Tribute to Hittites: Dining on Keghetsi ‘Pagharch’

If I don’t follow through on a promise, it wears on me. A group of Keghetsis chatting at the St. Sarkis Church Bazaar last fall wanted to have a get-together where we could dine on pagharch, also known as the “feast of the Hittites,” the glorious ancient ancestors of us Keghetsis.

Seated: Betty Apigian Kessel and Mitch Kehetian. Standing: Greg Vartanian and Mike Kajoian.

The last time I made it was as a surprise to honor retired Macomb Daily News editor Mitch Kehetian at his book signing, where he and I gave talks about his highly successful book Giants of the Earth. Mitch has spent decades putting the Detroit community on the map with his fine reports about the Armenian Cause in the American and Armenian-language newspapers. He has history and newspaper ink in his blood.

I volunteered to tackle the difficult pagharch-making duties, but no headway was being made for a venue and a date. The holidays came and went without a plan in place, and then it was May. It was time to take action before it got too warm.

Mitch is 100 percent Keghetsi and I was not going to fail him. He has what is known as “the Gardens of Keghi” where at home in Allen Park, Mich., he plants tomatoes and cucumbers started from seeds from Armenia. He calls his sprouted seedlings his “little Armenian soldiers.”

Krista Tossounian, who with husband Ara heads up the twice-a-month kebab dinners at the Dearborn Armenian Community Center, gave permission to have our Keghetsi gang take part in a pagharch. The understanding was that all of us would, per usual, purchase our dinners from her first, and pagharch would come later.

Mitch is the historian who set me straight. He said, “Some have mistakenly said pagharch was shaped like Mt. Ararat. … Not so. It is Mt. Sulbuz. … The link of the Hyes of Kigi (the way the Turks spell it) Province to the old Hittite Empire dates back to 1600 B.C. when the Hittites, an Indo-European people, ruled central and southern Anatolia. Their empire lasted 500 years, blended with the Hurrian and Mitanni tribes (who were offshoots of the Urartu era). The Hittites survived severe winters by stationing themselves in the mountain regions of central Anatolia (east of present-day Ankara) with grain…and pagharch. They made pagharch to look like their holy mountain, Mt. Sulbuz seen from the entire Kighi region. They put the tahn on the top of the pagharch to resemble the snow-capped Mt. Sulbuz.”

“When I was there in 1969, I had pagharch with my half-Turkish cousins,” he said, offspring of Mitch’s Aunt Parancim, about whom the search in Giants is written. “The old Keghetsi historians always told me about the Mt. Sulbuz-Hittite story at pagharch dinners at the old Zavarian Hall in Delray,” he said. Delray was an old section of Detroit where Armenians first settled and where they had a community center.

“As for the Hittites, they were the first to use iron spears. Iron mineral is still abundant in the Kigi region. You could even see the discoloration of the western tributary of the Euphrates River (the Kigi River). The Hittite Empire was battered by the Mameluks of Egypt. The present people of Kigi, mostly Kurds and Turks with Armenian mothers, call it ‘Feast of the Hittites.’ That’s what I had in Kutluja with my half-Armenian cousins.”

Mitch continues, “The Hittite history is much like the history of Urartu, not known by the general public, just historians and persons with an outreach to their roots like good Keghetsis like you and me.”

Into the large container I poured the white and whole wheat flour proportions totaling almost eight pounds and other ingredients, as taught to me by my non-Keghetsi mother. I guess she learned from my dad’s Canadian cousins. I forgot to ask. Preparing the dough is not for the faint of heart. The steps are several: Coordinating ingredients, shaghel-ing, baking, crumbing with a fork while hot, warming the butter till it is nutty brown, warm garlicky tahn. Practice made it perfecto!

It has to be kneaded for at least 20 vigorous minutes. I got assistance in shaghel-ing the stiff dough from my German husband, who in the throes of his duty asked me, “How many young Armenian men ran away to join the army in order to escape pagharch-making duties?” I chuckled and so did Mitch when I sent him that message.

