Armenian Christmas Eve

D grew up in a household heavily influenced by Armenian culture; both her parents being Armenian encouraged D and her sister to participate in cultural fairs as well as dance festivals. While D enjoyed her time at these festivals performing and singing, she remembers most vividly the food and the process that her grandparents went through in preparing certain dishes. As we spoke about specific dishes, she had far too many to name. We settled on the simple process of stringing cheese that was an important part of her Christmas Eve celebration.

D: So as much as I love performing, you know I’m a musician, it’s really the food that makes me think of my Armenian heritage. If I tried to pick my favorite dish, I don’t think I could, but we do this crazy cheese thing around Christmas time. Each Christmas Eve, my family goes to my grandmother’s house to string cheese.

L: What do you mean by string cheese?

D: Oh, if you go to a specialty store (which we always have to per grandmother’s request) you can buy large blocks of string cheese. They’re giant ropes of cheese that you unravel and straighten out like yarn. The goal is to untangle as much of it as possible without breaking it. We sometimes turn it into a little game and have cheese stringing competitions.

L: I think my friend A, who is also Armenian mentioned something like that when we spoke last.

D: Every Armenian knows exactly what I’m talking about. We tend to do this stringing because it’s a long process and it’s nice to have more than two pairs of hands working on it. The cheese itself is also incredibly rich, so you really don’t want to eat it that often. I know my mom has tried to make more of the traditional dishes healthy by eliminating two of the three sticks of butter usually involved. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s how she makes her pilaf and a few other dishes. We also make delicious soup, but the main food related activity involved on our Christmas Eve’s is this strange cheese stringing. It brings up together in the cliché, cheesy way. Haha