In May and June 2021, I had the opportunity to share in food, fellowship, and history with members of the Armenian community at St. Peter’s. The relatively secluded church is a thriving cultural center for many Armenians in the Upper Hudson and Mohawk Valleys. As I drove up Assepian Avenue on the way to the Church, I felt that I was leaving my world behind, as the busy highways and traffic were replaced with a welcoming committee of trees and greenery, which opened to reveal the magnificent church building. In front of the church is a small memorial garden and monument erected in the memory of those who died in the Armenian Genocide, a tragic holocaust that remains an indelible and defining aspect of Armenian identity and heritage.
As soon as I got out of my car, I could hear the sounds of community. The men, who are members of the Knights of Vartan fraternal organization, began to prepare the large pit grills for cooking chicken and Hye burgers. In the distance, the tinkle of dishes and excited voices sounded from the kitchen in the lower floor of the Church building. The sounds mingled with the perfumes of cooking spices, baking sweets, and charcoal smoke, as the grills were warmed to start the festivities for the Friday Flavors of Armenia.
According to Paulette Doudoukjian, wife of St. Peter’s Church pastor, Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, this is the church’s second year of running the Friday Flavors of Armenia series. Since 1910, St. Peter’s has put on an Armenian festival every June, as a celebration of summer, Armenian food, faith, and culture. In normal years the festival would run for two days, and would feature vendors, musicians, dancers, and an incredible variety of foods both savory and sweet. Like many other church and cultural celebrations, the festival was shut down for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, just shy of the festival’s 110th anniversary. As a testament to Armenian perseverance, Paulette and the other members of the Women’s Guild came up with a novel idea: a drive-thru festival that would allow them to continue serving the Armenian and non-Armenian communities, while maintaining social distancing and mitigating the spread of the virus as much as possible. The new variation, Friday Flavors of Armenia, was a success, and the drive-thru option may remain as a fixture after the pandemic is over.
Although the menu was somewhat reduced, the flavors and the quality of the food were still top notch. Each week featured two entrees: an Armenian Chicken Dinner and a Hye Burger Platter.
The Hye Burger is made from a mixture of beef, lamb, spices and aromatics. According to Sonya Moroukian, a master baker and one of the cooks for the festival, this dish is a great way to introduce people to Armenian flavor profiles, especially for those who may not like an all-lamb main course. The Hye Burger is a fusion version of the Losh Kebab, which in normal years would be grilled right alongside the burgers. What makes this burger extra special is that it is served with an Armenian coleslaw of purple cabbage, carrots, and a proprietary dressing that adds a kick to the burger itself. The Armenian Chicken is marinated in a yogurt sauce, similar to tzatziki.
To accompany these dishes, the Women’s Guild makes an incredible rice pilaf. The secret, according to Paulette and her colleagues, is in its simplicity. The pilaf is made with butter, pepper, rice, chicken stock, and egg noodles. As Paulette was explaining the process of how to make the pilaf, she and her son Jonah were mixing the dish in large industrial-size pans—large enough to feed an entire village.
Aside from the entrees, the women also put together incredible desserts and a la carte items. For this year’s festivals, the women, under the direction of Sonya Moroukian, have made trays upon trays of Paklava (also spelled Baklava) and Kadayif. These classic desserts are staples of Armenian food culture.
For the Paklava, the bakers roll out and layer phyllo dough, nuts, and spices in large sheet pans. Depending on who is baking them, there can be multiple layers of nuts. After baking to a golden brown color, the Paklava is then doused with a simple syrup made of water, sugar, and lemon juice that brightens and highlights the rich flavors of the pastry.
According to Serena Moroukian and her mother Sonya, making Paklava together as a family is a rite of passage for a young woman, given the difficulty of folding and preparing the pastry dough, and layering everything together. Depending on the occasion, the dough is sometimes store bought, or it may be made from scratch, an arduous process. Leftovers from the baklava trays are sometimes crushed up and mixed with ice cream to make Baklava Sundaes, which are another major treat.
Kadayif is a creamy dessert made with a sweetened, cream cheese-like filling, shredded phyllo dough and simple syrup. This dessert takes patience to bake and also freezes well.