My recipe is authentic. Variations exist but do not look the same and have a hard shell. In the end I presented a large, round, bread-like delicacy soaked with hot melted butter and garlicky tahn. Finger-licking good was never truer. Curiosity from onlookers was plenty. Red, blue, and orange plates and napkins for piling it on were ready.

Taking a turn plunging the sherep—pardon me, the large tkal—into the warm, succulent crumbs were Mitch and Rose Kehetian, Greg Vartanian, Cathy Harabedian, Michael Kajoian, Krista and mom-in-law Vergine Tossounian, Bob and Betty Kessel, and a few from outside our Keghi villages. It was big enough for 12-15 people. Applause for the cook and photos of the inflated but sated group followed. Doggie bags went home with Mitch and Mike, and for cousin Rose Vartanian.

Word even got to Dr. Levon Saryan in Wisconsin, who contributed this: “The full references are Matthew 26:17 and Luke 22:1. The references are the same in the classical Armenian Bible and in the 19th-century Riggs modern translation. Both use the term pagharchagerats for feast of the unleavened bread. This tells us what term was being used circa the 5th century AD.”

Tradition is a wonderful thing. No one has what we Keghetsis have, a special food tribute to the Hittites. Thanks to intellectuals Mitch Kehetian and Dr. Levon Saryan for contributing to this column. I am a lucky girl.

15 Comments on Tribute to Hittites: Dining on Keghetsi ‘Pagharch’

  1. avatar Koharig Koloian // June 22, 2011 at 6:01 am // Reply

    My dad, Penyamin Koloian, an older generation Keghetsi, Detroitsi spent many hours at Zavarian Hall in Deray, and he loved his pagarach so much that one day, when he found a round loaf of artisan bread that I had purchased, proceeded to make “pagarach”.  He sliced off the top of the loaf, scraped out the inside, mixed the crumbs with a mixture of garlic, butter and yogurt and proudly presented me with a pagarch dinner when I arrived home from work.  I can only imagine the restraint that he had to not immediately delve into his delicious pagarach while anxiously awaiting my arrival from work.  This proud accomplishment was from a man who had never had to cook because he was lucky enough to have a wife and sister who were amazing Armenian cooks, but who sadly preceded him in death, and so in his senior years he had to be “innovative”.  Thank you for this informative article…..NOW I know why this dish was so important to a genocide survivor from Keghi.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my story about a Chicago transplant who in his heart always was a Detroit Keghetsi.  Fondly submitted by his daughter “Oryort” as he lovingly referred to me and to whom he always sang “dal dalah” as child….(does anyone know if this is a traditional Keghetsi song?)

  2. Sweet, sweet, sweet!

  3. It is the famous Turkish desert in Anatolia:  Kete Ekmegi (Kete bread).  It is a think pide lloaded with tahin and baked in Turkish tandir (oven.

  4. Mr. Turkish businessman Ergun Kirlikovali:
    It was probably  rendered a  ‘famous desert’ by your presumptive Seljuk Turk ancestors, who invaded the Armenian Highlands  from the Altai Mountains region and the Mongolian Steppes  around 1000 AD looting, killing, stealing, destroying, burning everything in their path.
    ‘Turkish’ tandir ? Another theft from Armenians: it is a corruption of the Armenian word Թոնիր (tonir).
    And the theft continues today:
    NOTE: those who are not familiar with Mr. Kirikovali.
    He is a hyperactive  Anti-Armenian Turk  living in Orange Country, California, actively engaged in Anti-Armenian and  Armenian Genocide  Denial activities.
    For example Mr. Turkish businessman Ergun Kirlikovali worked against the re-election of Honorable  Rep. Adam Schiff in 2008. (Rep. Schiff is author  of AG resolutions introduced in the US Congress).
    The candidate that Turkish businessman Ergun Kirlikovali backed, Charles Hahn was crushed: Schiff 69% – Hahn 27%.
    To get a window into the hateful Anti-Armenian mind of Mr. Turkish businessman Ergun Kirlikovali, read this:

  5. Well said, Avery. Never knew there was such a thing as Turkish tandir.


    Did it ever occur to you to question just how and why your nomadic ancestors would build a tonir if they were busy riding their horses from a mountain to a mountain? Hmmm… I know, too difficult to answer. I can help you. The top of their imagination were their tents for temporary living before they discovered the lifestyle of the civilized nations such as Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Arabs and others. 


