Every Day Food

If you read up on Armenia, chances are that you’ll hear praises of dolma, khorovats, and other delicacies. While those foods deserve their praise, it’s not what we eat every day. Last night I thought about the dishes that my host family cooks. It comes down to about 10 different things, all pretty basic, but also delicious.

1. Default Soup – I don’t know what it’s called, but when we have soup, it’s usually this. A bright orangeish-red broth chock full of grease and salt so that it’s extra savory. It is accompanied with potatoes, greens, a green pepper (sometimes), and a hunk of meat (usually chicken), eaten with your hands after you’ve downed the rest.
2. Borsch – We have borsch probably half as much as default soup. Since it’s my favorite, I always get excited when I see cabbages getting chopped the night before. Borsch is Russian and I think usually made with beets, but here in Armenia they don’t use beets. The broth is really flavorful, a bit more tomatoey than default soup. Add to that a bunch of shredded cabbage and some potatoes, and you’ve got my favorite soup.
3. Mushy default soup – Just like default soup, but with a thicker broth and no meat. The broth is more like a potato based liquid.
4. Vospov Soup – Lentil soup in a brown broth. Again, the broth is salty (everything here is) but quite tasty. There are usually some potato chunks floating around amongst the vosp.
5. Kanache Soup – Green soup. It’s like a really salty soggy salad with potatoes. Add the customary spoon of garlic water before eating, and stand back while the salty garlic flavor overtakes you. We’ve only had this twice, which is fine with me.
6. Plate of mashed potatoes – Self explanatory. The potatoes are yellow with the yugh (fat/shortening) they add in for flavor.
7. Plate of pasta – The pasta is not boiled, but rather pan fried in the same yellow yugh. It makes for a squishier doughier pasta. Served with sweet onions. They eat it with matsun (sour yogurt) on top, but I opt not to.
8. Rice with chicken – A plate of greasy rice with a boiled chicken leg or wing on top.
9. Pilaf with chicken – Ditto
10. Lobi – Green beans with scrambled eggs mixed in. Probably my least favorite meal, not because of taste, but because it is not filling.
11. Vegetarian dolma – We’ve had this a handful of times, which contradicts my opening statement. But the classic dolma you find is meat based. Veggie dolma is mostly rice, wrapped in cabbage leaves, soaked in a tomato broth. Quite good.

Plate of mashed potatoes is our most common meal. We probably have it 3 times a week or so. All meals are eaten with white bread. Usually there are no knives, and the bread serves as a sort of utensil. I eat with the fork in my left hand and a piece of bread in my right hand which acts as a wall, leveler, mop, palate cleanser, and even a napkin when boiled chicken is involved. The family almost never drinks anything with their meal. Sometimes they might have a bottle of off-brand soda and have a tiny glass of that. I always have my water bottle with me at the table, for which I’m sure they think I’m weird.

There are a couple other items on the table sometimes. In the summer and fall, there is usually a diced tomato or cucumber. In the winter, there is a bowl of ttu (sauerkraut). They have also canned some products which are delicious, but kind of rare. One is khaviar (eggplant paste), another is a pepper and onion concoction, and another is a tomato and pepper paste. All three are delicious. I make little sandwiches out of them with the bread and cheese. Cheese here is all of one variety: extremely salty white cheese. I have gotten used to it, but I still can’t really eat it without bread.

Breakfast is hot tea, bread, and cheese. Sometimes there is an egg for boiling, but often not. They also use apricot jam quite a bit with the bread.

So yeah, while they have lots of fancy foods here, our menu is pretty basic. Now you know what I eat on a daily basis!

Saltier than it looks


6 Responses to “Every Day Food”

  1. Ben Says:

    “Usually there are no knives, and the bread serves as a sort of utensil. I eat with the fork in my left hand and a piece of bread in my right hand which acts as a wall, leveler, mop, palate cleanser, and even a napkin when boiled chicken is involved.”
    This made my day!

    Is this the diet year-round, or are there times when you don’t eat soup?

  2. icenugget Says:

    I had to give the bread its due!

    That is pretty much the year round menu. When I first got here and I was a sweaty mess, I couldn’t understand why they kept wanting to eat hot soup. The dolma we only started having in the winter, and the lobi was summer/fall. But my first family ate dolma during the summer.

  3. Peter Says:

    That is some hearty grub! You gotta love the variety of soups. I’m a little surprised by the one type of cheese though.

    Ever notice how in foreign countries everyone talks about how offensive to the natives it is to not eat/finish the food, but here it seems like people always ask their guests if they like lamb this or broccoli that before they even touch a cutting board?

  4. joelgillin Says:

    dude, I just discovered your blog. It’s awesome. I just directed my mom to it, so expect some comments from her.

  5. icenugget Says:

    That’s true – we bend over backwards before even preparing the meal. Here, it’s more like they expect you to love everything they prepare. Case in point, I was stuffed to the rafters already when prodded to finish my way-too-sweet apricot soup thing because, “It’s Jesus’ birthday, Kevin.”

  6. icenugget Says:

    Nice Joel! I just found your comment for some reason – it was in the pending box with no notification.

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