Food is a portal to Armenia's past and present-day culture. This culinary journey across the land called Hayastan presents the rich history, wondrous legends, and fact-filled stories of Armenian cuisine. Authors Irina Petrosian and David Underwood take readers on a memorable tour of Armenia by way of the kitchen. What ancient Armenian fable warned against genetically-altered food? What little-known Armenian fruit may have helped Noah on the ark? What was the diet of David of Sassoun, the legendary Armenian Hercules? What was the influence of the Soviet Union on the food ways of Armenia? What strange and exotic fruits and herbs are sold in Armenia's markets? Why do Armenians go to cemeteries to "feed" the dead? What role did coffee play in Armenian marriage rituals? If you are curious about one of the world's most ancient cultures, or are contemplating a trip to Armenia, don't miss the chance to read this book.
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We started this book with the goal of writing a short, informative guide about the food and drink of modern Armenia, of Hayastan, as Armenians call their country. But our curiosity took us deeper and deeper into the history and folklore of this ancient land. We traveled across Armenia as we did our research, and we spoke with ethnographers, restaurateurs, historians, and housewives. The colorful and chaotic bazaars were invaluable sources of information for us. Not to mention the hundreds of hours we spent pouring over ancient texts and tomes in musty libraries.
We believe our book is the first of its kind to focus on the past and present food culture of Armenia, and it is unique in that it’s written as an insider’s story that includes the perspective of someone from beyond Hayastan’s borders. Irina grew up and lived in Armenia. The culinary joys and traumas of the socialist reality are part of her memory, part of her personal story. On the other hand, David, her husband and co-author, was raised in the USA, in a culture where abundance elevates food beyond being just a source of nourishment. We hope this combination brings a degree of checks and balances to our work, and has allowed us to see some interesting details that others might have overlooked.
If Irina began to digress into writing a love letter about her Armenian heritage, her dear co-author was there to splash some cold reality on her efforts. And when David would notice some little detail worthy of attention, Irina was there to provide the obscure background information which only a native-born observer could provide. Some of our material even came from our young son, who likes to put lavash bread over his head, an untoward habit that we fully explain in our book.
In deciphering the social and cultural meanings of food, we have attempted to take you to Armenia, as it were, through the kitchen. It’s an old-fashioned kitchen where food is still a product of nature, lovingly shaped by human hands.About the Author:
Irina Petrosian, a native of Armenia, is a professional journalist who has written for Russian, Armenian, and US-based newspapers. David Underwood has been a newspaper staff member at The Indianapolis Business Journal, The Columbus Republic, and other American publications.
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