    I am not usually in the habit of following what Kirlikovali is up to because I have better things to do. But I was referred to his site by someone on this forum and that was just enough for me to conclude that, among all the Armenian Genocide denialists I have ever known, he takes the crown as being the most cynical clown. 




  6. Avery:

    I just read my own comment and it may seem that I am implying as if you do not have better things to do if you know about Ergun’s activities. I apologize if that’s how it came out. My impression is that he purposfully tries to hurt our feelings and feels great joy when we react to it. I prefer not to give that creep such an opportunity by ignoring his exitence most of the time.  

  7. no offense Gina.

    I do have much, much  better things to do, as you do and as others who confront and engage Anti-Armenians and Denialists that post @ AW and elsewhere, such as Anahit, Gayane, Seervart, Boyajian, Perouz, Gor, Diran, AR1, AR2, Katia K, Armen, Alex, mjm, Paul, Poet Sylvia, Berj/Berch many, many others (…sorry if I missed anyone).

    But I consider what I do  my/our duty: must be done; no option.  Most of us are safely typing away (me in California), while our 19-20 year old brothers are killed every month in Artsakh.
    Any day Azeris can launch an attack, that will kill hundreds if not thousands of our young men by the time it’s over.
    I consider what we do minuscule and insignificant compare to what our brothers and sisters are  facing in Artsakh and Armenia (…and faced from 1988 onwards): but very important.

    I keep myself informed and educated about our adversary: it’s a chore, but like I said, nothing compared to what our people have to do in Artsakh and RoA every day just to stay alive.
    What Turks and their crew are doing in the blogosphere is White/Cultural Genocide, continuation of AG.
    What Turks and their crew  are doing in the blogosphere is creating conditions to facilitate another attempt at exterminating our people in Artsakh and Armenia.
    It all start very subtly and innocuously: by first  demonizing the target – that would be us.
    That’s what Azeris and Turks are engaged in now: we have to confront and counter them EVERYWHERE and EVERY TIME.
    A final comment about ‘feelings’  to general audience (not you specifically): it’s not about feeling or anything of the sort. They are engaged in information warfare.
    We must treat it as such.
    Pass the word to your friends Gina.

  8. Are there two Krazy Kirlikovalis?  The post above is of much poorer quality than previous posts by him.

    Translation of his post: 

    “It is the famous dessert of Asia Minor which we learned from the indigenous people:  Turks call it Kete Ekmegi (Kete bread).  It is a thick pita loaded with tahin and baked in a traditional Armenian tonir (oven).”

    He is confused, of course.

  9. message for Mitch – Want to trade seeds? I have Armenian tomato, melons from the Tirgres, parsley from Kilicia that has been kept going since the 6th century. the cucumbers are easily available commericialy, but you have to click in with people like Seeds of Diversity for the others. Mine are, of course, all open pollinated. My tomatoes are doing absolutely wonderful this year – already over 4 ft tall, lots of blossoms. The melons are terrific this year too – we’ve had lots of rain. I also have a summer yarrow from the region. It was extremely hard to get started. I don’t know how it will come along. I plant the parsley and mint in large ceramic pots and bring them into my kitchen in the fall. You probably garden organically, as I do, with lots of compost from the kitchen going back into the brew. I’m growing tomatoes from Moldavia this year too, and have a rare white tomato. What have you got to trade? Anyone else with heritage seeds from Armenia or Turkey?

