Author Archives: feliciaz

Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner with Mac and Cheese

Tradition: An adult male, half Chinese half Texan, brings mac and cheese to his family Thanksgiving dinner every year. The family is a mix of ethnicities: Japanese, Chinese, and Caucasian.

The informant is a half Japanese half Chinese female, age 20.

Informant: For Thanksgiving, we have one cousin (Eric) whose sole responsibility is to bring the mac and cheese. And every year, our aunt asks everyone what they want to bring, and on the list, she’ll write “Eric-Mac and Cheese.” Apparently it’s the best mac and cheese.

Collector: Do you like it? Does your family like it?

Informant: It’s pretty good, I’ve eaten it. I assume that my family likes it. Because he’s demanded to bring it every year. I’m just waiting to see what happens when he doesn’t bring it.

Collector: Where did he learn to make it from?

Informant: I asked him about it, and he said he pulled the recipe off the internet. And he proceeded to forward it to me, so I can make it for myself.

Collector: What do you think it means to you or to your family?

Informant: I think it’s funny that my aunt assumes that that’s the only thing he can make and that we can eat. This has been going on for five years now. So whenever it’s Thanksgiving, I know that there’s something that I can eat–there’s gonna be mac and cheese!

Even though the family has a mix of different ethnic backgrounds, it’s interesting to see that every year, they demand and designated for one family member to bring the mac and cheese to Thanksgiving dinner. I think that this family tradition is reflective of the “melting pot” culture of America, where families come together and share their food cultures with one another.

The Bee’s Knees

Informant is a 20 year-old, female, college student studying at the University of Southern California. She is half Japanese and half Chinese.

Informant: I know this saying called “You are the bee’s knees.”

Collector: What does this saying mean to you?

Informant: It just means that someone is really wonderful. That someone’s really great. The person that you’re calling the bee’s knees is someone you really like and admire.

Collector: Where did you learn this?

Informant: I’ve always just heard it around. I hear people say it from time to time.

Collector: Why do you like it?

Informant: I just think it’s cute. And also it’s something that I hear a lot.

I think that people say this because it sounds cute–bee’s rhymes with knees, and expressions that rhyme catch on. Also, there’s this idea that bee’s knees are very delicate, and the person that you’re describing is delicate and delightful. On a scientific level, bees collect nectar from flowers on their limbs, so in a way, the sweetness on the bee’s knees can be used to describe someone who is sweet.

Chinese Hot Pot for Thanksgiving Dinner

Informant is a 20 year old, Chinese, college student studying at the University of Southern California. Both of his parents are Chinese.

Informant’s Tradition: So for Thanksgiving dinner, originally when my parents were struggling students, they had like a slow cooker. They’d just boil water in a slow cooker, and they would boil meat and add sauces, like a hot pot. Back then, it would just be cheaper stuff, and they would mix it with peanut butter sauces, because they didn’t have the money to get the sesame sauce for normal hot pots. My mom learned to make a peanut butter sauce that I prefer it to the normal store bought sesame sauce now.

Collector: Does your family do this every Thanksgiving?

Informant: Yeah, for Thanksgiving, and sometimes for Christmas too. But usually for Thanksgiving.

Collector: Did your parents teach you how to make it too?

Informant: Not really, but from observing it seems pretty simple. Like I would be able to make it if I wanted to.

Collector: How long do you think they have been doing this for?

Informant: 20 years. They’ve been in the States for around 20 years now.

Collector: What do you think it means?

Informant: I think it’s not only a nice way to like, express our own culture, but also like a way to acknowledge our history, like we couldn’t sometimes afford turkey back in the day. It has meaning because of the significance back then.

Collector: Why do you guys like to make this?

Informant: I guess it’s because we enjoy hot pot more than we like turkey. But also because there’s a history to it, and it’s also fulfilling your own cultural values.

I think that with the “melting pot” nature in the United States, people from all over the world can come to America and make it their home. By bringing their culture with them, and infusing it into American holidays and traditions, people of different backgrounds can make their holiday celebrations the best of both worlds.

Line Dancing

Line dance is a dance where a group of people all perform the same steps without any physical contact. The dance is usually choreographed ahead of time, and the steps are common knowledge and easy to perform, so that anyone can learn it on the dance floor and catch on. It’s meant to be a participatory activity for the crowd and open to anyone who wants to dance.

According to Christy Lane*, it is possible to have perform line dance to different types of music. In today’s culture, The Cupid Shuffle is a well known song among young adolescents that people can perform line dancing to. The lyrics dictate the movements of the dance, and the repetition makes it easy to follow along.

I think that the significance of this type of dancing is that it’s a democracy for the dance floor. Anyone and everyone can participate. You don’t need a special skill or training to join this type of dancing. It’s inclusive and opens the activity for everyone to enjoy, and it builds community through its lack of exclusion.

*Christy Lane’s Complete Book of Line Dancing. Christy Lane. 2000, 1995. Human Kinetics. pages 3, 4.

Chinese Proverb: “The Thousand Mile Horse”

Informant is a 53 year-old Chinese female. She was born and raised in Beijing, China, and now lives in Southern California.

Informant’s folklore: There’s a saying in China called “A Thousand Mile horse is easy to find, the discoverer is hard to find.” A “Thousand Mile Horse” is a horse that can run a thousand miles in one night, like a very talented person. But, it’s not easy to find such a great talent, but in comparison to the discoverer, it’s harder to find. This means that talented people exists, but they need to be discovered and recommended.

Collector: Do you like this proverb?

Informant: Yes, I like it. It means, you are talented, but you need to get opportunities and meet people who can appreciate you to discover your talent and help you reach your full potential.

