After more than 1700 years of Christianity, it’s hard to separate anything the Armenians do from their religion, including what they eat. There are 180 fasting days in the religious calendar of the Armenian Apostolic Church. That’s as many days as kids in the United Sates attend public school each year!
Every Wednesday and Friday throughout the year are fasting days, but few people observe them. However, many Armenians do fast during Lent. In ancient times, the faithful were asked to abstain from eating, but over the centuries, “doing with light sustenance” came to be known as fasting. Translated into current-day foodie terms, fasting means following a vegan diet, meaning no animal product, including dairy.
Over a third of the recipes in Simply Armenian: Naturally Healthy Ethnic Cooking Made Easy are vegan (over 1/2 are meat-free but we will discuss those dishes at another time). Each of the vegan dishes in the cookbook are clearly marked with a floret bracketing the recipe title.
During Lent, I’ll be sharing some fantastic vegan recipes with you. You’ll discover that while every dish conforms to the strictest interpretation of the Armenian church’s dietary requirements, the food’s full-bodied taste defies the concept of sacrifice. After all, as the oldest Christian nation on the planet, Armenians have an plenty of time to figure vegan flavors out!
Pictured above are Rice-Stuffed Grape Leaves, known in Armenian as Yalanchi.