Dandeegeen Diaries—Chapter 6: Lahmejun

As the COVID-19 quarantine has extended into May, many have joined the ranks of our growing cooking community, making valiant attempts at their grandmothers’ recipes and sharing their progress on social media. Our family is growing this week with the addition of a budding Dandeegeen documenting her journey as I have. This newly-found free time with our families has afforded us a small gift to channel the adventurous side that we never have time for. I have the pleasure of sharing Shakeh Dagdigian’s adventure making lahmejun with her daughters. I have known Shakeh since she was my camper at Camp Haiastan in Franklin, Mass. back in the mid-80’s. She is now a mother of two and venturing into the Dandeegeen ranks in the Armenian Weekly. Enjoy her cooking chronicle.

Being quarantined, I find myself mostly either in the kitchen or on my laptop. As a second grade teacher and mother of two, my days are now spent creating lessons for my students, checking schoolwork, helping my daughters with their online work and of course—COOKING! 

As many dandeegeens know, preparing three meals a day for your family can become a tedious task, especially when you find yourself rotating through a somewhat standard menu. When I saw Heather’s column “Dandeegeen Diaries,” I was inspired to try some new recipes. I began reading The Armenian Kitchen (St. Stephen’s Ladies Guild cookbook) and marking pages of recipes I thought my family would enjoy. 

Anya spreading the meat topping.

I decided I would tackle lahmejun, a favorite of both my daughters, Anya (age 13) and Lily (age 11). After finally finding more yeast and flour at the grocery store, I was excited to continue my cooking journey. I had never, EVER made my own dough. My excuse had always been that I didn’t have enough time to let the dough rise. (What kind of dandeegeen was I?) So, I studied my cookbook, researched recipes online, watched a few how-to videos on YouTube (side note: what did dandeegeens do without the internet?) and dived right in. 

Making the topping was a lot like making dolma. I used my favorite seasonings from all the recipes I had read (lots of garlic, cumin and cayenne pepper) and blended it all together in the food processor. No problem. Then I was pleasantly surprised when all went well with the dough. I wondered why I had been so hesitant to make my own before.

This was the closest we got to a circle.

My recipe said to cut the dough into 12 parts and roll each into seven inch circles. Well, that didn’t happen! There is only one word to describe ours: amorphous. Some resembled triangles, others were oval, and some were even rectangular. Lily suggested we trim the crusts to make circles. But she was vetoed. We were already a few hours in and anxious to bake the lahmejun. We spread on the topping and popped them in the oven for about 20 minutes. I could only bake two at a time (that’s all that I could fit on a tray). I definitely need to get more cookie sheets. I may be the only dandeegeen to own just two! 

Finished product. Ready to eat!

We all agreed that the finished product was worth the time and effort. The crust was thin and crisp, and with a splash of lemon juice, it was scrumptious. What better way to spend an afternoon than cooking with your daughters and passing on traditions?

Heather Krafian

Heather Krafian

Heather Apigian Krafian was born in Detroit, Michigan and was one of the founding students of A.G.B.U. Alex Manoogian School in 1969. She graduated Michigan State University in 1988 with a bachelor’s in International Relations and cognate studies in German and Russian. She holds a master’s in Early Childhood Education from Lesley University. As an ANCA intern, Heather worked for the Minority Rights Group in London under Ben Whittaker. She’s also worked at Zoryan Institute as its Armenian Studies Coordinator. She began her career in education in 1990 after which she became the assistant principal of St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School from 2006 to 2008; she currently serves on its Education Committee. She has also served on the Board of Trustees at St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church. Heather is a member of the ARS Cambridge “Shushi” Chapter and a member of the ARS Eastern Region Board of Directors. Heather was the 2010 recipient of the Knights of Vartan “Community Leader” Award and the 2015 recipient of the Eastern Prelacy’s Certificate of Merit. She is married to Ara Krafian; they live in Belmont, MA with their four daughters Araxi, Nairi, Anoush and Knar.
Shakeh Dagdigian

Shakeh Dagdigian

Shakeh Dagdigian grew up in Harvard Massachusetts. She graduated from UMass Lowell with a degree in English and a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction. She is currently a second grade teacher at the Mont Vernon Village School in Mont Vernon, NH where she has been teaching for 20 years. She lives in Hollis, NH with her husband Ciaran Pendergast and two daughters, Anya and Lily. Shakeh is a member of the Lowell "Lousintak" ARS chapter. In her free time she enjoys traveling with her family, cooking and spending time outdoors.
Shakeh Dagdigian

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  1. Loved reading this post! I love lahmejun but am too intimidated to make it! Yours looks yummy. I have been trying simpler recipes, my daughters love to make their great-grandmother’s (Ann Boyajian) pilaf recipe❤️

  2. End of 1969 and year of 1970 I was a new comer to Detroit and a volunteer Saturday and Sunday school teacher at St.John’s Armenian Church in Southfield. Chances are Heather Apigian Krafian was one of the students in my class learning Armenian and Armenian songs. When I read the above article and her biography I was so proud and happy to see a successful Armenian lady who became a leader at Armenian organizations, AGBU, ARS, Armenian Church and educational organizations. and a Mom to four anoushig girls. Happy Mother’s day Heather.

  3. Hi Shakeh, found your article very interesting. That’s because I am Armenian and grew up on Armenian food. My son
    lives in North Andover, Mass. and that is why I also found your article interesting. Keep cooking that great Armenian food.
    Also love your name.

    • Thank you Marie! I do not know of many other “Dagdigians” around here! Is your son a member of St. Gregory’s church in North Andover?

  4. You people are doing very yummy😋 delicious preparation. Since I visited Yerevan I really like the oldie food items made in villages of Yerevan. Good luck and keep up to survive these traditional food preparation.

  5. With all these skills now, Shakeh, you’ll be in demand as word gets around….gone are the days when you’ll be allowed to bring potato chips and pretzels to a family gathering –or to any other gathering! Ah, yes….Anya and Lily, too, will be learning additional cooking skills, not only from their grandparents, but now from you!! Your cooking team may have to unlist your phone numbers because the calls will start coming in!! Hmm….do you deliver?? You know where we live, right?

  6. So happy to hear you both are making good use of this time! I made para cutzv once and found I also could not master a circle. They ended up looking like old, holey rags! Tasted good though!

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