Neighborhood Kitchens

Watertown's Little Armenia and Sevan Bakery

By Margarita Martinez

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It was only a matter of time before we visited Watertown for some Armenian culture. This neighborhood has so much Armenian culture to explore, including three Armenian churches and an Armenian school in such a small area! If you head a bit west from Coolidge Corner in Watertown, be sure to check out the Armenian Library and Museum of America. It is a gem of a museum that is privately funded and contains artifacts from Armenia, including textiles, metalwork, jewelry, books from hundreds of years ago, and a permanent exhibit on the Armenian genocide. I was also lucky enough to catch the current Yousef Karsh exhibit that includes gorgeous portraits of historical figures such as Mother Theresa, Winston Churchill, and Ernest Hemingway. 

Almost immediately after the first Neighborhood Kitchens episode premiered, one of our viewers recommended we head over to Coolidge Square for Armenian cuisine. However, we had trouble finding an Armenian restaurant to feature. Then it dawned on us: why don't we explore one of Coolidge Square's wonderful Armenian markets? Thus, this episode of Neighborhood Kitchens is truly unique as it is the first time we are learning recipes and exploring the inner workings of a market instead of a restaurant.


Listen to Margarita talk about her visit to Watertown on Morning Edition

Nuran Chavushian, borther and mother. Sevan BakerySevan Bakery has the feeling of an Old World European neighborhood market. Inside there is always at least one member of the Chavushian family - mother Margrit, father Kaprel, and brothers Nuran and Murat.  It makes sense as this is truly a labor of love for the Chavushians. The father purchased the market in 1985 after arriving in Massachusetts from Turkey in1979. Having little knowledge of running a food market, he compiled his family recipes and introduced them to the market. He still works at Sevan Bakery, but his sons have taken over the running of the business with their mother continuing to work several shifts behind the counter. "The big boss is my mother,” says Nuran with a smile.

People from all over the neighborhood come in looking for specialty items, spices, olives, nuts, and, of course, the wonderful prepared foods. Positioned right behind the cash register, Nuran can see who enters, who is browsing the aisles, and who needs assistance selecting from the delicious assortment of feta cheeses from around the world, baklava, and other spreads and baked good behind the glass display case. However, the most striking element of his vantage point is the large window behind the cash register, where Nuran, a man with boundless energy and a wicked sense of humor (essential traits when you have a family business that's open fort welve hours a day, six days a week), can look outside and see who's coming and going down Mt. Auburn Street. He's waving and smiling at people he knows and if he doesn't know you yet he's fairly confident he will meet you soon.

I learned so much about the different eats offered at Sevan Bakery. From Armenian string cheese to what makes a Bulgarian Nuran Chavushian and Margarita at Sevan Bakeryfeta (a great choice to eat sliced with tomato, basil, and some balsamic vinegar) different than a French feta (a subtler flavor perfect for making boregs). It wasn't until I visited Nuran that I learned that theTurkish and Armenian dish imam bayildi literally means, “imam fainted.” Legend has it that the imam of the village tried this stuffed eggplant dish and passed out because it tasted so good. Or did you know that karniyarik, which we make on the show, means stomach? Because, well, you are again stuffing a “stomach-shaped” eggplant. Even the popular lahmejune, or Armenian pizza, means “meat with dough.” I felt like the more food I ate, the more I would be able to converse in Armenian!
 
Sevan Bakery is one of several different Armenian markets in Coolidge Square. It is such a treat to stop in to see what each one offers and get a taste of an old world European neighborhood market, especially with owners like the Chavushians happy to answer your questions and actively preserving the heritage of the cuisine.
 


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About Neighborhood Kitchens

Building on a 35-year history of producing Latino and multicultural programming, WGBH’s award winning La Plaza team has a new offering — Neighborhood Kitchens, a series about the exploration of culture through food. Every week the show offers a unique window into immigrant communities in New England.

Saturdays at 4pm on WGBH 2
Fridays at 7:30pm on WGBH 44


About the Author
Margarita Martinez Margarita Martinez
Margarita Martinez grew up in the Bronx, NY and Ossining, NY with a Puerto Rican father and a Franco-American mother. She now calls New England home. Margarita has always had an insatiable appetite for travel and food. She made her first empanada as a teenager visiting Argentina, satisfied her sweet tooth with poffertjes and stroopwafels while studying in Holland, engorged herself on Thai street food for a month in Bangkok, and continues to search for authentic international cuisines in the Northeast. Margarita loves to discover new ingredients, flavors, and cooking approaches that she can bring to her own home kitchen.

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In each episode, host Margarita Martínez visits a different ethnic restaurant and learns three delicious recipes from the chef. She also explores the restaurant’s neighborhood, discovering hidden gems along the way. Join her as she learns about new ingredients, new cultures, and new neighborhoods. ¡Hasta pronto!

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Margarita's Neighborhood Visits

»Boston: Bristol Lounge
»Boston's South End: Orinoco, Teranga and Oishii
»Boston's Back Bay: Casa Romero
»Boston's North End: Taranta
»Roxbury: Merengue
»Boston's Beacon Hill: Scampo
»All Around Boston: Mei Mei Street Kitchens
»Cambridge: Muqueca, Oleana, and Sandrine's
»
Somerville: Dosa Temple
»Lawrence: Cafe Azteca
»Lowell: Simply Khmer

»Fresh from the Fish Market
»Jamaica Plain: Tres Gatos
»Dorchester: Pho Le and Cafe Polonia
»Medford: Bistro 5
»Portland, ME: Emilitsa
»Newport, RI: Tallulah on Thames
»Pawtucket, RI: Rasoi

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