It’s a phrase we’re all familiar with.
“How much should I put in?” We would ask our grandparents and parents regarding a particular ingredient to place in a bowl, watching their capable hands handle the tools in the kitchen with wide eyes. There was no rhyme or reason to their methods, yet it was masterful and breathtaking all the same.
“Hmm…,” they would begin, hovering over various measuring cups and spoons. They would look at the dish being crafted for a moment, then look back at us, finishing off the sentence with the most popular measurement in Armenian cooking, “achki chapov.”
That is the origin of the name of Achki Chop, a YouTube channel founded during the beginning of the pandemic by Lara Karamardian, a graduate of the University of Southern California’s film school. After testing out a slew of pastimes during quarantine, Karamardian decided to create something a little more special: an Armenian guide to Middle Eastern cooking. Cooking was one of her passions, so she thought to combine it with another passion: filmmaking. When those two forces merged, Achki Chop was born.
“Starting this channel and making videos with family and friends has truly been an enjoyable experience. Seeing some of the lovely comments on our videos and Instagram page have made it feel so worthwhile,” says Karamardian. “There is nothing more satisfying than seeing someone recreate one of our recipes. This channel is something I want to continue because I love making these videos and sharing them with the world.”
Most of us learn how to operate in the kitchen by watching our families. Karamardian had a similar journey. Growing up in an Armenian family, some of her fondest memories were made in the kitchen. She watched her aunt Sossi cook for her whole family, always lending a helpful hand. This directly influenced her love of cooking, specifically Armenian cooking.
To help further her knowledge of cooking, she tried to look up Armenian recipes on YouTube, but was disappointed in the lack of information. That’s what compelled her to start producing her own content with step-by-step videos on how to make cherished Armenian recipes and popular Middle Eastern fare. Because of Karamardian’s background in film, videos on the Achki Chop channel feature high-quality editing with a top-tier production value. The structure of the videos allows viewers, with even limited experience in the kitchen, to understand how to prepare our dishes with ease.
“I wondered how many other young people take to the internet to find recipes, so I wanted to create something for them,” she says. “I want it to be easy for young Armenians — or anyone really — to be able to recreate their favorite recipes easily.”
It is a known fact that so much of Armenian culture revolves around food, as it is a valuable aspect of our history and a deep display of our traditions. The best conversations are usually accompanied by a spread of favorite dishes. Food is what brings us together as a people and it can be upsetting to know that our recipes are not readily available online for those who want to recreate their favorite dishes or simply get more in touch with their culture.
“Armenian culture is so rich and full of beauty, and as a filmmaker, one of my goals is to have the opportunity to capture it and share it with the world,” says Karamardian. “My culture is such a large part of my identity, as I grew up immersed in it. Being outside of that bubble now has made me appreciate what we have and want to share it with others.”
Starting Achki Chop not only connected Karamardian with the community, but connected her more deeply with her family and friends. Karamardian’s mother was born in the United States, and her father was born in Lebanon to a family of Kessabtsis, so the food reflects the food of their respective diaspora, yet always stays open to the minor differences of spices and ingredients each diaspora has. The videos are hosted by several members of her family, including her aunt Sossi and her cousin Shahan, as well as friends. That is the beauty of Achki Chop. The channel has amassed hundreds of followers, all joining together for the love of food and culture.
“To me, our culture is our dance, music, food and language. We bring it with us wherever we may live, whether it be in Los Angeles, Lebanon, France, et cetera,” concludes Karamardian. “I think William Saroyan said it best when he said, ‘For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.’”