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Feeding the soul

Church wants to share Armenian culture, food and religion at festival.

September 29, 2010|By Mona Shadia, mona.shadia@latimes.com
(Scott Smeltzer )

COSTA MESA — Separating thin layers of filo dough, buttering each one and stacking them neatly in a tray, with at least three kinds of cheeses in the middle, is by no means an easy job. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes attention to details.

But it's how the women of the St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church in Costa Mesa spent their Wednesday morning.

"It's difficult, but we're so happy when we're done," said Sylva Tashjian, one of the members of the St. Mary Ladies Society. "We're so happy that we've done something good for our church and our community."

The eight women, who stood in the middle of the sizzling hot church's kitchen with the door open and fan blowing the heat away, were making 25 trays of cheese boreg for the second annual St. Mary Armenian Festival and Food Fair.

The festival is a chance for the community to learn about the Armenian church, heritage and culture while eating homemade Armenian food.

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"We live in America, we're enriched with all ethnic cultures, and Armenians are part of it," said Father Moushegh Tashjian, the church's archpriest reverend. "It's like a beautiful tapestry. We like to share our culture, you know. Food, music, folk dance, traditions, we like to share some of it with our neighbors. We like to involve all of our neighbors and share our beautiful heritage and culture."

The cheese boreg is just one of the traditional treats that will be shared during the festival Oct. 10. Homemade, stuffed grape leaves, lamb shish kebab, chicken shish kebab, rice pilaf, beef luleh kebab, gyro sandwiches and lahmajoun, which is meat and spices on a thin crust of dough, will all be part of the festival. And that doesn't even include the deserts. The women will be making baklava, konafa and all sorts of other sweet pastries. There will also be food vendors, traditional folk dance and imported Armenian beer.

"We do a community outreach," said Claudette Mekalian, chairwoman lady of the Lady Society. "We want to share our Armenian culture with the community."

Last year, about 800 people showed up, exceeding the church's expectation of 500. This year, the women said they are doubling how much food will be available so they don't run out because they expect 1,000 attendees.

"We call it food fellowship," Tashjian said, laughing. "When you have good, tasty, delicious food, people enjoy the company, it makes you want to stay longer and share stories."

One of the stories shared with people is about the church's history in Orange County, Tashjian said. Twenty-five years ago, a group of young Armenian men got together to play soccer. They then wanted to start something to bring Armenian families together in worship. The church belongs to the Armenian Christian Orthodox branch, which is one of the oldest churches in the world.

The group held monthly services in a Newport Beach church until they were able to buy the land on which St. Mary stands today.

If You Go

What: Second annual St. Mary Armenian Festival and Food Fair

When: Noon to 7 p.m. Oct. 10

Where: St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church, 148 E. 22nd St., Costa Mesa

Cost: Entrance is free. Lamb and chicken dishes are $15 each.

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