Tag Archives: flatbread

Bread In Armenia

Informant’s Background:

My informant, AD, is an undergraduate student at USC who grew up in Glendale, California. Her family immigrated to the United States from the capital of Armenia, Yerevan, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.


The informant is my girlfriend and we share an apartment together. I asked her if she could share some Armenian folklore with me, and this is one of the pieces that she provided.


AD: “This one time, I didn’t know this, but this one time, I like grabbed some lavash and I threw it into the trash, like really hard after dinner because it was like moldy and old. And I was like being stupid, and joking around with it, so I was like “PHEW!” and it landed in the trash and my mom gasped and my sisters gasped at me, and I felt… weird, and I felt like everyone was looking at me and that was because the bread… I was not supposed to do that with bread. Since it is very sacred in Armenian homes, especially lavash, uhm, you are supposed to treat them with respect because if you do not it is… a sign of like, disrespect, uhm, bad fortune, and like not caring about the things that are provided to you.”

M: “Is this bread specifically?”

AD: “Yes, bread specifically, like lavash bread, and like, like hats bread.”

M: “Why do you think it’s specifically bread?”

AD: “Because bread is so like common in Armenian tradition, and like most other cultural traditions, it is like the staple food that people eat when there is like no other food. It’s like, it is sacred in a way.”

M: “Ok, can you tell me about some of those kinds of breads you mentioned?”

AD: “Uhm, lavash bread is like the Armenian national bread, it is like a flat bread, that like, it is made by elder women in villages, in like a big pit that they have. Usually outside, in like a yard or a small hut or something, where they press the bread flat against the wall, and then cook it and eat it that way. And then there’s like hats, which is just regular bread. But there’s like specific kinds of hats, like matnakash, which is like bread where the dough has been, had a finger pulled through it, like a finger pulls through the dough, like a cooks finger, and it makes perforations in the bread. Yeah, that’s how you make it.”


I think it is interesting and actually very important that it is bread specifically that is held to this sacred standard in Armenia. Sure, other foods may be more difficult to produce or cost more, but by holding the most basic and one of the most easily accessible food items to such esteem, it ensures that a family is thankful for even the smallest of things when it comes to putting food on the table and it seems to be to be a very good-natured and humbling tradition in this way.

Foodways – Mexican

The informant learned the following Mexican foodways from her father’s great-aunt, who was Mexican.

She and her twin sister would make stovetop buttered tortillas and the family would make flatbreads and have tamales at Christmas: “There were little things that we would do when we were younger, um, like take a tortilla, put it on the oven [stove], uh, which had an open flame as opposed to most now that are just electric and just warm it up on there and put butter on it and eat it, uh, which I don’t see anyone do these days, but I remember definitely growing up doing little things like that. Making flatbreads, um . . . lots of peasant food, I guess you would call it for, you know, growing up in a big family in Southern California with slightly, slightly, um, slightly ethnic spin on things . . . I mean, my dad’s side of the family definitely, um, Mexican, Spanish, uh, foods that I would—they would make, like, um, tamales and stuff around Christmas time.”

The buttered tortillas were an anytime snack, but baking flatbread was special and tamales were a Christmas treat.

The informant describes the making of the tamales as “way complicated and a little boring . . . but they were good.”

The informant and her sister, as children of a cross-cultural marriage, inhabited a liminal space so far as traditional foodways went. The tortillas, clearly, have roots in the Hispanic tradition, but putting butter on them seems like a purely American way to eat bread. The informant seems to have rejected her ethnic childhood diet, as she calls it “peasant food,” which has a negative connotation. Alice Guadalupe Tapp, another Southern California resident with Mexican ancestry, writes about the tradition of having tamales at Christmas in her cookbook Tamales 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Making Traditional Tamales, mentioning that her family sometimes made more than 600 tamales for the winter holidays (9).


Guadalupe Tapp, Alice. Tamales 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Making Traditional Tamales. New York: Ten Speed, 2002.