What I Ate in Armenia.

If you want to know what it feels like to be a goose on its way to becoming fois gras, I can’t think of any better place to go than Armenia. Right now, I am so stuffed full of great food, I feel like I should be spread on some dark rye bread and downed with a nice reisling … but let’s let the photos do the talking.

Actually, it’s impossible to feel bad about how much you’re eating in Armenia, because the food is so deliciously fresh and unadulterated….and because every Armenian is going to tell you with earnest conviction that whatever you’re eating is “really good for your heart,” no matter what you’re shoving in your face.

It’s ALL good for you …

“Eating local” is an understatement here. Everything you’re imbibing is probably five minutes out of the garden or orchard or barn, and you’re literally going to break somebody’s heart if you don’t accept a third helping. And why would you want to do that? You’ll probably never eat this good again.

I could (usually) resist the cakes and sweets – but only because I was taking in about 45 pounds of fructose a day in the form of a glorious cornucopia of peaches, plums, apples, grapes, figs, melon, pomegranates and dried fruits of every sort.

See what I mean?

Unfortunately, apricots were not in season– which caused terrific sorrow in my hosts as the superiority of Armenian apricots is a matter of national pride here. (They wouldn’t even let me take photos of the substandard remainders of the harvest.)

(Lackluster apricots have been removed from this photo.)

Dairy also figures prominently in every meal and is lusciously fresh and  homemade– whether it’s butter, cheese, regular yogurt or squeezed yogurt (hugged yogurt, I liked to call it), which looks exactly like a big heaping helping of sour cream and tastes amazing, even if my lactose intolerance caused me to skirt that bowl every time.

Fresh hugged yogurt is on the left, in the parfait glass!

I can’t leave off talking about food without discussing Armenia’s legendary, proprietary barbecue – which is nothing like the slathered, ketchupy sides of beef you see in the American South. Instead, the meat is marinated in a lot of fresh herbs, plopped on a firewood grill and grilled to perfection, which makes it (you guessed it)… really good for your heart!

Oriental coffee is thick as syrup and will be served to you (whether you’re overcaffeinated or not) every place you stop, with a big heaping bowl of fruit and some version of cake. But when the Armenians get down to it, meal-wise, they’re going to be serving lahvosh (watching them make it is amazing!)

And cheese. And tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and pickles. And meat or fish with a generous handful of purple basil, dill, oregano and cilantro to sprinkle on top. And potatoes. And cabbage slaw. And olives.

Trout fresh from the river next door — the last bite!

Armenians love food… they love to grow it (every house has a grapevine draped over the entrance and at least a few fruit trees surrounding the terrace)… they love to cook it and they love to eat it, surrounded by friends and family. Perhaps it has to do with the terrible starvation and privation Armenians suffered during the genocide of 1915, but the one thing I can tell you for sure – this culture is all about food. And Heifer is all about helping them to grow and raise more of it. (And I’ll all about deeply, profoundly appreciating it.)

As they say in Armenia, “Anushlini!” – Let anything you eat be sweet to you!

Categories: Armenia, Farming, Food, Heifer International, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

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28 thoughts on “What I Ate in Armenia.

  1. Joyce Jarrell

    Betty, I know how come they say that everything you eat is good for your heart…it’s because it’s served with love and good vibrations. Loved this post, except it made me very hungry! Take care and keep sharing.

    • If you think this made YOU hungry, Joyce, I can assure you that being there in person left me permanently ready to chow down! Thanks for your comment!

  2. I love these “what I ate” posts of yours–thank you. Amazing what is possible when people value growing their own food. Imagine what is really possible . . .

  3. Ginger

    Wow Betty,

    Per usual, fabulous photos. I am starved looking at the pictures and I never have a big appetite in the morning!


  4. I don’t think there’s any greater luxury in the world than being able to grow or fish for your own food. No processing. No cans. All pure and healthy. So many foods rich in anti-oxidants. No wonder Armenians live so long. Do any of the residents export what they grow or is it all for their own consumption? I’ll take the tomato and cucumber salad, please.

    • Oddly, it’s a luxury for us but a necessity for so many people around the world — which is why part of Heifer’s mission has always been to encourage its beneficiaries to start home gardens — and supplement protein with small fish ponds, etc. The Armenians do export apricots and honey but with all their dairy capacity they still import dairy from Georgia — which is something Heifer is definitely trying to impact!

  5. Lori Miller

    I’m supposed to be studying for a new business pitch, Betty, but instead I a filling my senses with images and aromas of Armenia!! It all sounds so wonderful.

    • Wow, you are reminding me of one thing I actually did love about advertising – the new business pitch! Good luck with that — and feeding a pitch is always the way to go!! xoxoox b

  6. Deb Morrow Palmer

    Now that is my kind of place!! I love my food especially fresh!!

  7. All that fresh fruit looks so delicious! And the bbq… why do I have to look at these kinds of posts when I am hungry and stuck in a classroom with nothing to snack on?!!

    • Sorry, Tiffany — I think I should have posted a warning – don’t read if you’re hungry!

    • With all that nightlife, I am rellay shocked Armenia doesn’t get that much attention. I think this may be a case of a “best kept secret” destination. Really dug the travel recommendations too, and am looking forward to anything else you have on this gorgeous country!

  8. Martha Radatz

    Lovely! Except I WOULD like to see those prime apricots! How they roll that dough so thin is amazing to watch!

    • Well, you’ll have to wait for my return visit in Apricot Season — which would probably be reason enough to return. And yeah… Nara was SO adept in rolling out that super thin dough — and she had made her entire yard into the most beautiful garden, with flowers, grapevines, vegetable gardens, fruit trees and herbs growing everywhere! I was in heaven just sitting there having coffee!!

  9. Oh my…the food looks so amazing. It’s just so beautiful that I would ALMOST have trouble eating it, but I would eat it because it’s “good for my heart.” Thank you for sharing these amazing pictures.

  10. One out of two: either i stop following this blog or i start planning my way to this wonderful land… 😉

  11. Yummy! The bread looks espcially good. Now, I need to run get some dinner. I’m hungry!

  12. That bread was heavenly — seriously, we ate it RIGHT out of the big stone oven and i was going to take just a polite little corner — i wanted to run off with off with the entire slab!

  13. I agree with earlier comments that I really like these food posts. I’ve never seen such delicious looking flat bread. Could I have a little piece with some of that barbecue?

    I have a few Armenian friends – and we always always always eat well at their homes.
    Did you see how they brew their tea over water?

    • Rosie — I did see how they made tea .. but it was the coffee that was served absolutely everywhere and was wicked strong and glorious! That bread just blew my mind — no way was I not eating as much as I could !!! I wish I had Armenian friends who would have me over to dinner .. I’d NEVER say no!!!

  14. Seeing those photos I would’ve never guessed Armenia! What a beautiful looking cuisine, and it does seem pretty healthy overall. Any culture that’s generous with cilantro is alright in my book, anyway.

    Thanks for another transporting post Betty!

    • Cilantro will cure what ails you and they use fresh herbs with everything in Armenia. I seriously couldn’t BELIEVE how much I loved the food!! Thanks, FF!!

  15. Very good post. I’m experiencing a few of these issues as well..

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