Author Archive
Foodways
general
Holidays
Material

Texas Sheet Cake

Informant: My mother found culinary recipes that have been passed on through generations, and become a part of our family folklore

Original Piece: I can claim this recipe because I’ve made several adjustments to the one passed on to me from Grandmama. This is THE go-to cake—birthday, graduation, family reunion. Growing up we always ate it on a blanket in the front yard with homemade peppermint ice cream while we watched the fireworks. My mother-in-law always requests I bring it to any family function. You will thank me for this cake.

Context of Performance: My mother was sifting through old family recipes to send to me and my sister at college, so we wouldn’t forget our “southern heritage”.

Thoughts about the Piece: I liked this recipe because it is an example of a recipe that has been passed down in my family for several generations, and was originally grabbed from a copy of “Southern Living”. However, over the years, the women in my family have changed and altered it to produce the best form of this, which is a good example of what folklore is.

Customs
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Louis and Clarke Reenactments

Informant: My grandmother has always lived in a small town in southern Illinois. Its population is a little under 600 and dwindling quickly. However, she recounted some of the unique folklore and traditions that have remained alive throughout the years.

Original Script: Some Ava folklore is that Louis and Clarke spent the night on their trek to the west. They even had reenactors a couple of years ago who came through, and it was, it must have been mid-July, so you know it’s in the nineties and they’re wearing their furs. But, you know, people love it.

Context of Performance: At the breakfast table, she told the story to myself and my sister.

Thoughts about the Piece: I enjoy hearing about the little quirks and traditions that small towns, specifically in rural agricultural areas, keep throughout years.

general
Humor
Narrative

Why Jinn are Good

Informant: My friend’s mother tells stories about the Jinn, as her grandfather told to Shiva. She says she does not know if Jinn exist, but there are certainly people in Iran who swear they are real. She has fun telling these stories because of their potential for belief.

Original Script: “Okay so initially, this is what my grandpa told, this is the story that has been passed down to him. The reason they were all good—the villagers were all good with the Jen, because, apparently this one girl one day comes home and the mom had peeled a lot of garlic. But she didn’t want to dispose of the garlic skin anywhere because they’re so light they fly away. So she had put them in a little bag and she gives it to the daughter and says, ‘take it to that pond over there and release it to the water’ because then it won’t get—spread out all over. So she goes and there is this pretty, pretty girl sitting by the pond and she says, ‘no, don’t dispose these here, just give them to me.’ And she says, ‘Okay, here they’re…they’re just garlic peels, whatever.’ And she gives her, the pretty woman gives the young girl, a bag of something and she says take these to your mom. And she takes these to her mom, the bag, and the mom says, ‘why did you accept anything, that was trash I gave you.’ And she says, ‘well this was a nice lady, she asked me to do this, I am doing this.’ And they open it up and the bag is full of pearls. So since then, the villagers have been good to these creatures. They aren’t scared of them, if they see them they won’t freak out.

Context of the Performance: Over dinner, family members exchanged old folk stories they remember from Iran.

Thoughts about the Piece: I love the Jinn stories. I especially loved the story, passed down through generations of families. The storyteller said she might believe that it is true, which made listening to it all the more enjoyable.

general
Humor
Narrative

Donkey Market

Informant: My friend’s grandfather is originally from Tehran, Iran. He moved to California as an adult but retold some of his favorite stories he heard from his parents as a child.

Original Script: “Once, Mullah realizes his donkey is very old and he’s not working anymore. I mean, he’s not useful anymore. That’s why he wants to take it to—they had a special place for buying and selling donkeys. They had a special market, in the market of the town there was a special place, specially devoted to donkeys, for instance. He takes that, he goes to that market, calls somebody because there was people over there introducing donkeys for the buyers. He says, ‘okay, take this and go ahead and do the—the job, your job.’ He takes the donkey and goes and starts the shouting, ‘this donkey’s a very great donkey! Very powerful! Very beautiful!’, starts explaining about the donkey, many many good things about the donkey. Mullah thinks about it, what a great donkey! So he calls him back and says, ‘this is a very good donkey!’ He says, ‘I told you!’ He said, ‘Okay, how much?’

Context of the Performance: Over dinner, family members exchanged old folk stories they remember from Iran.

Thoughts about the Piece: This is a longer tale about Mullah. This was also my favorite story, because although some of the plot details were irrelevant—donkey markets, for example, are no longer around—the underlying story is timeless.

general
Humor
Narrative

Mullah’s Oil

Informant: My friend’s grandfather is originally from Tehran, Iran. He moved to California as an adult but retold some of his favorite stories he heard from his parents as a child.

Original Script: “There was one about him carrying some oil into town. And he was in his house, thinking I’m going to go sell this, and I’m going to go buy this, and I’m gonna get that one and I’m going to do this one. He was just making plans, so this guy comes in, he says, ‘Hey Mullah!’ and he hits the thing, he says, ‘what is this?’ He says, ‘well if you hit it harder, nothing.’”

Context of the Performance: Over dinner, family members exchanged old folk stories they remember from Iran.

