So a few nights ago I got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night and stumbled upon a huge bowl of cow’s legs. Yes you read that right, cow’s legs, 4 of them, in a huge bowl of water. Now add to your disgust right now, my being groggy and barely awake, and you have complete horrification. Not only was the sight terrifying, but the smell was horrible!!!
I went back to bed and a thought occurred to me, omg does this mean we are having Khash!?!!?
Flashback to me sitting in my Armenian class reading an excerpt from a book on Armenian culture. Nose scrunched up as I read the words describing the cow’s feet and stomach boiling in water overnight to make a pungent broth which leaves it’s sent for days. I was disgusted as I read that the cow’s feat fall apart in the soup and the cartilage meat rips right off the bone. Later after the soup is prepared you can add an assortment of flavors to it, to increase the flavor, such as garlic, lemon, greens, and of course the Armenian stable Levash.
The next morning I woke up and searched everywhere for the cow’s feat, they were nowhere to be seen! Phew! Sold! Fantastic, dodged that bullet! Nothing was said of the holy Khash the whole day so I figured I didn’t need to worry about it…. Untill the next day at dinner time. By this time the idea of Khash was completely forgotten, so it took me by complete surprise when my host mom says to me “Alissia, tomorrow morning we will have people over and we will eat Khash, its…” Me: wait Khash? “Ayo, it’s shat Homove Armenian dish” Very delicious? Cows feat? “Ayo, you will like it” Great……….God only knows where those cows feet were hiding the day before when I was looking for them!
So that night I set my alarm for 7 A.M., I don’t want to miss a minute of the Khash preparations and my host mom said we would be eating early. So I wake up, and not a single person in the house is awake, but I do see a huge pot on the stove. I slowly lift the lid and the most repulsive smell greats me from within. Gross, I drop the lid and go back to bed. At nine I hear some shuffling around in the kitchen. So I get up and go out to observe. Not much being done, just setting the table. I wait. 30 minutes later and still nothing. Turns out there really isn’t anything to do, the feet are cooked only in water, so they really have nothing to prepare. I am a little disappointed. Guests arrive, and it’s time to eat!
Now I have been here for only a few weeks, but I feel like I know a large part of my family’s extended family. But on this day I didn’t know a single guest besides my aunt and her family. It really was the A list of my family’s friends. As people begin to take their places at the tables, I stand back and wait, not wanting to sit in the wrong place. I am called to sit at the head of the table. Great, I smile, lips pursed together. When everyone is seated, they immediately begin to make preparations for their Khash, tearing up pieces of Levash and dumping into their bowls. I sit there and stare at my bowl, not sure where to even being. I see people take their spoon and pull out huge joints from their bowl and put it on their plate. I still sit and stare. Once everyone seemingly has made their own preparations, their eyes turn to me. Everyone wants to witness my first bite, to make sure I enjoy it as much as they do. Now I am panicked! This is too much for me I say. Usually this is followed by a chorus of eat, eats! But this time my host mom comes out with a smaller bowl; I understand that it’s important not to waste a single drop of Khash.
Again eyes are on me. I add some salt to my dish, say a prayer and down the hatch it goes… well the broth anyways. I nod my head in approval and say not bad. They all laugh; I’ve always had a face that is 100 percent readable. I’m sure they could tell I didn’t like it. It tasted like salty water with a hint of garlic, not exactly good, but not disgusting either. I tear up my levash and add it to the bowl as they all have. It soaks up the broth and I slowly take a few bites. While I don’t find it to be disgusting or make me gag like I thought it would, I don’t particularly enjoy it either. Thank God for the always present tomatoes and cucumbers on the table, which I eat in between bites to help the soup go down.
Soon there is no more broth in the bowl, only my small cow’s foot joint and a piece of cow’s stomach. Great. Toasts are being given and shots are being taken. I grow some Liquid courage. I wrap a piece of stomach inside the levash and take a bite. First bite all levash, phew, not so bad. Second bite; not so lucky. I bite hard and seesaw it in my teeth to cut it off. It’s rubbery and hard to chew, like a huge piece of fat on a really cheap piece of steak. The fat on steaks has always made me feel sick. I get the chills, but force myself to chew. It’s not so bad, it’s not so bad, it’s not so bad I tell myself as I chew, trying not to actually taste it. Eventually it’s unavoidable and I do taste it, and guess what, it’s actually not so bad. I hurriedly stuff the rest into my mouth and drown it with a shot of vodka. Lav E I say. Everyone laughs again but this time I don’t care because I am done! I have accomplished my task! I take a look around the room; everyone is eating, drinking, laughing and having such a good time. I guess this is really what Khash is about, and suddenly I remember the book talking about the deep traditions and cultural customs that make a Khash worth attending. I seemed to have forgotten about that part in Lieu of the talk of cow’s feet and stomach. I guess what I am saying is that sometimes in life you miss out on really amazing things because you’re too afraid to suck down the cow’s feet and if you don’t get past the bad, you won’t experience the good.