“Oh, sweet mother of…”
~The average American looking at an Armenian restaurant menu
We recently began a new article series where we described to you some of the most terrifying and, well, depressing national cuisines around the world. We started things off with Latvia, because we felt like you hadn’t had a good cry in a long time. This time around, we’re going to take our xenophobic discussion of gross food that is weird and wrong compared to American food all the way to Armenia, where everything is soup, and everything is awful. We’ll also be going pretty hard out of our way to avoid making jokes about that whole “Armenian genocide” thing because, as a general rule of thumb, genocide jokes are not funny and they never will be funny until douchebags who aggressively hit on their bartenders become their own ethnic group.
The World’s Saddest Cuisines: Armenia
Armenia is an ancient nation, dating all the way back to about 2500 BCE. Currently with a population of nearly three million people, they house the world’s oldest national church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, which was founded after Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion, which happened around the year 301. They were a part of the Soviet Union, which is depressing in its own right, until they became the first non-Baltic state to declare independence in 1990. Somewhere during the course of their 4500 years of existence, between establishing a Bronze Age civilization and breaking free from Mother Russia, they’ve kind of learned how to cook? But they’ve largely learned how to cook awful, doleful mush, and it’s just the saddest thing.
Now, Armenians eat an encouraging amount of grilled meats and kebabs. These are fine, and actually are probably really good. But apart from the grilling of meats, people actively describe Armenian cuisine as requiring “stuffing, frothing, and pureeing” which puts you a bit on edge. That’s not the worst of it, however. Because Armenia also has soups, an ungodly amount of soups. And not only that, they have a…let’s say loose definition of soup, because a lot of what Armenian chefs call soup, you might call “basically something you have to eat along with a napkin that lists the suicide hotline phone number.” It’s a goddamn mess. Armenian cuisine consists of a lot of boiling shit down into some roughly defined stew that, and this is just speculation, somehow manage to make the steam that rises from it look like animations of wailing ghosts. Oh, and they also make, well, just…yogurt. Yogurt prepared in every way that’s specifically designed to make you break down in tears at the concept that people actually look forward to consuming it. That’s why you get “delicious” (read as “Oh God why did daddy leave this tastes like tears and ofal”) dishes such as…
T’tu lavash which, if we had to guess, means “Ha ha are you fucking serious, there’s no way we know any Armenian?”is harmless enough. It’s basically a sad version of a fruit roll-up, more forgivingly referred to as fruit leather made of sour plum puree. Yes, fruit leather is the nicest term we can think of for it. It is the primary ingredient of t’ghit. And every subsequent step after “get yourself some sour plum fruit leather” in the preparation of t’ghit sends you further down into the rings of culinary hell. When you’re given a fruit roll up, what is the absolutely last thing you ever think to do to it? If you’re like most Americans, you probably answered, “I know you’re going to tell me, and it’s going to be what Armenia does to their fruit roll up, and I know it will never be able to guess it on my own, so just tell me.”
Yes, that’s right, they chop it into pieces and dump it in boiling water. What’s the last thing you’d want to add to that mixture? You sure as fuck weren’t going to say fried onions, which of course is the correct answer. All this is cooked into a puree and pieces lavash (an unleavened flat bread that they basically put on everything) is put in it. Finally, it is served hot, where it is scooped up, by hand (by fucking hand) with additional pieces of lavash. So, basically, it’s hot onion prune mush that you dip bread into, so if that’s something that you think you might be into, we’re gonna go ahead and also recommend you have it with this great elective surgery that’s called a “lobotomy” that should go really well with that.
Yogurt Soup (spas)
When you, an American who can get a hamburger within five minutes of reading this sentence if you were so inclined, hear the word “spas” you probably think of a relaxing resort where you can go to wind down a bit. You think about saunas and steam rooms and women with green goop on their face and cucumbers over their eyes sitting in steaming baths. You might even view it as a kind of European phenomenon named after the Belgium city of Spa, to which we’d say, well, sure, but stop showing off.
Armenia, on the other hand, hears the word “spas” and goes “oh great, warm or cold yogurt soup, depending on the season.” First of all, if your soup is equally as enjoyable warm and cold, that’s not a great sign. When you’re eating soup that you can literally cook, leave out for 8 hours, and still shrug and say “good enough” you’re not eating soup, you’re just a drunk 23-year-old who microwaved a bowl of Campbell’s Chicken and Rice soup while wasted at 4AM before passing out and eating it as-is for breakfast because you have no self-respect.
