SUDBURY, Mass.—Hardly a day goes by when Lisa Kouchakdjian isn’t serving up something special from her kitchen—to her computer and finally her website.
She calls the site, quite affectionately, “Love on a Plate – Armenia.”
It’s the diner’s delight to a number of Armenian concoctions she gathered from her family and friends. And she’s getting hits by the droves.
— celebrate our heritage and our proud ethnic group through food;
— teach Armenians who might want to try something a little different and enjoyable;
— teach anyone who wants to learn how to cook healthy Armenian foods;
— make traditional Armenian foods in a simple, easy and efficient manner.
Just ask her husband Ara and four children. No doubt, they’ve been weaned and dined on Armenian food. She calls it “Bnag me seerd!”
First, the husband, whose roots were in Washington, D.C., before moving to New England.
“My wife has embarked upon a project that can be one tool (of many) to celebrate our heritage and potentially to better bring in mixed couples,” he says. “Food is the one ingredient that defines us all.”
“She’s figured out shortcuts to make recipes even more practical to erase the ‘I can’t do that’ dilemma,” Ara continues. “Even if they have their own recipe, the visual nature of what Lisa’s done can help them with that recipe.”
Lisa has a heaping dose of her own thoughts on the matter:
“Many Armenians who arrived here in the early 20th century came with just the shirt on their backs,” she points out. “They brought with them their religion, their ethics, their language, music, culture, and values. And importantly, their food. When I see and smell Armenian food, it reminds me of the generations who have gone before us. One of the ways we maintain our heritage is through food.”
A set of videos has been created that show how to make Armenian dishes. You can find it by visiting www.loveonaplate.biz. Lisa figures the old Ladies Guild/Ladies Auxiliary cookbooks can only take you so far.
“‘Love on a Plate’ dispels the myths associated with making these traditional Armenian foods,” she explains. “It’s our way of broadening horizons and embracing a unique cultural heritage.”
People tend to be more visible these days. They’re concerned about losing the beoreg recipe when their mother/grandmother passes. Even if they have the recipe, they don’t know how to make it.
The target market is the kids and grandkids of the immigrant generation, as well as the non-Armenian bride who wishes to connect with our culture. Lisa’s mapped out shortcuts to make the recipes even more practical than they are.
“I love what she has created,” says Susan (Asbedian) Sciaffi, a close friend and neighbor. “Lisa is so proud of her Armenian heritage, and cooking is a great way to share that pride and love.”
A second-generation Armenian, Lisa was born and raised in Natick, Mass. She attended Suffolk University Law School, receiving her degree in 1996. She married her husband in 2003 and continued practicing as a litigation attorney for the past decade.
While working in Boston, Lisa enjoyed attending all the various Armenian kefs. Eventually she led the Armenian Network, planning wine tastings at the Boston Club, which ultimately led to her husband.
“Believe it or not, it was love at first sight,” she recalled.
After dating for six months, they became engaged on Christmas morning of 2002 and married the following August. She calls Ara her husband and best friend, confidant and life partner in every way.
Just recently, Lisa was elected to the Sudbury School Committee.
Four children born between 2005-10 have become a true commitment for the couple. All carry Armenian names: Aram, Zaven, Maral, and Diran.
Over the past few years, Lisa has involved herself with the Sudbury Special Education Advisory Council, currently chairing that organization. She’s also a board member of Community Resources Awareness Network (CRANE) in Sudbury.
The website is a nutmeg in progress. Two more videos were just released. As people keep requesting recipes, it only accelerates her passion. Soon, her fans will be able to download these videos directly from their electronic devices.
“Like many people, I have had a lot of personal challenges in life that have only made me a stronger person,” she admits. “With regard to our personal lives, Ara and I have tried living proactively. In other words, when nothing goes right, go left!”
Were President and Mrs. Obama ever to visit, Lisa would draw up a suitable menu. For mezze, it would be cheese beoreg and eetch; dinner would be porov kufteh with tourshi on the side; and dessert, cream khadayif.
As to “Love on a Plate,” Lisa keeps herself connected with the outside cooking world with the zest of a true epicurean. She chose to launch this year, on the Genocide Centennial.
“It’s just another way to celebrate our fantastic culture and heritage,” she maintains. “Food is a very powerful way to express ourselves.”
Her Favorite Things
Pastry: Cream khadayif
Food: Manti with madzoon and garlic
Musician: Johnny Berberian (he’s collaborated on this venture)
Relaxation: Visiting a spa and running
Most embarrassing moment: Catching the garter at my cousin’s wedding when I was 16
Day trip: Cape Cod
Athlete: Tom Brady
Proudest accomplishment: Our four children
Quote: “When nothing goes right, go left.”