Posts Tagged With: Armenian food

Astonishing Armenia.

Shangri-La I’ll be honest – I wasn’t very excited when Heifer International suggested I visit Armenia last year in one of my trips visiting its projects working to end poverty and hunger around the world. I’d never known anybody who’d been to Armenia, and had barely heard the name Yerevan, the country’s capital. And so, it came as a big surprise to me that I didn’t just like Armenia – I fell madly in love with it.Prayer CrossesFor one thing, the land itself is beautiful. From Mt. Ararat towering just over the treacherous border with Turkey…

Even Armenia's beloved Mt. Ararat, where Noah's Ark supposedly landed, is now part of Turkey.

….to the dun northern hills that made me think of Afghanistan…landscape…to the lush green pastures that support gorgeous orchards of fruit and nuts…Apples…to the rocky outcroppings where Christian churches were tucked in the crevasses, hidden from marauding invaders. rock churchThis is an ancient land with a totally unique history.buggy Armenia is the first Christian country in the world, and is ardently religious still.crossIt was the first country to experience heartbreaking genocide after World War I,

The Armenian Genocide Monument in Yerevan

The haunting Armenian Genocide Museum in Yerevan

A country in near-constant conflict with its neighbors: Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkey.

Across the lake and in gunsight: the Azerbaijan Border Station

Across the lake and within gun range: the Azerbaijan Border Station

And then, of course, there is the food.fruit pyramid

 Armenians dearly love to welcome you. And wine you. And dine you. And bread you. And fruit you. And cheese you. And coffee you.

Lahvosh & cheese You better come hungry when you visit Armenia, because you’re going to eat.PicklesAnd despite the severe challenges of moving beyond a Soviet mentality to establish an economy that can sustain the young people growing up here (which Heifer is working so tirelessly and creatively to support), there is a tenacity of spirit and national pride that is simply not to be denied.

Look at these beautiful faces!One of 44 members of Tsaghkavan CARMAC committee

Tamara Sargsyan

Naira Gyulnazaryan

The I am enI am Hope of Armenia

rabbitsBarev, Armenia – I’ll never forget our time together!cute boy

Categories: Armenia, Food, Heifer International, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

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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