One of the best parts about living in Armenia is having the opportunity to enjoy Armenian food. In that sense, I would say that I lucked out by ending up with the host family that I have now. While they may not officially work as chefs, I think that my host parents make some of the best food I have ever had in my life. When I first walked in the door of my host parents’ house, I saw a giant strawberry cake sitting on the table. Since I hadn’t eaten a proper meal in almost two days, due to travel delays and long hours spent in multiple airports, I couldn’t help but focus my attention on that incredible looking cake. Now, I’m not sure if it was my stomach growling or the excessive amount of eye-contact I was making with the cake, but my host parents were very receptive and had slice ready for me in a matter of seconds. That first bite was heavenly! Seeing my reaction, my host dad smiled and declared that he had made the cake all by himself. My host mother’s wry smile and laugh told a different story, but I didn’t question it. This was the first of many delicious foods I tried in my first few weeks in Armenia.
Since my host mother is retired, she spends most of her time during the day preparing meals or making various types of preserved goods or snacks to put out on the table. During my first week she made: fresh apricot juice, multiple pies, a special kind of walnut jam and bread. Together with my host father, we made strawberry jam for the winter. It was a lengthy process, but thoroughly enjoyable. We started by getting a few buckets of fresh strawberries from the market down the street. The area around the fruit stand smelled absolutely incredible; so many fresh fruits together in one place combine to make a wonderfully sweet aroma (the fruit aisles in regular grocery stores smell almost sterile by comparison). After we carried the strawberries home, we rinsed them all off and took off the stems. I think we must have washed a few hundred strawberries. We then put them all in an enormous bowl and covered them with sugar. When the strawberries were ready, we put them in jars and put them away to enjoy during the winter. As someone who loves jam, this experience made me really excited to make my own jam when I go home. Now I just need to find a good source of strawberries.
The other memorable meal that my host mom showed me how to make was Spas. Spas is a traditional Armenian soup that is yoghurt-based. It’s a very hearty soup that can be served either hot or cold. I had actually tried spas on another occasion while I was living in Russia. At that time, I was eating at an Armenian restaurant in Moscow that was famous for its fresh food. I have to say, I much preferred my host mother’s version. I guess that really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. I’m not sure that I will ever enjoy restaurant food as much I used to after this experience. Fortunately, I still have another four weeks to go. Now all I need to do is remember how to make all of this wonderful food so my family and friends can share in the experience.
By: Kimberly Daw
Term: Summer 2018