FOODS COMMONLY USED
The highly sophisticated and varied cuisine of Armenia encompasses a wide and well-balanced combination of foods. Lamb and chicken are the favored meats, fresh chopped vegetables are often eaten as sal-ads, and vegetables are an important part of many one-dish meals. Soured or cultured milk and many types of fresh and aged cheeses are plentiful and eaten almost anytime with breads, fruits, nuts, or by themselves. Rice forms the basis of many pilafs and the filling of stuffed vegetables, while wheat is favored for breads of all kinds and cracked wheat (bulgur) is also used in many dishes. Refreshing yogurt and soured milk are consumed as beverages or snacks, wine often accompanies meals, especially parties, and brandy is taken for any reason.
MEALS AND CUSTOMS
Hospitality is a way of life and nothing is more enjoyed than inviting guests or wayfarers to partake of whatever food the family may have on hand. Whether the variety is wide or limited, somehow there is always enough to share. The women take great pride in preparing and serving the meals and usually hover in the background while the men feast and drink and merrily toast each other, the weather, the crops, the country, the world. Table service and manners are of secondary importance. Shared enjoyment is everything. Even when times are bad, and people have to survive only on bread and beans, these will be prepared in a variety of ways and served with the same joy as the most sumptuous meal.
The general pattern of three meals a day prevails. Breakfast is a simple spread of cheese, olives, and bread with coffee. The noon meal is usually a hot vegetable or vegetable and meat casserole, while the largest meal, dinner, usually takes place in the evening between seven and eight o’clock. This meal customarily begins with the potent Raki and more recently with vodka, to be followed by nibbles of cheeses, various types of olives (black, green spiced, salted, etc.), or sometimes a chopped green salad or gently simmered soup. The meal continues with roasted meat, fish, or fowl, together with more vegetables (often served cooked and cold), rice or bulgur pilaf, a choice of wines or leban or yogurt, to be finished with a dessert of fresh or dried fruits, nuts, and cheeses. Occasionally coffee may conclude a special dinner. Snacks throughout the day will be nuts or toasted seeds to crunch and munch almost continually, sometimes a break of pastries and coffee or wine, if there are guests, or just a humble refreshment of leban and fruit.