Anyone who has spent significant time with me knows I have a HUGE sweet-tooth. I love cookies, candy, cake, ice cream. Anything with sugar essentially.
Here in Armenia, it’s difficult to avoid sweets. Many volunteers have a hard time refusing all the sweets they are offered. I never refuse, but then again I never refused sweets in the U.S. either.
In Armenia, each home typically has a full dish of candy at all times. The dish is usually in the kitchen or living room and is brought out for coffee hour or at breakfast. When guests come over, the candy and coffee is sometimes served with any other sweets currently in the home. This could be ice cream, cake or a popular Armenian pastry called gata. (More on gata later).
Sometimes, when a new guest is invited into a home, there will be two coffee hours. When a guests first arrives, coffee will be served with candy and other treats. Almost immediately after the coffee is finished, a full meal will be served. Then, as soon as the table is cleared from the meal, more coffee and sweets will be brought out. This is an example of Armenia’s legendary hospitality. Essentially, the food never stops coming. (Now you see why many Peace Corps volunteers here gain weight).
When I’m not sitting in someones home getting eating crazy amounts of food, there are ample opportunities to buy an ice cream cone on the streets of larger cities or from a local store.
The ice cream here tends to be on the richer side. Several times, I’ve had ice cream when it was really hot and instantly regretted it. (Think drinking whole milk while its near 100 degrees out). I also had a comical blunder when I first arrived involving a misunderstanding of what ice cream I was buying. I bought a some ice cream thinking it was an ice cream sandwich. The packaging was misleading to my American mind though. What I really bought was a block of ice cream. I walked away from the store, laughing but also a little embarrassed as the shop keeper told me I would need to go home and get a spoon to eat it. I didn’t have time to run home, so I simply ate my block of ice cream and looked like a truly clueless American.
My personal favorite is the variety of cakes my PST host sister makes. (She’s an AMAZING cook). One of my favorite parts about Armenia is that everything is made from scratch. I would consider myself a decent cook in the US, although I didn’t cook often. Many things in the US are not made from scratch but are instead based off mixes of items form the freezer section. Learning to make things like cakes from scratch is one of my favorite cultural integration opportunities in Armenia.
When you think of me in Armenia, just picture me siting here with my big bowl of candy and some cake.