Revisiting Armenian Easters with breads and eggs

Some of the Armenian breads Christine Moughamian baked for Easter this year. Photo by Christine Moughamian

By Blogger Christine Moughamian
One Yogini, Many Paths

My best Easter memories took place in my Armenian grandparents’ kitchen.

Always filled with the smell of warm cookies and rich coffee, it was the center of our family reunions.

My grandmother, Mémé Vartanouch, and my grandfather, Pépé Hossep, emigrated from Armenia to France after WWI. They were only teenagers then, but they brought with them their cultural heritage, encoded in their genes.

I remember helping Mémé Vartanouch bake Armenian Easter bread, which we called in French: “gâteaux de Pâques.” I’d break eggs and stir flour. Mémé Vartanouch would complete the recipe with butter, sugar and milk. She’d knead the mix into an elastic dough that smelled of baker’s yeast. I’d taste pieces of raw dough before she’d roll it out into snake-like segments.

She’d braid them three by three or coil them into spiral-shaped buns. Then we’d baste them with egg yolk and place them in the oven. When the “gâteaux de Pâques” came out of the oven, they looked like golden braids and spirals.

While the breads baked, Mémé Vartanouch would put dozens of eggs in

The onion-dyed eggs Christine Moughamian made for Easter this year. Photo by Christine Moughamian.

big pots of boiling water and yellow onion skins. When they came out, they were hard-boiled and colored in dark reddish brown. Once they cooled, my siblings and I would play the traditional “egg-game.” The goal was to break the other person’s egg while they protected it, wrapped in their fingers, pointed side up. The winner, whose egg didn’t break, would collect the broken eggs.

Mémé Vartanouch passed away long ago. But over the years, my mother had become an expert at baking “gâteaux de Pâques.” A couple of days ago, I called her in France to ask her about my grandmother’s recipes.

Both my Armenian grandparents are deceased. My father made his transition last August.

Today, I honored my Armenian heritage. I baked Easter bread and dyed hard-boiled eggs with onion skins. I called my mother and told her in a happy voice: “The house smells of “gateaux de Pâques,” and my boyfriend Jim won the egg-game. Thanks to you, Mémé Vartanouch is alive in me and in my kitchen!”

The egg game. Photo by Christine Moughamian.

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