The last dish on the menu is Eech (pronounced similarly to the English word each). It is a hearty food that is made of cracked bulgur wheat, onions, tomato sauce, (occasionally) stock, spices, and a topping usually made from sweet and/or spicy peppers and parsley. This dish demonstrates a part of the wide variety of food that is found in Armenia, based on the terroir and availability of ingredients in different regions. Each is a vegan dish and can be enjoyed hot, cold, or room temperature. It can be eaten alone, as a salad accompanying a meal, or as Raffi Moroukian lovingly described, as a breakfast dish mixed with scrambled eggs.
I am incredibly grateful to the members of St. Peter’s Armenian Church community for allowing me to talk to them, to learn about their culinary culture, and to share in the enjoyment of food with them. A special thank you to Lori Payette at the parish office, Fr. Stepanos and Presbytera Paulette Doudoukjian, Sonya, Serena and Raffi Moroukian, and the members of the St. Peter’s Women’s Guild for their generosity, friendliness, and willingness to talk about their culture.
Driving through upstate New York you are likely to pass barns, houses, and other buildings with large painted squares. Images range from stars, flowers, bear paws, canoes, houses, and even the occasional pineapple!
What are these works hanging on houses, barns & other structures?? They are quilt barn squares!
Quilt Barn Squares are painted on wood and range from a 2’ x 2’ up to an 8’ x 8’ square. Though they also appear smaller in (indoor!) home décor and pins. Designs reflect traditional quilt patterns and influences. Examples of designs are the Mariner’s Compass, Cross Kayaks, and School House Rocks.
The Mayfield Mural was a community effort including the School District, Fire Department and the Fulton Montgomery Quilt Barn Trail
You may spot them all over the state, but the Mohawk Valley has its very own Quilt Barn Trail – The Fulton Montgomery Quilt Barn Trail. Founded by Liz Argotsinger in 2014, the Fulton Montgomery Quilt Barn Trail has grown to over 150 quilt barns. Many of the images along the way are traditional designs with the potential to be replicated on sewing machines.
Creating a square begins by taking a piece of MDO board (medium density overlay) and attaching a frame to the back. This step ensures no screws need to go through the finished front while hanging it. The piece is then primed, painted and the square is ready to be hung!
Along the trail, you will see squares created by Liz, including a traditional square, The Dresden Plate as well as an original square, Hops and Barley, featured at Stump City Brewing in Gloversville, NY.
Hops and Barley at Stump City Brewing in Gloversville. By Liz Argotsinger.
Driving the Fulton Montgomery Quilt Barn Trail is a great way to get out see the beauty of the Mohawk Valley and its artists!
For more information about the Fulton Montgomery Barn Quilt Trail, you can visit their website, Facebook page, or YouTube video.
YouTube: Fulton Montgomery Quilt Barn Trail
Header Image is Reflections by Liz Argotsinger.
Here we grow again!
As we look towards new projects and programs for 2021 and in the future, New York Folklore is growing – with new leadership and members for the Board of Directors, and with the addition of several new staff members and partnerships.
In partnership with Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education, we are pleased to announce a shared position of Outreach Coordinator to the Folk Arts in Education Network in New York State. Suzanne Kolodziej is an arts educator who brings vast experience to the role. She holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Arts Education and she worked previously as the outreach coordinator for Cornell University’s East Asia Program. Concurrent with her work at Local Learning/New York Folklore, Suzanne also works at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, where she is a Teaching Artist, Museum Educator, and Program Assessor in the Expanded Learning Collaboration with the Rochester City School District.
Due to the concerns with the spread of COVID-19, New York Folklore’s NYSCA Upstate Regional Initiative has gone through some revisions, rendering the ongoing project to be stronger and more connected to community. Because of delays caused by the pandemic, we are also working concurrently to document and conduct folklore fieldwork in more than one region of the state. We are pleased to welcome Anne Rappaport as a full-time staff folklorist to the New York Folklore staff, working within the Mohawk Valley communities of Montgomery, Fulton, Southern Herkimer, Oswego and Southern Hamilton Counties. New York Folklore also welcomes three part-time community fieldworkers to work within Albany and Rensselaer Counties: Ladan Alomar, Khizra Awan, and Edgar Betelu. These talented individuals have complementary skills and interests and they are working together to provide a better portrait of the cultural traditions found within the greater Capital District. New York Folklore will also have an intern beginning in May 2021.
