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Enjoying an Armenian Brunch

Hi folks! Yep, we’re still here. I won’t bore you with the details, but work work work…you know how it goes.

I’m back in Armenia! I’ve been here for two weeks and am about to head home again. It has been really fun to see my colleagues and friends again. I never (EVER) thought I would have a chance to come back, but here I am. They are a very warm and hospitable bunch, so I have had no end of delicious food and wonderful company.

On Sunday, my friends invited me to a time-honored Armenian tradition – khash. Traditionally, men make this broth by boiling cows’ feet in unseasoned water all night long. The eater then doses his or her portion with raw garlic, salt, and maybe pepper and fills the bowl with crushed, dried lavash. It is only to be eaten early on a winter’s morning to allow the maximum time for digestion, since it’s rather heavy. The table is filled with other little bites – radishes, picked vegetables, herbs, fresh lavash, and cheese – to offset the richness. It is as much a ceremony as anything, so it’s an excuse for families and friends to get together.

You can just barely see the top of Nune’s head over all the dried lavash.

You just can’t eat khash alone…partly because it would be lonely and partly because toasting is an integral part. Armed with a small, but continually refilled, glass of vodka, the host and guests give touching speeches throughout the meal. None of this “cheers” business. The last toast is always dedicated to the parents. I was told that the Armenians pride themselves on remembering to toast their parents at the end of a drinking session. Apparently the Georgians always toast to the parents first, so that they don’t forget. Georgians say that the Armenians save it for the end, because they can’t remember anything BUT their parents at that point. Not having toasted with a Georgian, I won’t weigh in on the controversy, but my Armenian toasters were excellent company.

Although I was warned on my last visit that this isn’t a dish for the faint-hearted, I really enjoyed it! It’s basically just a rich, garlicky beef broth with lavash “noodles”. It warmed me down to my toes despite the cold and icy weather. I don’t think I’ll be making it any time soon, but I might whip up a quick approximation with regular broth, garlic, and stale bread. I’ll probably skip the vodka, though.

[Please excuse the poor iPhone photos. I don't have Erik's photography skills.]

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