Armenians were targeted because of race or ethnicity.
Fuat Ornarli, past president of the Florida Turkish American Association, has not seen the billboards but dislikes what he considers a politicization of the issue.
“I would like to express my deep sorrow to see such billboards around us, since this subject is so politicized, and so biased,” said Ornarli, of Miami.
Genocide declarations should be made by scholars, not politicians, Ornarli said, adding that not all historians agree the Armenian deaths should be labeled genocide. Like the leaders of his native country, he said the deaths were casualties of war, exacerbated when the Armenians aligned themselves with Russia, Turkey’s enemy.
Rosanna Gatens, director for the Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education at Florida Atlantic University, said the removal and killing of Armenians by the Turks is taught along with the Holocaust and other modern genocides in the state-mandated human rights education program. Each year, a few teachers get complaints from upset Turkish parents “who think their children are being taught that Turkey is a terrible place,” she said.
“It’s really important for people in our area to understand what happened in Armenia. All scholarly definitions say it was a genocide and we need to quit playing politics,” she said.
Marta Batmasian, a Boca Raton real estate investor and Armenian community leader, agreed.
“This is a human rights issue, not an Armenian issue. We are not going to let history be buried,” said Batmasian, a former educator who sits on the state task force for Holocaust and human rights education.
The South Florida signs are very similar to an effort run by Peace of Art Inc., a nonprofit founded by Armenian American artist Daniel Varoujan Hejinian. Since 1996, Hejinian has created and installed dramatic billboards each April in suburban Boston, his hometown, calling on the United States to recognize the killings as genocide.
Rosario Teixeira, Peace of Art’s executive director, said the organization was not involved in South Florida’s efforts. “I am sure their efforts are well intended and we wish them good luck,” she said.
Armenian churches and peace activists in South Florida every year host prayer or commemoration services on April 24, the day when the Ottoman government arrested 250 Armenian intellectuals and leaders, and began deporting them.
St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church in Hollywood will have a public service and commemoration Wednesday; St. Mary and St. David Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church in Boca Raton trade off hosting the event annually.
This year, the billboards created a buzz when the signs appeared but no one claimed the credit. Speculation ran wild among South Florida’s Armenians for weeks. “The emails I’m getting! They are saying something like this has never happened,” Batmasian said.
The Rev. Vartan Joulfayan said his St. Mary’s parishioners last week were peppering him with questions about who the anonymous billboard contributors might be. The pastor told them it didn’t matter — that he assumed the donors wanted to stay out of the spotlight.
“So their message can come through,” he said. “A message that is strong and true.”
This story originally appeared in the Sun Sentinel on April 21 and is reprinted with the permission of the author.