A literary era rife with metaphors, it seems only appropriate that we think of Armenian Romanticism as nothing other than sweet!
Last week, we wanted to put this metaphor to the test, and see just how exactly romantic poetry tasted. Did the era deserve such a sweet comparison? So we turned to Misak Medzarents, one of the great poets of that period, and in his timeless works, we discovered a distant, yet very fragrant word – mastic.
First thing next day, we searched around in local ethnic food stores, hoping to spot something made of mastic (prepared from tree sap, which originated in the Greek island of Chios) to test out its sweetness, and perhaps even place ourselves in Medzarents’s shoes when he felt inspired to compose his poem. Upon discovering mastic gum, we confess, we all chewed some in our classroom, and Mr. Daduryan was no exception! It was pure, refreshing, cleansing, aromatic and even saccharine just the way the then 21-year-old poet explained: “Մազտաքէ բուրող ծաղիկ” Enthused, one of the students energetically cried, “Baron, I feel the breeze of the Aegean!” An apt parable, indeed!
To provide a bit of context, mastic (often in the form of chewing gum) was produced in roughly 23 villages on the island of Chios, and was lauded for its antibacterial properties, as well as pain relief, particularly for those suffering from lung disease. It was even said to cure stomach ulcers, and oddly enough, to whiten teeth. In the Mediterranean basin and in the Middle East, mastic also has culinary uses, and the Greeks appreciate it so much that they even produce mastic wine.
Thank you, Armenian poetry, for allowing us this delicious discovery.