WEST HARTFORD, Conn.—Every year, in the first or second weekend of June, a fair in the town of West Hartford draws in people from all over the state to gather, ride carousels, pitch local businesses and charities, listen to live local bands, and, perhaps most important of all, eat food. Lots of it.
The St. George Armenian Apostolic Church of Hartford has participated in this event for the past several years, selling authentic Armenian cuisine among the plentiful assortment of greasy American goodies like mac-n-cheese burgers and deep-fried oreos. By offering such distinctive Middle Eastern staples as tabbouleh, sarma, bakhlava, and lahmajun, passersby cannot help but stop and ask what these exotic foods are.
I was one of the handful of volunteers at our church’s booth this year and was pleasantly surprised by the genuine interest many odars had in our Armenian culture—even beyond its cuisine. Luckily, another parishioner made pamphlets that were distributed throughout the event to those who were keen on coming to Autumnfest, St. George’s annual Armenian food and assortment festival in October. As St. George’s pastor Der Gomidas Zohrabian explains, “Our main goal in this event is to indirectly publicize the role of our church and the Armenian tradition.” During just the three hours that I volunteered, three Armenian Americans enthusiastically approached our booth, amazed to find that there was an active Armenian community in the area.
However small, there is, nevertheless, a very tight and devoted community of Armenians in the Connecticut. Michael DeCorletto is a third generation Armenian American, and has been in charge of the church’s participation in this event for the past three years. “Tradition passes from one generation to another,” he says. Der Gomidas is more than confident that this is the reason for the survival of such a small, undetected community of people. “Obviously we make some profit from this, fundraising money for the church, but we never lose touch of the real reason for participating, which is spreading the Armenian culture through food.”