Food is one of the most important means of subsistence and one of the main elements of the culture of any people. Various dishes, salads, snacks, sweets and drinks constitute the so-called food system. It is divided into bakery products, dairy products, meat and fish dishes, vegetables, fruits, supplemented with sweets, drinks and spices. Dishes differ in the ways of cooking, as well as in their nature: daily, celebratory, ritual, etc.
There are also traditional and modern dishes. Traditional ones in their turn are divided into:
a) daily – food forbidden during fast and Lenten dishes
b) celebratory and ritual – lenten food, dishes that are prepared for such events as weddings, birthdays, christenings, funerals, wakes etc.
The interaction of national and foreign cuisines (Asian, Western European, Caucasian, Russian) has an important role in the system of daily dishes. Notably, the dishes of the inhabitants of cities and villages differ in the ways of cooking, storing, etc. Dishes made from vegetable and animal products are distinguished among daily ones.
Among the festive and ritual dishes, only those dishes, snacks, salads, sweets and drinks that are characteristic of this rite or holiday are important. The way of serving and treat is also vital.
Dishes, as an element of culture, are associated with other aspects of life, expressing the relationship between people in society and the traditional norms of behaviour accepted in a given society.
Behavioral aspects such as what people eat, how they eat, how they sit at the table, and table setting are also important. Any kind of meal is not a simple quenching of hunger. During such meals, its participants adhere to certain norms of behaviour characteristic of an ethos.
Depending on religious beliefs, the daily aspects of cooking and eating are supplemented by ritual rules: the combination of products, the types of dishes prepared from them, food preferences and restrictions, the norms of behaviour when preparing and eating food.
Features of morning and afternoon meals depended on the season (in summer – at home and in the field, in winter – only at home). Usually, they had meals three times a day.
Fasting is a refusal of animal food for a period of time or the refusal of meat. The Lenten fare was intended to clean the body and soul. During Fasting, they consumed wild and cultivated vegetables cooked with vegetable oil. For 160 days a year, they kept fasting, eating beans, peas, onions, garlic, cucumbers etc.
Various products were also used as remedies. Rosehip, thyme, onion, dill, fig, brain and liver of animals were considered as remedies for premature ageing. For the treatment of diabetes, they used pumpkin, pomegranate, plum juice, millet and barley, vegetables – lettuce, seeds of cucumbers, watermelon, melon, dill, parsley. Honey was a traditional treat, which was eaten with bread, butter, tea and matzoni. They made thyme, mint, rosehip tea as a remedy for cold and other diseases.
Due to the hot climatic conditions a lot of spices – pepper, onions, garlic, are used in the Armenian cuisine. Thyme, mint, apricot, wild coriander and many other spices are irreplaceable.
Ritual dishes were “harisa”, “kyufta”, “kololak” and “khash”. Bread and salt with vodka and wine were considered important components of a treat.
Certain dishes were prepared on different holidays. On New Year’s Eve, they usually prepared kyufta made of yellow peas and lentils, arisa, lean dolma from beans, peas and lentils. Dried and fresh fruits, raisin, nuts and pastry (gata, pakhlava) were the main delicacies of the New Year’s table. On this day they would bake bread: it was believed that the new year should start with a new bread.
During the weddings and christenings, they made kebob, lamb barbeque, khashlama, etc. One of the main delicacies was also halva.
Nowadays food has become more diverse and richer. Today many festive dishes have become daily. Many types of dishes were borrowed: mashed potatoes, meatballs, dumplings, borsch, pancakes, pies with meat etc. Today, instead of dishes prepared from grains or various groats, the Armenians prefer to treat guests with dishes prepared from meat (khashlama, dolma, kyufta, kebob, meatballs, etc.).
Today, instead of traditional regale (bread, cheese, greens, matsoni, honey), guests are usually treated to black coffee and sweets.