Thoughts about the Piece: This story was also well-received. It was told many times even in one dinner sitting, as many people around the table had slight variations of the tale. This version is my personal favorite.

general
Humor
Narrative

Mullah’s Counting Error

Informant: My friend’s grandfather is originally from Tehran, Iran. He moved to California as an adult but retold some of his favorite stories he heard from his parents as a child.

Original Script: “Once Mullah has been counting the donkeys that he was carrying with himself, and he was sitting on a donkey and counting, there were nine. He said, “but I had ten!” He came down and counted, and there were ten. But then, when he sits on the donkey and he started counting, he came up with nine. He said, “this is very strange!” Then, this repeats some times, then he realizes that he’s counting wrong because, because of that.”

Context of the Performance: Over dinner, family members exchanged old folk stories they remember from Iran.

Thoughts about the Piece: This story got the most laughs at the dinner table. It is does not have any sort of moral but, like most Mullah stories, is told for the humor. I enjoyed listening to these tales.

folk metaphor
general
Humor
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Mullah’s Donkey in a Well

Informant: My friend’s mother told this story as one of her favorite Mullah Nasruddin narratives, saying she cannot remember where she originally heard it but she always thought it smart of Mullah.

Original Script: “A donkey falls into a well. And then everyone in town, they were thinking how they can actually rescue the donkey and no one can think of anything. And Mullah came and said if you put dirt on it. And everyone was accusing him, “why? it’s going to be buried under the dirt!” And it’s the smartest thing because if they were putting in the dirt and filling the hole so he could actually walk up. That was the smartest actually idea that he had at the time.”

Context of the Performance: Over dinner, family members exchanged old folk stories they remember from Iran.

Thoughts about the Piece: I liked this piece; it’s a good example of Mullah while being clever. I mostly enjoyed how excited the storyteller was, as it was clear this is her favorite story.

general
Humor
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Mullah Nasruddin

Informant: My friend’s grandfather is originally from Tehran, Iran. He moved to California as an adult but retold some of his favorite stories he heard from his parents as a child.

Original Script: “Mullah Nasruddin is a character who appears to be a joke but he tells the truth through satire and stuff like that. so, at times in some stories he’s hilarious, in some stories he’s an idiot, in some stories he’s wiser beyond belief. So it’s the same character but he goes through different iterations, so he’s definitely a folk character in Persian culture.”

Context of the Performance: Over dinner, family members exchanged old folk stories they remember from Iran.

Thoughts about the Piece: This is an introduction to the trickster character “Mullah Nasruddin”, who recurs in many Persian folktales. He is an interesting character in that he does not fit any universal archetype, but rather fills what ever character type the story needs, whether it be clever, dull, or anything in between.

Citation: for more Mullah Nasruddin tales, see Suresha, Ron Jackson. The Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin: Stories, Jests, and Donkey Tales of the Beloved Persian Folk Hero. Maple Shade, NJ: Lethe, 2011. Print.

Customs
Game
general
Humor

Marichol

Informant: My friend’s family is from southern India, and every few years they go back in the summer for family weddings. This past summer she went to three, and recounted some of the traditions for me.
Original Piece: “Something called Marichol, where… it’s gonna sound really weird, when I explain the reason behind it. So, it’s where, if the guy is getting married… or let’s say it was my female cousin that’s getting married, me and other cousins would block the groom from entering the ceremony unless he gave them money. It’s because you are… like shaming them, or getting mad at them for not marrying you. Like, since you’re not marrying me I need other compensation. Then guys block the entrance for the groom too, but because they can’t marry the bride. And they’re prepared for it, the groom comes with bills in his pocket.
When people are entering, there’s a table at the front. There’s these bida on the table, and people take a little bit of it to eat, and someone’s standing there and there’s this canister thing that you sprinkle on people before they go.”
Context of Piece: My friend was showing me pictures from this summer, and I asked her to tell me a bit more about their weddings customs.
Thoughts about the Piece: I like this one the best, as my friend spoke from personal experience, having blocked the entrance for the groom several times before.

Customs
Festival
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Tamil Wedding Guests

Informant: My friend’s family is from southern India, and every few years they go back in the summer for family weddings. This past summer she went to three, and recounted some of the traditions for me.
Original Piece: “There’s the engagement, not like a proposal, but the engagement is a ceremony that happens one or two days before the wedding. It’s like the announcement that they’re getting married, but everyone already knows they’re getting married because it’s two days before the wedding. It’s just close friends and family, so it’s the smallest group of people, but still like a hundred people. Then there’s the actual wedding ceremony, because we’re Christian Tamal ours is in a church. Then there’s receptions… usually in the girl’s hometown and the guy’s hometown, so there’s those two. Then there’s…then sometimes there’s another one in another city, like where they went to college. Some people go to all of them, but some people go to just portions of them.
Usually you give an invitation to one person in the family. Like, you send out 300, but 1200 people come. But you plan for 1200 people. And it’s rude to give invitations through the mail if you’re within driving distance. Even if it’s a couple hours away, you need to hand deliver the invitation. Some people have not gone to weddings because they received invitations through the mail.”
Context of Piece: My friend was showing me pictures from this summer, and I asked her to tell me a bit more about their weddings customs.
Thoughts about the Piece: I thought this was interesting, that overall the wedding proceedings could last for days.

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