So here’s the story of my infatuation with khash.
Khash is the Armenian name for cow-feet soup. You buy a whole lot of cow feet, soak it overnight, get all the hair out –quite the unpleasant endeavor—you soak it again, you try to get all the hair/crap out again, then you pour water over it and let it simmer 8-10 hours! You refrigerate it overnight, collect the half inch of fat from top of it and throw it out, heat it, and eat it with copious amounts of garlic and vodka!
Because of the labour-intensive nature of the meal, it’s made rarely, and never consumed alone. Traditionally it’s made in cold weather and eaten in a large group. It is a big deal to be invited to khash.
The part that infatuates me about it, is the atmosphere that’s created around khash.
When you make khash, you invite your khash-eating, khash-appreciating buddies. You invite them for 10 or 11 am on Saturday or Sunday. For brunch really. You do not invite the friends who go “Euww, Khash!! It’s full of fat! I hate garlic!”
They might be the nicest people. But you do not invite them.
You also don’t invite the friends who exclaim, “You drink WHAT for brunch on Sunday?”
They might be your best friend. But you still don’t invite them.
Because khash is not for the faint of heart.
The reason you invite your khash-buddies for brunch is because by 1 o’clock you’re full to your eyelids with khash, garlic and vodka and you need the rest of the day to burn it off and feel your normal again.
Okay, I don’t mean normal in a good way. I mean normal as in stressed, crossing stuff off your “to do” list, checking your phone and watch every two minutes, usual way.
Because after you and your friends add the dried flat bread to your first bowl of khash, pour in the garlic mix, salt, pepper and maybe lemon to taste, have a few spoonfuls, drink the first, “Good morning” toast, have a few more spoonfuls and drink the second, “Good to see you toast” and so on, until you finish the first bowl, you’re already limber in body and soul. Last night’s argument with your wife, your boss’s unrealistic expectations, the gout in your right foot, the loads of laundry waiting for you when you get home, are erased clear off your mind.
The second bowl of khash is usually accompanied by toasts to the parents, children, grandchildren, memory of the departed, health, friendship, country and such, with longer speeches. Nods of approval, and exclamations of, “Well said,” or “That’s right,” follow each speech. By this point you feel a kinship to everyone under the roof.
Few of the guests ask for a third bowl. Instead they busy themselves with various dips, cheeses, salads, vegetarian and meat dishes, and of course, vodka – you’ll never go hungry even if you don’t like khash, but you are invited to and choose to attend a khash party, because you appreciate its spirit and enjoy the gathering in its name.
The toasts become more creative at this point: they might be drunk to subjects like, “Rays of sunshine” and “Sweet things in life”, with elaborate variations, additions, contradictions and humorous comments contributed by those present. Toasts also become more wishful and wistful: “May we all continue…”, “May the rest of our days…”. Hopes, wishes, aspirations, apprehensions, disappointments, acceptance and forgiveness rise to the surface.
As toasts grow further apart, and drinking becomes more selective, guests break up into various groups and engage in intense conversations over coffee and dessert. The topics can vary from politics to business, sports to spirituality, and past memories to family issues, depending on those present. Souls are poured out, pains shared and hearts bared.
In this passionate atmosphere you might find yourself becoming very close with a stranger. Friendships are formed and business relationships forged over khash.
Alternately you might find yourself changing your good opinion about someone who you thought you liked, because of candid views they expressed or the way they behaved in the fervent environment of khash.
At the end of a khash party you feel like the stink of garlic will never leave you, that you won’t be hungry for a whole week, that you are a member of a small tribe of comrades with a communal ritual experience, that your spirit is soaring, that you’re ready to take on life, and that said life is definitely worth living.