Armenia’s origin dates back to as far as 6000 years. Its pre-Christian kingdoms comprised a vast area of what may be described as historical Armenia. Covering the eastern third of today’s Turkey.
Today Armenia is an independent republic after more than 70 years of being one of the Soviet Socialist Republics located in the Caucasus with approximately 3.0 million inhabitants.
However, hundreds of thousands of Armenians live in many Middle Eastern countries, Australia, western European republics, Russia, the U. S. A., Canada and Argentina.
Throughout history, incursions by Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols and Turks left their impact on the customs and cuisine of Armenia.
Food and its preparation are one of the cornerstones of Armenian culture. It is a fact that Armenian cooks influenced Middle Eastern cuisines, and their specialties are accepted as the tastiest of them all.
Because of the fertile land the nation inhabited and still does, and because of their inherent love of good food, Armenians have a varied and superb cookery, which more often than not requires lengthy preparations.
It is quite common for homemakers to shop daily for produce and devote a good part of the day to preparing both lunch and dinner.
In short for fine Armenian food you must devote time and must possess the skills required to accomplish the task.
On the other hand, breakfast is a light affair consisting of a few slices of cheese, bread, olives and tea.
Many Armenian specialties carry Turkish name simply because they were invented in the imperial kitchens of sultans by Armenian cooks who represented the majority of chefs. Sultans insisted that Armenian chefs be hired to cook for them and their entourage.
It must also be mentioned that a particular recipe may be seasoned differently pending on the region. As is well known and documented after the 1915 genocide perpetrated by Ottoman Turks on the nation during which one-and-a-half million innocent people were literally massacred systematically, by a detailed government plan, hundreds of thousands of families fled to Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt. In these countries recipes had to be adapted to local ingredients and seasonings.
Armenian cooks use by and large eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, green beans, fava beans, artichokes, carrots, potatoes and cabbage are used as vegetables, along with lamb, fish and chicken. Pine nuts, walnuts, olive oil, herbs and spices also play an important role.
Bread is the main starch, followed by rice. Noodles are used for special occasions, Armenian bread, a.k.a lavash, is an ingenious recipe. It can be prepared and stored for long periods without deterioration. Sprinkling with water and reheating it makes it as palatable as when the thin bread was freshly cooked.
Armenians, eat, by necessity, a lot of legumes; chickpeas, lentils, soybeans and split peas which are nutritionally important for as well-functioning body.
Many vegetables are stuffed including vine leaves. The stuffing consists of ground lamb, salt, pepper, cinnamon, thyme, rice chopped onion, pie nuts and olive oil for hot dishes, whereas for cold specialties rice, onion, salt, pepper, dill, pine nuts, red currants are employed, Generally peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini are stuffed. Armenian soups like yoghurt-, wedding, and vegetable soups are flavourful and nourishing.
Of course shish kebab (marinated skewered pieces of lamb, and grilled vegetables are popular during week-end outings, and stews of all kinds are everyday fare. Armenian homemakers even stew quince with lamb.
A typical Armenian dinner may consist of a series of appetizers: salted and roasted almonds, marinated olives, spicy sausages, stuffed vine leaves, chickpea dip followed by a soup and there is a good array of them. The main course may be roast lamb, fish, poultry, or vegetable stew with chunks of lamb accompanied by cracked wheat (bulgur), bread and/or rice
Salads change seasonally and are always dressed with olive oil, salt, pepper vinegar and lemon juice.
Dessert usually consists of fresh fruit, dried fruit compotes in winter, followed by dark, strong coffee.
Although Armenians are said to have invented and perfected wine, today this beverage is less popular than beer, and vodka in Armenia, a cultural inheritance of Soviet influence.
Hundreds of thousands of Armenians live in Middle Eastern Muslim countries where alcohol consumption is discouraged and in some cases even forbidden like is Saudi Arabia, Persia and Libya but somehow they find ways to obtain them, and in some cases even produce what they like.
Armenian cuisine is inventive, adaptable, frugal and eminently exquisite.
Try it and you will enjoy!