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It’s difficult to overestimate how important Armenian food is to Armenians.” To illustrate his point, he offered his museum’s annual number of visitors: 7,000. “When St. Stephen’s or St. James’s [two Armenian Apostolic churches in Watertown] host their annual food bazaars, they get more than 10,000 visitors on a single day.”

Alice Sefarian, 78, has been one of the most active members of Watertown’s Armenian-American community ever since she moved here 53 years ago. She emigrated from Greece and still has terrifying memories of the German occupation during World War II.

Along with her Armenian-American husband, who was disabled in that war fighting for the United States, she has reared three sons while teaching at the Armenian Sisters Academy in nearby Lexington, leading children on camping trips to Armenia and volunteering at area churches. She attends both St. James Apostolic Church and the Armenian Memorial (Evangelical) Church.

Her sons are successful professionals who live within an hour’s drive of Watertown, Mrs. Sefarian said. “I feel proud that we were able to educate them. That’s the most important thing.”

She also feels proud she had passed down the language and other Armenian traditions, she said, including her passion for Armenian food. “Mostly, I do all the cooking from scratch here at home and store it in the freezer. Last night, I made a traditional meat dish with rice pilaf.

“Two of my sons married Armenian girls, and they continue to eat Armenian food at home,” Mrs. Sefarian continued. “My other son, Daniel, was the only one to marry a non-Armenian, the sweetest Irish girl, but she learned to cook Armenian food.”

When she is in a hurry, Mrs. Sefarian said, she will go to the Armenian shops. But she rarely goes out for dinner, and especially not for Armenian food. “There aren’t a lot of Armenian restaurants because Armenians like making their own food,” says Mrs. Sefarian. “The restaurants are for non-Armenians.”

There are in fact very few Armenian restaurants in the area, but at least one, Karoun, is the exception to Mrs. Sefarian’s declaration.

On a recent Saturday night, Karoun was packed and most of the patrons were Armenian-Americans. Three groups were celebrating birthdays, and the upscale restaurant is well suited for festivities. The main dining room is dominated by a small stage, where owner John Eurdolian fronts an Armenian folk band, while his sisters scamper from the kitchen to the tables with heaping plates of mezze and roasted meats.

Some nights his parents preside over the stoves. In front of the stage, surrounded by tables, is the dance floor where belly-dance performances are interspersed with enthusiastic dancing by the customers. When I left at midnight, the restaurant was still full.

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Tags: Cultural Identity Armenian Catholic Church Multiculturalism Assimilation