Reyers Brusoe, a graduate student at the University of Kentucky in the department of ethnomusicology/musicology will be interning with New York Folklore during the summer months. New York Folklore’s reach has expanded and we look forward to continuing to serve folk and traditional arts in New York State. Photo of a performance of the Jamestown Swedish Dancers with members of the Allegheny Dancers as part of a program of the Upstate Regional Initiative, 2015. Photo by Ellen McHale
The Board of Directors of New York Folklore requests your presence at the Annual Meeting of New York Folklore, to take place on Saturday, January 16, 2021 at 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. via Zoom.
The link to attend can be found here:
The meeting agenda will include remarks from outgoing President, Tom van Buren and President-elect Maria Kennedy; a report from Executive Director Ellen McHale; and opportunities to interact with other members and attendees.
Please plan to join us for this celebratory event!
The slate for members and officers of the Board of Directors of New York Folklore is to be presented as follows:
President: Maria Kennedy
Maria Kennedy is the Administrative Director of the New Jersey Folk Festival at Rutgers University. She is a faculty member in the Department of American Studies, where she teaches classes on folklore, public humanities, and supervises student interns on the folk festival’s staff. She previously served as the Folk Arts Coordinator for The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes and worked as a graduate assistant at Traditional Arts Indiana. Her PhD in Folklore at Indiana University examined environmental conservation and agricultural heritage in the United Kingdom, looking at practices of orchard conservation and craft cider making. Maria has lifelong connections to New York state, having grown up visiting her grandparents in the North Country and cousins in the Hudson Valley. She continues her interest in orchards heritage as an avid connoisseur of New York cider.
Treasurer: Jim Hall
Dr. James C. Hall joined RIT in 2014 as the Executive Director for the Center for Multidisciplinary Studies, later renamed the School of Individualized Study. Previously, he was director of New College at Alabama and executive director of the Consortium for Innovative Environments in Learning. Prior to the University of Alabama, Dr. Hall taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Hall completed his Ph.D. and MA in American studies at the University of Iowa. He has also completed a MA in religion and culture and BA in English at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. His research and professional interests include African-American literature as well as higher education innovation and reform.
Evelyn D’Agostino-Sasso, Rochester/Finger Lakes
Evelyn D’Agostino Sasso, formerly of the Republic of Panama, serves the Xerox Corporation as International Logistics Analyst. She currently is board member of HAPA (Hispanic Association for Professional Advancement at Xerox corporation- Rochester Chapter), Rochester La Voz newspaper advisory board, founder of Grupo Cultural Latinos en Rochester, and Artistic Director for Avenue D Afro-Latino Dance Group. She is a graduate of the Catholic University Santa Maria La Antigua of Panama. The organization which Evelyn helped found, Grupo Cultural Latinos En Rochester, was founded in 2013 in the belief that “the arts have a unique power to engage and maintain our Children’s Cultural Heritage.”
Mackenzie Kwok, New York City
Mackenzie Kwok received her Master’s degree in anthropology at the University of Cambridge, England, after completing a BA in American Studies and Folklore at UNC Chapel Hill. She wrote her undergraduate thesis on Asian American Foodways in North Carolina and wrote her Master’s dissertation on Confederate monument toppling, and space-making through chanting. Mackenzie is currently the Community Engagement Director at City Lore in New York City and is a former Bartis Intern for the Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.
Edward Young Jun Millar, Niagara/Western New York
Edward Y. J. Millar is a native of Northern New Jersey, and grew up in a mixed Scottish, German, and Malay-Chinese household. Edward enrolled in the Anthropology and University Honors Program at Seton Hall University in 2008, and received his M.A. in Folklore from the Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2014. As Curator of Folk Arts at the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University, Edward conducts original fieldwork in the Buffalo-Niagara region, and develops exhibits, programs and initiatives in collaboration with community members and traditional artists. As a member of a small staff at a university museum, Edward’s skills and responsibilities have grown to include not only fieldwork, program and exhibit development, and content creation typical of the position, but also: audio and video editing, multimedia production, graphic design, preparatory work, framing, lighting, construction, and exhibit installation.
