Here, the people eat bread that is flat, about as thick as your summer socks. Lavash. They are clever about folding all kinds of un-ruly foods into it, ones that I would otherwise have clasped between my lips like a spray of flowers. Robust branches of tarragon and potato greens are heaped on a serving plate, waiting for me. How to approach? Go, eat with your fingers, say my hosts. New tools, new rules. I comply.
So let’s use the lavash for all it is worth. This means unfurl it, folded and stacked neat and prim as it is like a bed-sheet before you; now engulf a variety of foods in it, make some arrangement of greens, meat, rice, or whatever, on its open face. This is the artistic part, but demands also some sense of physics–of the tensile and elastic qualities of lavash–so that your unique edible package does not dis-assemble itself under its own weight en route to la boca, or, as they say in these parts, “peranet”- which by this time is a term consonant with your appetite. Does everybody already know this? Is this part of the basic curriculum around here? You wonder.
My Armenian friends back home encouraged me to get out to the country of a saturday and see the lavash being made. Only I found out that if I stay on the #259 bus until it stops, I arrive on a side road off the Admiral Ishakov Highway; and there, surrounded by trashy fields and shack-homes patrolled by dis-inherited dogs and scowling cats, old women with gold teeth are making lavash around a fire.
Sounds from the end of the 259 bus line:
Walk down to the last of the sidewalk businesses and look in the picture window. It is done underground, only you can witness without actually going there. A smooth clay parabola heats in the circular pit, a wood fire at its center; the clay is waiting for someone to paint it with lavash batter. Again and again, the women find a loose corner with their fingertips, deliver great beige flags of lavash from the hot terra cotta, and fold it up for Yerevan’s restaurants and homes. This is where it happens, the end of the 259 line. Lavash rules.
Song:”Lavash at the end of the line”