Author Archive
Foodways
Material

Mexican Recipe

Main Piece: Beer Battered Fish Tacos

 

For this piece, I asked my nanny of 18 years, Mirna, for a recipe, and being native to Mexico, she delivered. She prepared beer battered fish tacos, which consists of frying a white fish meat in a batter made from bread crumbs and beer (Corona, of course). It is put into a taco with a chipotle sauce, cabbage, and salsa. I asked if there was a set recipe she followed but there was not, she just cooked based off how she had done it in the past. The entire time she was cooking she was adding little bits of ingredients here and there according to taste, and nothing was perfectly measured. Once the fish was battered it was fried in a pan with vegetable oil, not a traditional deep fryer. There was no set time to cook or anything of the sort, just judging based on the look of the food and feel based on the cook.

 

Background:

 

This is a traditional recipe from my nanny’s home in Mexico, and she has been using it for as long as I can remember at home. It was a traditional recipe used when a successful fishing trip returned and would be cooked right away.

She learned it from her mother, who would generally cook for all of her brothers and sisters, of which there were 6 of them. She had many recipes she could’ve chosen from, having grown up in this large family and also having cooking as a big part of life for them. There was never really much take out or dinners out, so it was typically home cooked meals from her mother.

 

Context:

 

This time she cooked the meal for me, it was just one night for dinner, and did not have much contextual meaning. I used to fish a lot during the summer, and fresh fish was my favorite food for that span of time. I used to call my nanny as we were unloading the boat telling her what we had caught and she would prepare to cook it for me, and this became one of my favorite preparations of fish. She cooked a very large portion as it would serve as our family dinner that night, and had a sort of system going where she would be constantly breading the fish, frying it, warming the tortillas, and prepping the plates. She said that’s what it was like at home when her mother would cook for everyone, needing to feed many mouths.

When this dish was being prepared, my dad had a few different beers at home but none were a Mexican beer, so my nanny actually went out and bought Coronas to cook this recipe, which I think is interesting in that even though I’m sure other types would have worked, it is more traditional to the recipe that she used a Mexican beer for the recipe.

 

My Thoughts:

 

I had always thought this was just a random recipe my nanny had found and cooked for our family, but it turned out this was a recipe she had learned from her mother and brought here to cook for us. There are many more dishes my nanny knows how to cook from home and makes them constantly, but this one is hands down my favorite that she does.

Humor

Golf Joke

Folklore Piece 17:

 

Main Piece: Joke

 

My mom is a big golfer, and finds golf humor hilarious:

 

“George was just returning home from his weekly game of golf. When he stepped inside, his wife asked him how the round went.

‘It wasn’t great today,’ George said, ‘On the first tee, Frank dropped dead from a heart attack.’

‘OH MY GOD!’ cried his wife, ‘That’s horrible!’

George replied, ‘Yeah, you’re telling me! The rest of the round it was; hit, Drag Frank, hit, Drag Frank…”

 

Background:

 

My mom Laurie loves to golf, and she actually has a group of friends she goes and plays a round with once a week. They are a more so laid back group of golfers and do it for the fun of the game, and never really stress over the score, they just go out to have fun with friends. Golfing is like this in my family as well, because we are all about the same skill level, but it doesn’t get to be fun anymore once there is competition.

My mom’s friend told her this joke when they were out golfing one day, and my mom still uses it to this day when we get out to golf. Because golf is such a big part in my mom’s life, she tends to find humor in those things that not most people would necessarily get.

 

Context:

 

Like I had said earlier, my mom’s friend told her this joke when they were out golfing one very hot day when they were out golfing, and they decided to play at a course that does not allow golf carts, so they had to walk the round. Walking the round is much more tiring compared to using carts, and after the first hole my mom’s friend tells her this joke as a kind of way to say “Hey, things could be worse.”

My mom has only used this joke once or twice with me while we were golfing, and that is generally the only context it would come up in, as it doesn’t really apply to any other situations.

 

My thoughts:

 

I had heard this joke before my mom retold it to me, and the only times were on the golf course as I said. I remember it being pretty funny the first time because we were all laughing at how sweaty and out of shape we were on the course. She used it a while later the next time we golfed and it just wasn’t that funny this time so it is more of a joke you use once.

I enjoy golfing so I like this joke as long as it’s not over used. I think it is rather crude, but I like sports jokes that you need an understanding of the game to understand.