Wilfredo Morel, Peekskill/Hudson Valley (renewal for a third, two-year term)
Wilfredo Morel is a highly acclaimed artist known for his sculptures utilizing recycled materials, related to the communities where the materials are found. Morel is also a community relations professional at Sun River Health Care, where he assists migrant workers, HIV/AIDS patients and the LGBT population with health care disparities, concerns and needs.
William Walker, Cooperstown/Mohawk Valley
William S. Walker is associate professor of history at the Cooperstown Graduate Program. He is the author of A Living Exhibition: The Smithsonian and the Transformation of the Universal Museum and editor of The Inclusive Historian’s Handbook (inclusivehistorian.com). An active public historian, Professor Walker oversees CGP Community Stories, an ongoing oral history project that uses recorded narratives to initiate public dialogue programs on critical social and environmental issues. His areas of expertise are public history, 20th-century U.S. cultural and intellectual history, and the history of race and ethnicity, especially as related to museums. He is committed to equity and inclusion in the field, and his courses emphasize building anti-racist and anti-oppression knowledge and skills.
Gratitude. That is a difficult word to embrace this year, as we collectively battled a pandemic, a tumultuous election, and the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives – some of whom were friends, neighbors, and family. However, I would like to take this moment to thank everyone who has been a part of New York Folklore this past year – in no particular order!
- New York Folklore was fortunate to be able to draw upon the expertise of colleagues and artists to move programming online. Early in the pandemic, New York Folklore inaugurated a daily series – May 2020: 20 Folk Artists in 20 Days – in which we were able to present the diversity of folk culture found in New York State. This series was partly educational for staff at New York Folklore, as we sought new ways of reaching people in the virtual space. I am grateful for the many artists and fellow folk culture professionals who paired up to present folk arts from every end of our vast state. If you missed the series, you can re-visit it on our vimeo channel: https://vimeo.com/showcase/7104335
- With help from Elinor Levy, Outreach Coordinator for Mentoring and Professional Development, the talented Karen Berelowitz helped us launch a virtual Business 101 series for folk and traditional artists that was so successful that we ran it again! Her down to earth presentations were augmented by the performing arts acumen of Dave Ruch, and arts education expertise of Lisa Rathje of Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts Education. We are grateful for the “sold-out” nature of the workshops, and for the many artists who were introduced to New York Folklore through the series. We received overwhelmingly positive reviews from participants who remarked upon the importance of interacting with fellow folk and traditional artists from throughout the state.
- New York Folklore has joined forces, and resources, with Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education, to create a shared half-time Folk Arts Education Network Coordinator position. Applications are being accepted now for a position that will begin in January. The job description and information on how to apply can be found here: https://www.locallearningnetwork.org/we-are-hiring/
We are excited that our organization is once-again in a growth mode and that we will be able to provide enhanced opportunities for artists and educators in New York State!
- New York Folklore is governed by an increasingly diverse board of directors who are passionate and pro-actively pursuing the health and vitality of New York’s folk cultural landscape. Our annual meeting which will include an election of new board members and officers will take place on Saturday, January 16, 2021 at noon. We hope you’ll plan to attend! To register, please follow this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_tMYErAGvSYipnzM6rcabwg
I want to thank outgoing board members Julie Tay (NYC) and board treasurer, John Braungard (Capital District) for their many years of service on behalf of New York Folklore. I also want to express my appreciation for the six years of Presidential leadership by Tom van Buren who will remain on the board in the “past President” role. On January 16th we will formally elect new officers and members, including Maria Kennedy as the incoming President and Jim Hall (Rochester) as our new NYF treasurer. They will be joined by new board members Evelyn D’Agostino Sasso (Rochester); MacKenzie Kwok (NYC); William Walker (Cooperstown); Ed Millar (Niagara); and renewing board member, Wilfredo Morel (Peekskill). Please join us for this joyous occasion!
