Posted by: Jennelyn J.M. Natividad | April 2, 2009

Just rambling: Super King, the transcultural & sensory center of Los Angeles?

Anybody who has been to Los Angeles knows that this is a city built for driving. Forget the old saying that “one won’t survive here without a car.” One can, but it’s difficult especially if one is in a rush as everybody often is nowadays. I have, in fact, seen changes that would counter that tired old generalization: small neighborhoods like Culver City are continuously being redesigned to be more bike-friendly and walkable; I’m told the Metro trains are kept quite clean, are fairly reliable timewise, and have more access points than ever before; and the L.A. bus transit increased its routes and frequency of returns since the recent gas crisis, due to commuters’ demand.

However, part of L.A.’s allure for me is in the way I can just drive from one cultural access point to the next. And when I say “cultural,” I usually am referring to food, people of the diaspora, exciting screenings, exotic wares, and fancy, often undecipherable (to me,) signage. Drive 20 minutes that way and one can find themselves in Little Tokyo. A few blocks down Alameda is Olvera Street, right next to Chinatown. From there, ten more minutes of driving westward and there’s Koreatown. If you drive a little further in the northeast direction, you’ll find Historic Filipinotown. The experience for me of going to these places is like being in a foreign country without having to spend for pricey airfare. If like me, one is in the habitual practice of ‘willing suspension of disbelief,” you’ll find it an economically-savy way to go on vacation, or at the very least (if your imagination is less elastic,) akin to taking a temporary cultural immersion class.

People have always described Los Angeles as a melting pot, a cultural crossroads of sorts. This is where Super King comes in. I think it’s the perfect microcosm of transcultural Los Angeles. It’s a grocery/market located in Eagle Rock, very near Glendale. Both neighborhoods have a high concentration of Armenian and Filipino residents, and most of them come to shop at Super King along with an impressive number of people of Middle Eastern, Latin American, Chinese, and Eastern European origin. The appeal of this particular food market is not because they cater specifically to Armenians, Europeans, nor Asians. It appeals to the residents of Los Angeles, regardless of their ethnicity/country of origin because Super King offers an abundance of things for everybody.

Apart from Trader Joe’s, this is the grocery/market after my own heart. They have the freshest and the most inexpensive produce in Los Angeles, a bar just for olives, a wide selection of nuts & dates, an extensive dairy section, a European-style bakery, a cheese and deli counter, and butchers that really know their cuts. Need I say more?..oh, but you know I will!

I tell you, a rich sensory experience awaits one in this place. It’s magic to the senses. All that color, quite a sight to see. The majority of scents smell sweet, mostly familiar, but there are also strong, enigmatic odors to be had :D. Super King must have more than thirty kinds of spices, and herbs both dried and fresh, exotic fruits and veggies like cherimoyas, dragonfruits, chayotes, smoky chilies, prickly green nopales, crisp Persian cucumbers, cute Foret pears, tiny apples of a kind I’ve never seen before. They sell different meats and, if you like, all their parts. One can appropriately describe it as everything from hooves, tail and balls, to snout (as I said, only if you like it that way). There’s goat, lamb, ostrich, quail, rabbit, and the familiar triad: beef, pork and chicken. They have bitter waters from Eastern Europe, olives from Greece and grains from Asia and Africa still in their sacks, loose tea in tins with Hindu and Arabic writing. Snacks from East and Southeast Asia, fig & cardamom cookies from the Middle East, etc…

Having described all this, the fact remains that one has to experience this place for one’s own to fully appreciate it. How else is one to see the little things that make moment to moment special? For example, while I was picking bright red tomatoes, a cluster still in the vine, I had direct view of a very tall young woman (approx 5’10,) choosing carefully from a pile of dark purple, rounded, Indian eggplants. A perky baby, all wide awake, was strapped on her back. I wondered, what must it be like to see the vibrant array of colors and shapes from that vantage point? The baby seemed entranced. Perhaps, that baby will grow up to be a genius in the kitchen, a creative chef, a sensualist…An older lady, a bespectacled nun in gray was looking at the shelf full of different bitter and herb waters. I thought, what if in those very bottles are incredible cures we simply don’t know about? Oh well, I should have asked her then. I’ll do so if she’s there when I go back next week for hazelnut spread. It’s the kind from Europe without the cocoa fat solids for only $3.99. Ha, I hope that got your attention fellow Nutella lovers!

Stay tuned…

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