Food Culture and Tradition

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Domestic Life and Special Occasions in Armenia

DOMESTIC LIFE IN ARMENIA

The traditional lifestyle of Armenians can still be seen in the rural and mountain villages. The village is a family, with such an intertwining of caring and sharing that it is difficult to distinguish relatives from friends. Children are loved and respected as much as the oldest grandmother, and each person takes a share in work and activities. While modern electrical appliances and utensils are costly though available in urban centers, domestic life in rural areas still revolves around the traditionally simple but practical kitchen where woodenware and earthenware predominate. Heavy earthenware jugs and jars are used to store food in cold pantries and cellars over the winter months; garlic and onions, dried fruits and vegetables hang from walls and rafters; women share communal ovens.

SPECIAL OCCASIONS

Armenian Christianity, recognized as one of the earliest branches of the Christian faith, dates from the work of Saint Gregory the Illuminator (third century). Armenians today are divided between the Uniate Church, which is similar to the Roman Catholic but uses an Armenian rite, and the Gregorian Church. A few Armenians are of the Protestant faith and some are Jewish. In America, the Armenian Apostolic Church is most closely identified with the Greek Orthodox Church.

It is the combination of the Armenians’ warm family feelings and deep bonds to their faith as well as their inherent delight with parties that make family and religious events occasions for feasting, drinking, and merriment. Usually such a special occasion calls forth a vast array of all the tradition-al dishes, sweets and pastries, and all the brandy and wine the family can afford (and probably more than anyone can consume). Often a variety of spit-roasted game birds highlight many special occasions, but a specialty of weddings is a huge saffron pilaf made with rice, saffron, and flavored with rosewater.

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