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It has been more than a century since Armenians settled in Watertown. Not surprisingly, many of their descendants have lost the language, married non-Armenians and assimilated in other ways. But food remains one of the most enduring elements of Armenian heritage in Watertown and other Armenian-American communities. Perhaps there is no better explanation for this than the one offered by Arlene Voski Avakian, a women’s studies professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, who wrote about her bond to the food of her ancestors in “Through the Kitchen Window.”

“Like other children of immigrants, I wanted to become an American, but … I didn’t want to eat like an American,” she wrote. For those unfortunate enough never to have tasted the cuisine or, worse yet, to have found it not to their liking, her family used an Armenian expression that means “they just don’t know the taste of their own mouths.”

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Paul Wachter is assistant editor of ONE magazine. Photographer Ilene Perlman’s work has appeared in The New York Times and Time magazine.

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Tags: Cultural Identity Armenian Catholic Church Multiculturalism Assimilation