I think that this proverb means that all the elements need to be in place for success–the stars need to align. As person who has a dream needs to not only have talent, but seek and be open to the opportunities presented to him in order to become successful in his pursuits.

Break a Leg

There’s a long running saying in the theater culture, where instead of wishing someone good luck, you are supposed to say, “Break a leg.” It’s actually considered bad luck to literally wish someone good luck. According to The Phrase Finder, it could potentially imply that this person has put on such a good performance that they literally bend their knees “in a bow or to curtsey to acknowledge applause.” Another meaning could be that the actors may get their big “break” from this performance and their performance leads them to success.

I think that this superstition reflects the mental mindset of people who are in performance or show business. There’s never a guarantee of success, and so much of the career in acting or performance is based on luck, chance, and the hope that you will be discovered. Therefore, it’s important to be careful and superstitious, so that the performer’s mind is filled with positive energy, as so much of their career is dependent on their optimism and mental drive.

Chinese Proverb: Sow Seeds Before Rain

Informant is a 53 year-old Chinese female. She was born and raised in Beijing, China, where she used to work as a farmer. She now lives in Southern California.

Informant: This proverb, “Sow Seeds Before Rain” means that you need to plan ahead. Sow the seeds before it rains, so that after it rains, your crops will have grown, and you won’t have to worry about lacking water or working in the rain.

Collector: What does this mean to you?

Informant: Without foresight, you will always run into problems. If you don’t have a future plan, you will always focus on the present, short term, problems. It means that a person will live in the problems of every day life because he is only solving the temporary problems, without knowing what’s the long term plan or focus. You can take life or business for an example. You need to have a plan–What should I do in five years? What will happen in 10 years? You need to see personal growth and development.

Collector: Do you like this saying?

Informant: Yes, I like this saying, because it’s something that I live by. A person needs to have a plan for their life, what their goals are. Even for businesses, you need to plan ahead, and can’t always focus on the small tasks and forget the larger tasks. This is very important to the development and growth the a person, business, and even nation.

I think that the informant did a good job of explaining the meaning of this proverb. It’s a philosophical way to approach life and reach one’s full potential as a human being. This proverb is reflective of the attitudes of people who aspire to be successful in the fields they choose.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

There is a very common joke: “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Usually, it’s followed by the answer: “To get to the other side.”

From that joke, there has been many other jokes that stemmed from the joke, such as: “Why did the chicken cross the playground?” “To get to the other slide.”

These types of literal jokes are called anti-jokes, in which the punchline is not a clever play on words, but a literal, mundane answer.

For reference of the first time this joke was published, please see: The Knickerbocker, or The New York Monthly, March 1847, p. 283.

Jerky Tradition for the Trek to Camp Wolfeboro

Informant is a 21 year-old, caucasian male who used to be an Eagle Scout. He used to live in San Francisco before moving to Los Angeles to attend school at the University of Southern California.

Tradition: Every summer, a Eagle Scout troupe goes to Camp Wolfeboro. On their drive to the camp, it’s a tradition to stop at a jerky shop and buy jerky for the weekend.

Informant: So my troupe every summer goes to camp Wolfeboro. And it’s like a four hour drive, and so halfway through, ah there’s this dinky little town where we go to this sketch stand, and it’s a jerky stand. And this dude has all kinds of jerky ranging from chicken to alligator and ostrich. And it’s the best jerky you will ever eat. So our troupe–all the little kids–will be chanting “The jerky man! We’re going to the jerky man!” And everybody gets jerky, and everybody loves it, and they eat it all weekend at camp. We’ll trade the jerky with each other too.

Collector: How long has the tradition been going on for? How did you learn the tradition?

Informant: It’s part of the tradition of the troupe, and it’s been happening ever since I got there. And I’ve been talking to the older people than me, and it’s been happening ever since they’ve been there. It’s at least 10 years old.

Collector: What does it mean to you?

Informant: It’s kind of like a signaling of the beginning of Camp Wolfeboro, which is a pretty awesome weekend. And it’s a great bonding experience.

I believe that the informant participates in this tradition because it’s something that brings the community together. Everyone might already be in Eagle Scouts, but having something in common with each other bonds everyone even closer. Everyone can bond through sharing food, and this activity marks the brotherhood between its members.

Danish Family Tradition – Danish Aebleskivers for Christmas Breakfast

Tradition: Every year for Christmas breakfast, a family with a Danish heritage gathers to eat Danish Aebleskivers together.

The informant is a 21 year old Caucasian male, who lives in Southern California.

Informant: Every year for Christmas, for breakfast, we make Danish Aebleskivers. It’s a pancake basically that’s in a ball, and in the center you can put like fruit and stuff in the middle. And my grandma is 100% Danish, so that’s her way of living her Danish side, I don’t know. But my aunt used to make Aebleskivers, and then did that when she got too old to do it. And my dad has spent 3 years training me, and I’m now the Danish Aebleskiver maker for my family.

Collector: Why do you like to do this tradition, and what does this tradition mean to you?

Informant: It connects us to our Danish heritage and they’re really good. And it’s been part of the family too because every year, we do the breakfast at my family’s house, so the whole family’s there and we eat the Aebleskivers.

Collector: Is this from your dad’s side of the family?

Informant: Yeah, so my dad is half Danish and half Portugese, so yeah.

I think the fact that the informant’s family gathers together every year for Christmas breakfast is a way to keep in touch with their loved ones. In addition, eating homemade Danish Aebleskivers reminds them of their roots and heritage. It’s important for each generation to preserve and maintain the tradition in the family.

Danish Aebleskiver