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  The Birth of Rice-A-Roni: Family Archives  
Captanian & DeDomenico Families
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  Nikki sat down next to this story at an NPR event. We were interviewing Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, on stage. We were talking with him about corn, and as part of the show we played our Hidden Kitchen story, "The Birth of the Frito.” When Nikki sat down for dinner the woman next to her said she had been part of the birth of Rice-A-Roni. Here name was Lois DeDomenico and she began to tell a story about San Francisco in the 1940s and the convergence of a Canadian immigrant, an Italian American pasta family, and a survivor of the Armenian genocide, in the creation of “The San Francisco Treat”.

  Interview with Michael Pollan   Frito Kid
Omnivore's Dilemma
The Kitchen SIsters interview Michael Pollan/2007
Birth of the Frito
We later interviewed Lois, philanthropist and widow of Tom DeDomenico, son of the founder of Golden Grain Macaroni Company, at her home in Oakland to chronicle her story. Lois had long ago lost touch with Pailadzo Captanian, the woman who had taught her to make Armenian rice pilaf in the 1940s, the recipe that would inspire her husband's family to create a side dish that gave Kraft Macaroni & Cheese a real run for it's money in the 50s, when rice was rarely found on the American dinner table.

We began searching for the family of Pailadzo Captanian, and were able to find her grandson, Ted, a contactor in Novato. When we met him he came bearing a translated version of the memoir of her harrowing exodus from Armenia, a pile of photographs, and a pilaf recipe of his grandmother.

We are grateful to the Captanian and DeDomenico families for allowing us to include these treasured family photographs here and online at

Family Photographs
All photographs courtesy of the Captanian and DeDomenico Families
  Letters from Listeners —  

We received a number of letters from listeners concerned about what had happened to Mrs. Captanian's two children that she had to leave behind with a Greek family when she fled the impending genocide. Mrs. Captanian did get her boys back after her trek, thankfully. The two older boys in the pictures seen on the NPR site and in the slide show above are the two she left behind. We only had 6 and a half minutes to tell this story so many things had to be left out.

We were only able to find a German translation of the book. We interviewed the translator, Meline Pehlivanian, for the piece. She happened to come across the original French version of the book,
called Memoires D'une Deportee, while she was putting together an exhibit about the Armenian genocide, and decided to translate it because she thought it was such a remarkable story and because there were so few first-hand accounts of the massacre. The German version is
titled Der Volkermord an den Armeniern, which is still available. The Captanian family does have an English translation of the book that someone did for them, but it has not been published.

Another Great Idea....    
 Lois Listen to Lois DeDomenico tell the story of her Granola Recipe and attempt to turn it into another "Rice-a-Roni" success story  
  Lois' Granola recipe coming soon ...  
  More Legendary Armenian Women »  
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