How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Top ten pastimes at L.A.'s Navasartian Games, the 'Armenian Olympics'

Photo by Helena Gregorian/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Help, too much soujoukh! The Navasartian Games mascot, July 2011

While others were attending cookouts and pool parties over the Fourth of July weekend, Multi-American guest blogger Lory Tatoulian was taking in the sports-related drama at the 2011 Navasartian Games, what she describes as the "mini Armenian Olympics."

Legend has it that the games got their start as chariot races and javelin throwing contests some 4,000 years ago on the Armenian plateau. Today they're held in L.A., taking place each year over the holiday weekend on the Birmingham High School campus in Van Nuys, where more than 8,000 athletes of various ages compete in basketball, volleyball, soccer and swimming during the three-day sports fest. The less athletically inclined compete in events like ping-pong and chess.

There is also a substantial amount of food, music, and tens of thousands of Armenian American attendees celebrating what Lory terms "their cultural personhood."


Navigating the Armenian American supermarket: Part 2

Photo by Lory Tatoulian

In the meat section at a Super King in Glassell Park, April 2011

A post yesterday kicked off an occasional series of informal guides to navigating the ethnic supermarket, the mega-store grocery chains catering to immigrants that have become a part of Southern California's regional landscape as its immigrant communities have grown and evolved.

Guest blogger and L.A. comic Lory Tatoulian started us on a tour yesterday of Glassell Park's Super King, part of a popular Armenian supermarket chain. We left off with Lory in the meat section, a part of which she reserves a special name for.

(Continued from yesterday)

Then there is the science project section, which houses strange organs that look like they belong in a medical school laboratory.

These meats are for advanced carnivore consumers and are usually reserved for old Armenian men who classify the more bizarre the meat, the more delectable. In the early morning winter months is it not unusual to see Armenian men, dressed in business suits, huddled over a boiling vat of khash at Griffith Park while having a very loud conversation about world politics. Khash is a dense soup of beef tripe and trotters lavishly seasoned with garlic and also known to induce contentious conversation and cure a host of physical ailments.


Navigating the Armenian American supermarket

Photo by Lory Tatoulian

The produce section scene at the Super King in Glassell Park, April 2011

As Southern California's immigrant enclaves have grown and evolved, so have their grocery stores. The ethnic mega-supermarket is now part of the regional landscape, making it as easy to buy once hard-to-find products from around the world as it is to shop at Vons or Ralphs. Want banana leaves for Central American tamales? No need seek out a carnicería in Pico-Union any more. Southeast Asian sambal sauce? There are supermarkets that practically stock aisles of it.

All you need is a good guide. So this week, Multi-American is kicking off an occasional series of informal guides to navigating the ethnic supermarket. Your first guide comes from guest blogger Lory Tatoulian, a writer, comic and highly savvy Armenian supermarket insider. Welcome, Lory.

The Armenian spirit is big, and so is its belly.