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Check It Out: A salute to Armenian heritage

January 15, 2014|By Natalie Basmaciyan

California is home to one of the largest Armenian populations in the world, from the fertile farmlands of the Central Valley to Southern California. The Armenian Genocide and subsequent diaspora affect the community's sense of identity and perseverance to this day, since these tumultuous events are still recent history to many Armenians.

Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as the state religion, with the Armenian Apostolic Church serving as the religious and cultural focus of the people. Woven into this shared history is the love of storytelling, food and family.

William Saroyan remains the most celebrated author chronicling the Armenian-American experience in the Central Valley. "My Name Is Aram," a work of fiction, presents the story of a young boy exploring his Armenian identity and heritage amid the farms of Fresno.

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The Central Valley drew Armenian immigrants because of agricultural conditions that are similar their homeland, and his many other works explore the immigrant and first-generation experience of his people.

"Apples of Immortality: Folk Tales of Armenia," by Leon Surmelian, contains classic stories of Armenian ingenuity, logic and ethos. The text is rich in religious symbolism and tales of morality that reveal the deep faith of the people.

On DVD, explore the life and times of one of Armenia's most celebrated figures. "The Color of Pomegranates" presents a stylized biography of noted 18th-century Armenian poet and troubadour Sayat Nova, based on his writings. It depicts the poet's life in eight sections, from childhood to death, and is rich with symbols of sacred and secular Armenian life.

Celebrated local chef Zov Karamardian continues to draw large, enthusiastic audiences to the library's "What's Cooking" events, and she will return in the fall for another cooking demonstration. Her Armenian-inspired recipes are perfect for home cooks wanting to learn her techniques. Check out "Simply Zov: Rustic Classics with a Mediterranean Twist" and "Zov: Recipes and Memories from the Heart."

"The Armenian Table: More than 165 Treasured Recipes that Bring Together Ancient Flavors and 21st-Century Style," by Victoria Jenanyan Wise, and "The Cuisine of Armenia," by Sonia Uvezian, present classic Armenian food interwoven with family traditions.

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