Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Armenian American grocery shoppers, representing

Shopping for cucumbers at Super King, April 2011
Shopping for cucumbers at Super King, April 2011
Photo by Lory Tatoulian
Shopping for cucumbers at Super King, April 2011
Shopping for cucumbers at Super King, April 2011
Photo by Lory Tatoulian

In the past few days, L.A.'s vast but often underrepresented Armenian American community has been representing in force in Multi-American's comments section.

Why? Because the talented comedian and writer Lory Tatoulian was kind enough to take readers on a tour of the Super King supermarket in Glassell Park, one of a local chain of grocery warehouse stores catering to the Armenian palate.

As part of an occasional series of informal guides to ethnic supermarkets that we're compiling, Lory showed us where to find the basterma and the soujoukh, and warned us of the fiercely competitive shopping habits of those black-clad grandmothers. In a sequel post, she described the symbolic peace among Middle Eastern olive oils on the shelf and provided what seems like sound advice: Stay far away from the green tarragon soda.

The best thing so far has been how readers familiar with the experience that Lory described have written in to share theirs. Here are excerpts from what a few people had to say:

Aleen L. Khanjian wrote:

Love this!!! As a young Pasadenian (born and raised), I always avoided Carlo, Vartan, Garo's, Lake Produce (also known as the "Arap")…I hated it. Hated that smell of spices, the browning fruit, the cardboard-sign prices, the mis-matched shopping carts, the way Vartan’s wife would single me out, calling me “Ghourban.” Then, I grew up. I also began to recognize and appreciate the appeal of bargain-priced groceries. Now, I can proudly call myself a patron of Super King-Altadena. So what if I toss out 2 lbs of tomatoes or cucumbers, per week, b/c they went bad? They were only $0.79/lb anyway!

Mihran Toumajan wrote:
The three things I miss about southern California are family, friends and Super King -- not necessarily in that order. As the Armenian saying goes: "Kreetchut talar!" ("May your pen continue to be verdant!").

Tano wrote:
I fear because of this article, sales of basturma and soujoukh are going to increase; sadly, increasing the price to meet demand.

Adrineh, who doesn't seem to mind tarragon soda, wrote:
All the countries that are at odds, living harmoniously together on the Super King shelf." I love it! But what's wrong with green tarragon soda? It's practically a luxury here in Yerevan! Both in Georgia and Armenia, it's called lemonade and is quite the popular beverage.

So-krazy-ian wrote:
Your depiction of the local Armenian super-mercado was accurately on-point! It’s typically a woeful excursion for me each time my mother drags me out to one of these ethno-marts. I do have one question for you though; was it clear to you what the woman in the forefront of your photo is doing with that potato?

For anyone who missed the photo, the woman with the potato (or whatever it is) is at lower left:

Lory plans to contribute again, which is a good thing. And stay tuned as next week, we present a roadmap to the Latin American supermarket, santería section included.