Magazine article Sunset

The Armenians Are Picnicking and Odars Are Invited

Magazine article Sunset

The Armenians Are Picnicking and Odars Are Invited

Article excerpt

Picnicking Armenian-style means you're never too old to dance, never too young to challenge a master in backgammon, and never too full to accept another skewer of shish kebab. June through August, you can join in the feast and festivity of an Armenian picnic near Fresno, Los Angeles, or San Francisco.

You'll find Armenians very warm, affectionate, talkative--and especially receptive to odars (non-Armenians) who attend the picnics. Cultural celebration and preservation

Starting in the late 1800s, many Armenians, escaping persecution by the Ottoman Turks, left their dry, rocky homeland in Asia Minor. Some eventually emigrated to an area similar in geography, different in political climate: Fresno.

Today, more than 200,000 Armenians in California celebrate their culture, cuisine, music, dance, and language in picnics that have become a tradition.

Sponsored by Armenian organizations and churches, picnics usually begin around noon (though one will be held at night) and last until early evening. At the ticket counter, you can purchase food tickets and ask about backgammon tournaments, children's games, and raffles. Although tickets can often be bought in advance, food is served early and occasionally runs out, so plan to arrive at the starting time.

Dinners ($6 to $10) are built around a traditional menu: shish kebab (marinated lamb chunks and vegetables barbecued on skewers) or luleh kebab (ground lamb and beef cooked on the grill), rice or bulgur pilaf, tossed green salad, and peda (large, round yeast bread that can be split and used to hold the kebab).

Look for other Armenian delicacies such as kheyma (raw ground lamb, meatballs with a spiced nut filling, simmered in broth), lahmejun (Armenian pizza, made with lamb), and sarma (rice wrapped with grape leaves). Since kufta and lahmejun freeze well, you can take some home--if there's any left.

If you have a sweet tooth, try the Armenian pastries: paklava (delicate layers of fine fila dough and nuts topped with honey-sugar syrup), bourma (fila dough rolled with nuts and soaked in honey-sugar syrup), kurabia (almond cooky). Tahn is a cool drink made from yogurt. Armenian folk dancing and "Blessing of the Grapes"

If you can stand on one foot, you can probably handle Armenian folk dancing. The steps are easy to learn, and you can join the human chain at any point in the dance and drop out just as easily. Swing to the lute-like oud, the dumbeg drum, or the clarinet. Music and dancing continue throughout the afternoon.

Take time out to walk around and explore other activities. …

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