The Armenian cuisine is over three thousand years old. It has developed and accomplished during many years, and is distinguished by specific features such as the ability of following traditions and taking new ones. It’s expressed both by favorite dishes and their preparation ways.
The main characteristics of Armenian cuisine is the fact, that it’s connected with agriculture, first of all with farming, then with ranching, which is reflected in the list of traditional dishes, where the domain part belongs to the vegetal food. Being one of the oldest agricultural cultures in the world, especially that of wheat, the Armenian cuisine is abundant with different types of pastry, nuts, vegetables and fruits. Moreover, being famous for ranching , Armenia is rich with meat and milk products.
The correlation of food, meat and milk has changed in the traditional cuisine, it’s connected with historical events, inner and outer factors, as well as with periods.
In the Ararat valley (now Ararat, Armavir regions, partly Aragatsotn and Kotayq) the daily food of the traditional cuisine was considered to be flour and other cereals, afterwards dairy , then vegetables and meat. In the Shirak valley ( Shirak region) the daily food was flour and other cereals, then milk and in the end came meat. The vegetables were rare because of the severe weather, which went upon the daily food. The daily food was almost the same in Lori, Tavush and Syuniq regions as in the Ararat valley, only meat and vegetables were following each other depending on regions.
The sequence of milk, meat and vegetables depends on the method and productivity of the agriculture. Because of the lack of pastures and grasslands, it has become rare to get milk from the cows. In those regions, where it’s difficult to cultivate vegetables because of the weather conditions and mountainous relief, the vegetables follow the meat.
According to historical sources, the daily food of Armenians included bread, nuts, meat and milk. Secondly came natural food and fish. The natural food was made with cultivating vegetables, collecting the greens and gardening. Some wild plants were used for preparing natural dishes, which are nowadays used in different salads or even as herbs. The flour, rye, corn and beans were bred in all regions of Armenia.
In the old Armenia some the preparation of some dishes had a ritual and was related to religious holidays and ceremonies. Primarily they were made in worshiping centers, then in churches and near the monasteries after the adoption of Christianity. Some old ritual dishes have passed to our time, such as harisa, khash and semolina. Harisa was dedicated to meetings and farming, semolina- to the production of milk, and khash was dedicated to the successes in ranching.
From the evidence of historical reasons, women and men we were used to have meals separately, firstly men had, then women and children. The tradition changed in the 19th century, when the residents canceled discrimination of gender and age. In the villages people initially began to dine only in small families (mother, father and children), and the gender- age discrimination was eliminated in Eastern Armenia in the beginning of the 20th century. During the solemn ceremonies, such as wedding, funerals, men and women often dine separately as well.
Traditionally, Armenian families had meals thrice a day- breakfast, dinner and supper, and there was even a late supper.
Translated by Christy Manukyan