Chechil cheese is a mozzarella type string braided cheese, kneaded and pulled so thin that it resembles the texture of chicken breast. It is also known as Syrian cheese because of its introduction to the country after the genocide of 1915. Armenian refugees brought with them many culinary skills.
Anoush is probably the sweetest word in Armenian, encompassing everything that is good, nice or sweet. The ancient literal meaning is “immortal” but over time became to mean “sweet”. It is often used in phrases to do with food and drink. In drinking rituals, the word is used in a context meaning “let it go down well”. It is used for sleep as well as hygiene, the most common one being “Anoush Paghnik” or “your bath is anoush”. The Anoush Opera’s plot, however, shows that one cannot have sweetness without sadness, as the heroine ends the story by throwing herself off a cliff; definitely not an anoush ending.
Start by protecting your own life, while reducing the risk to another’s through the harmful effects of 2nd-hand smoking!
The Servants of the ancient King Gagik noticed a mysterious horned snake by the palace. The king’s servants cut the snake’s horns and thus saved it. In gratitude, the next day the snake brought a seed and left it by the palace. Soon, a strange big fruit grew from the seed. The servants decided to test the unknown fruit and offered it to an old man on the verge of death. A miracle occurred and the old man not only recovered, but felt stronger than he ever had. The king tried the natural medicine next and found that he, too, felt quite fortified. Since that day, Armenians call the gift from the grateful snake “Not-Die” or “Chmerook” in their language, though with the passage of time the “ch” became a “ts” or “dz”. Thus, the watermelon is called a tsmeroug or dzmerook.
Our people seem to have had a nomadic, adventurous streak from early on, weaving their way into many nations and embedding their roots where business could thrive. We like novelty, culture, food and winning, no matter what the prize. Unfortunately for those who would have kept close to their family hearths despite this curious streak to find a new El Dorado somewhere` somehow, they too would be forced to abandon all they held dear to start anew in strange worlds, among strange people bearing customs entirely foreign to our traditions. It’s a wonder how we persevered and held onto what few scraps we had salvaged of our former lives in a death grip, allowing every step we took to become a blossom in a newly ploughed field. Yet, no matter how far the wayward child runs, his heart will always yearn for the mother’s bosom, the hearth that once kept him warm and secure.
I’m often faced with puzzled glances and incredulous stares when I mention my desire to return to a home my family left nearly a century ago. Furthermore, the questions bore into me in wonder as to why I would want to live in a place most wish to escape from, a land haunted by its past and systematically torn apart in the present. Who would want to move to a nation run by an oligarchy, drowning in poverty, where a lifestyle akin to that which I have become used to might never again exist? What do I see in this Armenia so many speak of, yet few consider home anymore?
Armenia is like an adolescent child. She requires strict attention but also room to breathe to become her own person. She is in a perpetual state of confusion, torn between Mother Russia and Father Europe. She also bears a special love for Uncle America. Yet, with her parents so different, living separate from one another, Armenia feels she must live up to both their standards. She often forgets her childhood state where she could easily express her unique characteristics. If she leans more towards one parent, she inflames the anger of the other. America being a relation to Europe does not ease her confusion in the least, further throwing her off balance. She has forgotten much of her childhood language and opts to using that of either or both parents. She’s becoming particularly adept at utilizing Uncle America’s, replacing her own unique one bit by bit.
Armenia’s adolescent state sometimes means a temper tantrum. She seems to find it the norm for a husband to beat his wife, for a husband to cheat on his wife, for a man to chase skirts but expect women to remain chaste and pure. She has little sympathy for the poor, has a quick hand in theft and a clever mind rarely used for anyone’s good. She smokes like a chimney, drinks her sorrows away and complains about the holes in her pockets due to her penniless state. Armenia is beautiful, not needing any artifice to cover her non-existent physical blemishes. Her problem lies beneath, perhaps at her very core. Where once she encouraged those wearing tracksuits, today she beats them. Where once she voted women into power, today she scoffs at them. She bows her head to everyone, but bullies that which belongs to her. She’s pitiful, to tell the truth, and requires a steady hand to guide her to adulthood. She requires love, patience and diligent care. She will thrive if allowed to, if those with authority in her life stop using her for their own gains. Every adolescent will grow up one day and Armenia is no different. The only questions is, how long will it take?
In the end, why shouldn’t I move back home, to the nation struggling to grow into adulthood and discovering for herself how special she is? Why shouldn’t I be one of those diligently patient hands slowly but surely leading her onto the right path? Someone must take the responsibility to steer her there and make sure she follows through. As an Armenian from the diaspora, can you not also feel her calling you home?