Spas is as simple as it is “barely soup.” To make it, you take matzoon, a “fermented milk food resembling yogurt” that can more generously be described as “shrug, kinda like Greek yogurt?” and cook it with hulled wheat and an herb (usually mint or cilantro). So, to put it in proper “oh God that’s so sad” context, it’s a popular comfort food (think about the use of the word “comfort” there for a second) that’s essentially mint and wheat tossed into yogurt that is served super warm during the winter, or chilled during the summer. If that’s not just the embodiment of a sad clown painting on a velvet canvas for you, you’ve never thought about sprinkling wheat into a Fage and microwaving it to keep you warm in the winter, which basically means you’re not Armenian, so congratulations.
We actually had a pretty hard time finding more than a handful of sparse descriptions of poch, which hopefully means that Armenia is in a better place than they once were so they’re trying to distance this dish from their national identity. We can only hope, because what we’re seeing describes posh as an “ancient soup from cow tails.” The tail is soaked in flowing water to, God help us, “get rid of the smell” at which point it’s cut up (obviously) and cooked with some tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Then, water is added and the whole thing simmers for three hours to really tenderize that meat and forget that you’re basically eating butt bone that had to be rinsed under a sink until the smell went away.
It’s sort of like an Armenian version of Ox Tail soup, except instead of ox tail there’s cow tail, and instead of being flavored by literally anything in the way of spices or wine or anything, it’s just there to let the cow’s tail do all the heavy lifting. This is actually sadder than someone eating a cooked cow tail that had been placed in a bowl of warm water because by boiling it for three hours, they’re able to make sure that there is sort of a broth, but without spending enough time to make sure it turns into a broth with any actual flavor to it. This is a cow butt version of hot ham water. This was the ancient Armenian equivalent of a 28-year-old deciding to have ramen noodles with an egg cracked in it as their dinner. “Listen, we didn’t have time to go to the grocery store, all we had were these cow tails and some water, so we had to make due.” That’s the saddest fucking thing.
Sweet soups are a tricky proposition. Some people really like them, and some people view them as warmed up smoothies in a bowl. We can understand both sides of the argument, though there is only one side when talking about blghourapour (do not even fucking try to ask us how to pronounce that hot mess). It is bad, and it is wrong. Blghourapour, which sounds infinitely more hilarious when you imagine reading it like you’re the Swedish Chef from the Muppets, is simply hulled wheat that’s been boiled in grape juice. Like spas, it can be served hot and cold, but unlike spas, it doesn’t even offer the pretense of premeditation. This soup doesn’t just read as depressing, it sounds like something you’d find yourself eating, like, five days after an apocalyptic event.
This is not a national dish, this is the end result of your bastard three-year-old son pouring his fucking juice box into your morning oatmeal, and Armenia is that parent who is just tired and worn out enough to keep spooning it into his mouth without even reacting. Oh great, now we’re crying too.
Easily the most depressing dish Armenia has to offer is Khash, a nightmare that exists in this temporal plane disguised as an Armenian dish. It’s traditionally only prepared by men, who spend the entire night cooking it, and it is such an Armenian institution that, according to Wikipedia, “songs and poems have been written about this one dish.” Listen, we’re not going to sugarcoat this. It’s boiled feet. It’s cow feet, boiled in water overnight until the tendons fall off the bone and the water becomes a thick broth, which has dried pieces of lavash, sprinkled into it, because everything apparently is better when you sprinkle fucking lavash on it. The more you try to describe Khash, the more it makes you want to stifle a shocked sigh of, “Oh dear, those poor Armenians. Other varieties of khash replace cows feet with lamb’s feet (“oh that’s…”) or cow head (“Why, why?”). Cooked cow’s stomach is often added at some point during the boiling process (“Who hurt you?”). While it used to be considered a nutritious winter food it’s now considered a delicacy (“Armenia, no, have some self-esteem, you poor dears”).
You might be thinking to yourself, “Okay, so it’s feet soup, that’s pretty bleak, but they must season it or something, right?” Nope. It’s expressly not salted at any point in the boiling process. Typically, salt and garlic are added after the fact, right before eating it, but that seems like a case of too little too late. To really drive home the sadness that is Armenian cuisine, it’s never eaten alone. This is what Armenia considers a “party food.” Not surprisingly, this dish is eaten with liberal amounts of vodka.
Oh, we did forget one important thing. While Khash is eaten specifically for parties, it’s also only consumed during cold winter mornings for breakfast in Armenia. We understand that that sentence might have been a bit fuzzy because of the tears swelling in your eyes, so we’ll type it out again for you—Khash, a dish of slow-cooked boiled cow’s feet with unleavened bread sprinkled over it, is eaten during cold winter mornings for breakfast in Armenia. For parties.
“But wait,” you’re saying to the computer screen unaware we can’t hear you, “it’s a breakfast food? Didn’t you just say that it’s eaten with a shitload of vodka?”
Yes. Yes we did.
*stares off into the distance*
Someone send Armenia some hamburgers. They really need it.