08 February 2012

Things Armenian People Like

Lavash. The word literally means good ("lav") food ("ash") in Armenian. It's a delicious, difficult to make wonder that is a true staple in the country. As we saw at the Yerevan food market, lavash is bought in encyclopedic folded wads. The so-thin-you-can-see-light-through it and so-chewy-it-is-elastic flatbread is about as close to a flour tortilla as a Dunkin Donuts bagel is to a real kettle boiled one. The baking process reflects its uniqueness.
We got to witness a lavash making troop of women in Goris and were mesmerized by the choreography. Woman A made balls out of the dough. Woman B rolled one out, stretching it by the corners and throwing it in the air like a pizza until it was less than 1/16 of an inch thick. Then, she threw it like a frisbee over to Woman C who was kneeling down by the in-groundtonir. Woman C stretched it onto a bata, a half pillow half board thing that reminded me of American Gladiators equipment. WHOMP! She'd quickly and forcefully smack the pillow onto the side of the oven so that the dough would stick right on, flat. After less than a second, Woman D swooped a long hook in and removed the dough, transformed into lightly blistered lavash. What's not to like?
Dried Fruit. The sheer variety available is staggering. Some market tables literally looked like a color scale: pear, fig, apricot, peach, papaya, persimmon, cherry, date, prune. It was extraordinary. Dried apricots were added to pilafs and rice dishes and raisins would find their way into vegetarian stuffed cabbage and chicken plates. It was the best fried fruit we've ever had - particularly the apricots - so it's no wonder they like it so much.
Pomegranate Imagery. Speaking of fruit, Armenians have really claimed the pomegranate as a sort of national symbol. It's odd, because the apricot or cherry would be more appropriate. I think it comes down to the fact that pomegranates are prettier. We saw the fruit incorporated into an old fence at Tatev Monastery, proving that this isn't a recent thing. However, there seems to have been a decision made on its marketability - because every souvenir shop is brimming with things shaped like the odd red fruit. Magnets, keychains, earrings, liquor bottlesand figurines.
Using Tissues as Napkins and, as a result, Branded Kleenex Boxes. In Armenia, a box of tissues is placed on every table to use as napkins. I have to say, tissues do not work particularly well in most eating scenarios. They tend to fly off a lap if placed there and stick to your fingers if you've eaten barbecue - which you almost always will have at an Armenian table. What made this affinity for tissues more interesting was the fact that almost every business had branded ones! Hotels, restaurants, cafes all had specially designed boxes made by a company in Yerevan. Right there, next to the bar code on the bottom, the product was listed as "dinner napkins." So, maybe I should say that Armenian people like dinner napkins that strongly resemble tissues?
Prayer Cloths. There may be another name for this. I know that in Celtic areas, they are called "clooties," but that simply means "strip of cloth." They say that tying a strip of fabric to a tree makes your prayer more likely to be answered. Some people do this near bodies of water as part of a prayer for healing. Armenia is a religious, Christian country and signs of the faithful can be seen everywhere. The most abundant and, I think beautiful, marks are definitely these prayer cloths. When we encountered them in Xinaliq, Azerbaijan, we weren't exactly sure what they were. Having traveled through Armenia, we now know for sure.

1 comment:

  1. very enjoyable and interesting read.....loved the pic of the prayer cloths!

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