- New York Folklore staff, Ellen McHale and Laurie Longfield, are joined in their work by those who provide specific programmatic expertise, including Acquisitions Editor Todd DeGarmo and Editorial Assistant, Patti Mason; Elinor Levy, folklorist and outreach coordinator for our Mentoring and Professional Development Program; and this years Upstate Regional Fieldworkers – Khizra Awan, Ladan Alomar, and Anne Rappaport – who will be continuing to document Albany and Rensselaer Counties in 2021. These programs and partnerships will continue in 2021 with the addition of increased activities around advocacy for folklore and folk arts collections and archives, increased support for building support networks for artists around New York State, and a new e-commerce site to extend the reach of our gallery to a much wider public. Look for these developments in the new year!
New York Folklore is dedicated to supporting the work of artists, community leaders, and folk arts professionals to better understand, to recognize, and to amplify the significant contributions that folk and traditional culture has for the state and the nation. We are ALWAYS happy to welcome you to our ever-widening circles of activity. If you haven’t joined us already, please consider it today!
The headline photo is from July 2019, with a visit from Kyrgyz students pictured here (Aselia, Vera, and Nurbolot) and leaders (Anisa Mambetalieva and Nazgul Akylbek Kyzy of Youth of Osh of Kyrgyzstan, as part of an international exchange program betweenYouth of Osh and New York Folklore, with support form World Learning through a grant from the US State Department. Pictured New York youth participants include Ula, Saoirse, Corey, and New York Folklore Staff Ellen McHale and Kira Born. Photo by Nurbolot Esenbek.
Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education has been doing innovative work in New York State through its annual Culture, Community and the Classroom workshops. The Culture, Community and the Classroom workshops take place over several days, during which artists and teachers explore curriculum connections with regional folklore and folk arts, guided by Local Learning Staff – Dr. Lisa Rathje (Executive Director of Local Learning) and Paddy Bowman (founder of Local Learning). Skills imparted in the workshops are then utilized by participating folk and traditional artists through presentations within k-12 school settings, with artists and teachers working directly with students to engage them with hands-on activities. Through these annual workshops, more than one hundred artists have received professional development to further their skills in presenting their traditional art and culture and more than twenty-five school districts have been impacted by and benefited from teacher/artist pairings. Workshops have taken place in consecutive years in Buffalo (2018), LeRoy (2019), and Corning (2020), in conjunction with Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), regional folklorists, and educators. In 2021, Culture, Community and the Classroom, will be presented in Broome County, in partnership with the Broome Tioga BOCES.
Because of this ground-breaking folklore in education work, New York Folklore Executive Director, Ellen McHale, and Local Learning Executive Director, Lisa Rathje, have identified a need to provide further professional development and technical assistance to artists and educators, and to help grow the capacity for folk arts education in New York State. This professional development initiative will take place in addition to and as an extension of the annual Culture, Community and the Classroom workshops. Through the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts, Local Learning and New York Folklore are partnering to provide a shared and designated employee to further the work initiated by Local Learning. To read about the job specifications and duties, or to APPLY, please follow this link: https://www.locallearningnetwork.org/we-are-hiring/
New York Folklore has initiated as special membership level at New York Folklore that will directly support this arts education initiative. We have named this after folklorist and educator, Edith Cutting. Born in 1918, Edith Cutting grew up in Essex County, town of Lewis, on a small family farm. She attended the New York State College for Teachers, where in 1936 she enrolled in an elective course in American Folklore, taught by Dr. Harold W. Thompson, a founder of the New York Folklore Society. As an educator, Edith Cutting made her career as a secondary school teacher, teaching in Ellenburg, DeRuyter, and Dryden, NY before taking a position at Johnson City High School, where she taught for the majority of her career from 1949-1975. A High School English teacher, Edith Cutting instituted the Johnson City High School’s Folk Festival, engaging students in exploring their own folklore and cultural traditions. She also wrote and published several works for young readers, drawing on folklore materials. Notable for New York Folklore, Edith Cutting served as the Secretary of the Board of the New York Folklore Society at its inception during the presidency of Harold Thompson, and was instrumental in the Society’s founding in 1944. It is appropriate, therefore, that New York Folklore recognizes Edith Cutting’s interests in folklore and education through an Edith Cutting membership. To directly support the Folklore in Education initiative, please visit our membership page at https://nyfolklore.org/about-new-york-folklore/membership/