LAVASH The Book is the website for the forthcoming Lavash cookbook, co-written by Kate Leahy, Ara Zada, and John Lee. The book is published by Chronicle Books, and will be released in Fall 2019.
A meal in Armenia can include everything from rich bone broths to heaps of greens to skewered meats and vegetables cooked over an open fire. But no matter what's on the table, there's one thing that's always present: lavash. A simple flatbread, stretched and baked quickly, lavash is so important to Armenia that Unesco recognized it as a key component of the country's heritage.
In this book Lavash, we focus on this elemental Armenian food, first by showing how to make it and next by sharing the many dishes it enhances, from broths and stews to condiments, sides, grilled meats and vegetables, and jams. Meanwhile, location photography in Armenia and sidebars about grains, terrain, and wine (it's believed that the first vitis vinifera wines were made in an Armenian cave!) provide glimpses into the country of Armenia itself. But at its core, the book is a celebration of a simple bread eaten with simple food, which in itself is a true reflection of this resilient, beautiful country.
Who We Are
KATE LEAHY, writer
The title of the first piece I ever published was "Feeding Nostalgia: Cookbooks and Armenian-American Identity," which ran in the UC Davis research journal Explorations. It was my first in-depth attempt at writing about history, culture, and food, and it involved a year's worth of research. I visited the California State Library archives, requesting copies of every available Armenian-American community cookbooks through interlibrary loans, and headed to Fresno to eat lahmajoun, among other things. Once the piece was done, though, I put the subject of Armenian food aside in the years. I went to work as a line cook in Boston, San Francisco, and Napa before later going to Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism. Since then, I have written or contributed to more than eight books including A16 Food + Wine, an IACP Cookbook of the Year and Burma Superstar:Addictive Recipes from the Crossroads of Southeast Asia, a cookbook about a California-Burmese restaurant in San Francisco. Yet I never quite forgot about the ties between Armenia, food, and cultural Identity that drove me to spend a year thinking about it. Returning to the subject of Armenian food for Lavash feels as if I'm picking up where I left off.
ARA ZADA, chef + food stylist
I grew up in an Armenian-Egyptian household in Southern California, which meant spending a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and eating. My nickname growing up was “kol-kol” given to me by my grandpa, which means, “eat-eat” in Arabic. I would eat anything and everything in my path. I naturally gravitated towards the kitchen but it wasn’t the food that brought me there alone, I really just wanted to play with the knives and this was the only way my mom would let me. I did eventually (sort of) grow up, graduating from Le Cordon Bleu and working for Jaime Oliver on the television show Food Revolution. Since then, I've worked for ABC, CBS, NBC, and Food Network as a food stylist and I've participated in Jamie Oliver's Food Foundation as a culinary instructor in the foundation's mobile teaching kitchen. I have also led cooking workshops elsewhere, including Armenia. Today, I am an executive chef for Fresh Gourmet Cuisine, where I develop recipes for Las Vegas hotels and supermarkets nationwide. When I was a kid, the only Armenian cookbook I ever saw was The Complete Armenian Cookbook, Including Favorite International Recipes. The problem is, it's really not "complete." I want Lavash to raise the bar on Armenian cookbooks, giving cooks a window into the real, and really old, world of Armenian food.
JOHN LEE, photographer
When I got the invitation to teach photography in Armenia, I had already become established in San Francisco as a photographer working primarily in food and portraiture. But my roots are in photojournalism. I was a staff photographer for the Chicago Tribune from 1996 to 2005, which included covering presidential campaigns, the rise of China, civil unrest in Haiti, Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan and Indonesia, and the war in Iraq. I was also part of the team of journalists at the Tribune who won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for its profile of the chaotic American air traffic system. Since leaving the Chicago Tribune in 2005, I have photographed more than two dozen cookbooks. I like to approach food photography from a cultural perspective, as seen in my latest project, Burma Superstar: Addictive Recipes from the Crossroads of Southeast Asia (2017).