Culinary Excursions and Attack of the Doberman, Among Other Things

I realize now that what I did in America was not really cooking. I ate at home almost every night, but I was missing the point. I ate almost entirely processed foods. I’ll give myself credit for making awesome whole grain oatmeal cookies every week, but that was about it. Now things are different.

The lack of pre-made foodstuffs in Armenia facilitates my development as a “cooker” (as my ESL friends would say). I am forced to not be lazy – there are no frozen pizzas. I am forced to be adventurous – I know like 3 recipes. I am also forced to use the metric system – and I like it a lot better.

Here are some of my latest meals:
Lentil Soup – Easy to make, healthy, delicious, and food for several meals. I will be making this one back in the states!
Potato Soup – It was a little too liquidy for me. I won’t be making it again, partly because I didn’t love it and partly because it calls for milk. I have gambled and lost too many times lately with milk here, so I’m taking a break from it.
Fried Rice – A good way to use leftover cooked rice. I add sausage, onions, egg, and sometimes potatoes to turn it into a real starch fest.
Chocolate Chip Cookies – These do not exist in Armenia. Sometimes a taste of home is bliss, so I made them and was quite happy.
Snickerdoodles – Again, chka Hayastanum. These followed the chocolate chippers. They also dominated the chocolate chippers, so it’s snickerdoodles from here on out. Armenians at the office enjoyed these too.
Egg Rolls – My first time ever really frying anything. Despite being disgusted at the amount of sunflower oil I had to use, these were really good. Lavash, with carrot, egg, mushroom, and cabbage filling.
Pizza – Friday night I made my first pizza in country. Drop a little extra money for meltable Hollandakan (Dutch) cheese, and you’re set. The dough was almost too easy – 3 cups of flour, baking powder, salt, and beer. I can’t decide if the best part was cooking with beer, eating the pizza, drinking the rest of the beer with the pizza, or cold pizza for breakfast the next morning (first time in almost 10 months). I am lucky to have a working oven!

While I will probably return to my old ways in the kitchen when I get back, it is nice to slow down, spend a bit more time preparing food, and discover that I can make tasty food from scratch.

In other news, I had a bad run in with a dog this week. PC gives us some training to be careful of dogs. In Armenia there are many wild street dogs. Usually they don’t pose a problem. Part of that is because they’re scared of Armenians for the most part. So our training was to avoid dogs, and if necessary, carry a rock. Just the act of raising your arm is enough to scare most dogs away.

I haven’t had too many problems with dogs up until now. Mostly they are just annoying here. I get chased on my runs sometimes, but those are little yippie dogs chasing me. But Wednesday, I was as scared as I’ve ever been in my life.

I was walking to my language lesson, which takes me down a dirt road in a residential area. As I approached my sanctuary, I could see a Doberman sitting in a driveway. I knew the dog, because it is not a street dog. I see it sometimes at this house, but usually it isn’t there. The reason I knew it was because it scared the shit out of my in one of my first weeks in Vardenis. Back then, it charged all the way across their yard, right at me, before stopping at the edge of the property. So I already don’t like this dog. I’m walking by, and since the dog is sitting at the edge of the driveway, the farthest away I can get is the other side of the dirt road I’m traversing. But the road is full of major league puddles, so those kind of determine where you can walk.

So I’m walking, getting closer to the dog. The dog is on the right side of the road (about 15 feet away), and I’m on the right side of a huge puddle. As I get closer, the dog starts growling and baring its teeth. I realize that I need to get to the other side of the road, but I have to get around the puddle first. Before I can do that, he bolts right at me.

Have you ever been so scared that you can’t control your reaction? It’s the definition of fight or flight. It’s a kind of fear that I have only had a few times in my life (another of which was in Armenia with a dog in Yerevan). I consider myself able to stay calm and cool in some intense moments. For example, when I was 18 and sleepily driving to my job at ADM, and an oncoming dump truck turned left right in front of me. Boom, slam the brakes, save your own life, no problem. But the Doberman, I was scared shitless…

So I jump backwards in fear, screaming “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!”, with my arms rising at my sides. The awkwardness of my reaction must have caught the dog off guard, because he stopped charging. At this point he was just a few feet away from me. Some Armenians further down the road see what is happening and start yelling at the dog. The dog goes back towards his driveway. I assess the damage: my left foot is completely submerged in a mud puddle, my dignity is nowhere to be seen, and I feel like a pansy. But there are no flesh wounds, no rabies, no trip to a soviet hospital. I step out of the puddle, try to think of something to say to save face with the Armenians I will soon pass, and consider myself lucky.

Other than that, life has been really good lately. I did the International Writing Olympics at the college this week with some English students. Today (it’s 1 a.m. right now), I will take some teenagers to Martuni to compete in a poetry contest. Yesterday was an unusual Saturday. Let me break it down:

9:00 – Wake up, realize it snowed again (everything had melted and even the mud was drying)
10:00 – Cold pizza and gata (pastry) for breakfast…heaven
12:00 – Go to YMCA for their board meeting. First one I’ve ever seen. Try to understand and help translate for Aga, but don’t understand much. Scribble some words on my hand to look up later.
2:00 – Board meeting is over. 4th school director/teacher is our new board president. They want a PCV at the 4th school. Bonus. Stand around in the office, teach one of my friends some English, get questions about the words scribbled on my hand, and more standing. Think, “I’ll stay for a few more minutes.”
2:02 – Realize that we are now going upstairs to eat barbecue chicken and drink vodka. Reconsider staying in Armenia the rest of my life and attending as many board meetings as possible.
5:00 – Act like I’m not drunk. Help the janitor lady clean up despite her refusals. Walk home with her, talk to her about my family’s visit (she is really excited to meet you guys).
5:05 – Arrive in apartment and pass out on top of bed in all of my clothes.
10:45 – Wake up to a thudding noise coming from upstairs. Totally disoriented. Upon realizing where I am, reflect on how sweet life is for 1 hour.
12:00 – Eat some more gata, write this blog post, and check the internet.
1:00 – Go to sleep. Gotta get up at 7:30 and run, then take these girls to Martuni.

🙂

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3 Responses to “Culinary Excursions and Attack of the Doberman, Among Other Things”

  1. Peter Says:

    I remember the same thing in Italy – European dogs are much more likely to be mean (I’m not talking about street dogs either, those were probably the nicest dogs since they beg/scavenge more than kill). I had more teeth bared at me in those 4 months than probably my entire life here. I’m pretty sure it’s because the Euro’s were too lazy to discipline them and decided to have le cigarette instead.

    Peter

  2. Kelsey Says:

    I’m excited to meet the janitor!!

  3. icenugget Says:

    These dogs have an identity crisis I think. They can’t decide whether to be mean Euro dogs or scared Asian dogs (concerned that we might eat them). Oh the challenges of Eurasia…

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