When I last wrote, I started by saying that I missed the food in Armenia while I was away, which kind of makes me sound shallow (if you haven’t tried it, that is). I can’t let another entry pass without mentioning my friends, though. Armenia, like its neighbors, has a tradition of hospitality. The very first time I came to Armenia, in 2006, I was immediately treated like family (the fact that I kept hurting my ankle probably helped: I was fussed over and cared for like a clumsy child—although probably the cognac remedy isn’t tried out on kids). But while anyone entering another’s house would be treated to Armenian coffee and treats, possibly an entire meal (how they manage that with surprise visitors is remarkable), my polite acquaintances quickly became fast friends. Every get-together (or at least, every get-together with archaeologists; I’m not sure about generally) involves toasting, by the hosts and/or by the guests. Now, it seems like I nearly always give a variant of the same toast, thanking my hosts, and in the case of my closest friends, thanking them for becoming my family in Armenia.
One example of Armenian hospitality is the egg lunch that my husband and I were treated to last week. He and I don’t eat meat, and while some meat-loving Armenians shake their heads at us, our friends understand—and remember. After not seeing us for a year, our friends remembered that we don’t eat meat, and so perhaps contrary to the typical pattern of hospitality, instead of meat, they made two different egg dishes as the main courses. And of course, like everything else, it was fresh and delicious (I even enjoyed the fresh peas, despite the fact that I don’t really like peas—they squish unpleasantly). Another friend knows I’m lactose intolerant, and she always goes out of her way to bake splendid dairy-free treats or prepare amazing dairy-free dinners. I’m very lucky to have such thoughtful friends.
This post was supposed to be about my friends, and how I missed them, and somehow, it’s become about food again. It is true that socializing nearly always involves food, or at least, drinking coffee—even the work day is punctuated by breaks to prepare Armenian coffee (even as I write this, a colleague just asked, “Elizabet—surtch kuzes?”, Elizabeth, do you want coffee? Yes, please!). I guess food and friends are inextricably linked in my experiences here, so perhaps it’s not so bad to discuss them both in one breath.