  10. i thought armenian weekly censored these comments….why in the world would you allow anti armenian, and genocide denialist to post.  the comments section in my hometown does not post the comments until the website approves what they say….this is what i thought would happen to the comments here.  i am greatly disappointed by the armenian weekly to allow people such as kirlikovali to post.  censorship????  in this case you are darn right i believe in censorship!!!!!

    by the way what does pagarch have to do with deserts and sweets?????  ignornant in more ways than one!!!!!

  11. avatar Robert Haroutunian // April 16, 2013 at 7:16 am // Reply

    This is in response to Koharig Koloyan whose dad sang the daldala. Daldala was a dance that was danced throughout Historic Armenia. It was particularly popular in the provinces of Partsr Hayk (Villayet of Erzerum). I am the director of the Aradzani Dance Group and we are currently producing a two part instructional dance DVD entitled “A Trip Through Historic Armenia Through Dance.” In our DVD you will find versions of this dance danced in Garin, Gars and Paghesh. There is a song dance medley in the DVD from Keghi entitled “Aysor Doneh/Tamzara”. The Tamzara we are presenting is danced to the Keghetsi Tamzara melody and is similar to the a version danced in Yerznga.

  12. Avery; don’t be surprised by anything “Mr. Turkish businessman Ergun Kirlikovali” writes about food or anything else.
    In “The Food and Cooking of Turkey,” a book with many original Armenian recipes, (although the word Armenian will not be found anywhere,) under a recipe called “Noah’s Dessert” they write: “This dessert of grains, pulses and dried fruit is referred to as Asure – Noah’s Dessert because, according to legend, he made it on the ark by combining whatever stores were left when the flood subsided. It is also the traditional dessert to serve on the tenth day of Muharam, the first day of the Muslim calendar.”
    Avery; what do you make of this? Do they think that Noah was a Muslim?
    On page 50, in this book, with typical Turkish bs, it says “The first cereal crops are believed to have been grown in Anatolia since before 7000BC. There are early records of baking in central Anatolia, where flat breads were made with wheat and often flavoured with spices. Primitive layered breads emerged at this time but it wasn’t really until the Ottoman period that more sophisticated bread and pastry doughs were developed.”
    On page 23 it says,” when you step into the village kitchens of central and eastern Anatolia very little has changed since ancient times.” It goes on to describe the stone, brass, and iron utensils used and says, “Some are decorated with the Turkish symbol, the star and sickle moon.”
    This scattering of symbols in order to establish credibility, reminded me of the “small kurans” (sic) we have been talking about on another thread.

    • Perouz: I am not surprised.
      One reason denialist Turks promote the concept of ‘Anatolia’ is to subtly erase the presence of indigenous populations – Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks – and conflate it with late invaders: the Turks. It is some mythical “Anatolian culture”, some mythical “Anatolian family”; next we will have “Anatolian baloney”. Unfortunately there are many Armenians who bizarrely promote the “Anatolian family” white genocide.
      More often than not, we are our worst enemy.
      Turks label everything ‘Turkish’: while some confused Armenians blindly repeat Turks’ Anatolian propaganda.
      And I am still waiting for a response from Mr. Naess re the “Infamous little Qurans forgery of Maxime Bey”.

  13. avatar Pauline Torigian Sanderson // January 12, 2014 at 11:07 am // Reply

    Nothing hard about making pagharch, made it every year in place of my birthday cake. (feb 9,1950) and for my sister. My parents (dad-Abkar Torigian who was from Keghi and mother Loussantak) lived in Windsor,Ontario. I am now in Michigan . My husband is a converted Armenian who loves not only the food but all that is Armenian. I continue to prepare my mother’s Armenian recipes in my parents’and relatives’memory.
    Pauline Torigian Sanderson

    • avatar Harry Sirounian // February 24, 2014 at 2:15 pm //

      Have been searching for the recipe to make pagarch. Any help would be appreciated. Please feel free to email or phone me at 608-740-9952

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