Folk Beliefs
Protection

Theatre Superstition

Main Piece: Theatre Superstition

 

The reason behind “break a leg”

 

My brother is a theatre major, and over the last semester he performed in a couple plays and when we’d go to see him, my mom would always tell him to “break a leg” and I never knew why that was said so I asked him.

 

“It is a common thing in theatre to say break a leg as a good luck omen because back in the day in Germany when the applause would come, the audience would stomp their feet. The idea behind ‘break a leg’ is to have such a good performance that the audience would applaud so hard and stomp so hard they would literally break their legs.”

 

Background:

 

My brother Ty had been involved in theatre during his middle school years and didn’t do much else until he got to college. He picked up on this tradition through being around the theatre and other actors. This is a pretty commonly known saying, but he also did not know the meaning behind it until he began acting in productions.

Ty likes this tradition because everyone kind of just says it as a thing you do when you are wishing an actor or actress good luck, but no one really knows why or where it came from. Ty is the kind of guy who finds out a fact and wants to make sure everyone he can tell knows it, so almost every time someone close to him tells him to break a leg, he asks if they know why it is said.

 

Context:

 

My brother told me this when I went to one of his plays during the spring and I wished him good luck and told him to break a leg. He asked me if I knew why I said it and being his brother I responded with some sarcastic comment like “I actually just want you to break your leg while you’re on stage,” and he proceeded to tell me the meaning behind it.

Since every actor knows of this saying and almost all theatre goers know it, it is thrown around very often at a production, and is even used outside of theatre to wish good luck in general whether it be in sports or giving a speech. Of course it does not have the same meaning when used outside of a theatre context, but it has become just a universal saying for “good luck” in whatever activity is taking place.

 

My thoughts:

 

I’ve known about this saying for as long as I can remember, with it being used in TV shows and when I would go to see my brother perform in middle school and even when I was involved in the 6th grade play at my elementary school. Once I found out the origin of the saying I had a new appreciation for it, because I had all these far out explanations in my head as to why it was said, anywhere from an actor in history who was so into his character he broke his leg on stage to it being traditional that the new actor would be scared with this saying thinking “why do they want me to break a leg?”

I use this saying with basically every event that could condone telling someone good luck before they partake, even my roommates going to take a test or if they have an interview. I probably won’t use it as much now knowing the meaning behind it, but I will definitely whip out that fact next time I find myself at a play.

Adulthood
Customs
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

French Hunting Tradition

Main Piece: French Hunting Tradition

 

This tradition was told to me by my high school friend Mika:

 

“In France, white boars are very prevalent and hunting them is a big recreational pass time there. My uncle used to go on hunting trips where they would round up all of the 20 year olds and later teen men in the town and go out on a hunt.

They would have somewhere around 20-25 hunting dogs with them when they went hunting. The dogs would be let loose to chase down the boar and corner them. My uncle would then run up to the cornered boar and kill it with a traditional hunting sword.

My Uncle was 16 when he killed his first boar on a hunt like this. He didn’t have a son to pass on the tradition to, so when I was 16, he passed on the same sword he killed his first boar with to me.”

 

Background:

 

Mika’s family is primarily of European descent, with his Grandparents hailing from Finland. Mika’s uncle is a very avid hunter and would go out on expeditions all the time. Mika tells me his favorite type of hunting was the one mentioned above, as it is more of a sport having to be closer to the animal and adding a level of danger that is not there when shooting at it from 100s of yards away.

Mika especially likes this story because it is the tradition in his Uncle’s French community where when your son was ready to hunt, you would pass the sword on to them. Because Mika’s Uncle didn’t have a son he could pass the sword on to, he passed it down to Mika because he was the closest thing he had to a son. Mika said it was a real honor to get the sword from his Uncle because he was basically saying that he sees Mika as his son.

 

Context:

 

Mika has a lot of artifacts and artwork on display in his house, anywhere from weapons they bought in Africa on a Safari to artwork his grandparents passed on to his parents. I wasn’t expecting to get a big story out of it, but one day over spring break when we were hanging out in Mika’s room I saw the sword and asked him why he had it. He proceeded to tell me the story above, and I knew that it had a special meaning to Mika and it wasn’t just some souvenir he picked up when visiting a castle.

Mika tells me he plans to pass the sword on to his son, and even though he doesn’t use it for the same purpose his Uncle did when he passed it on to him, he wants to keep it in the family as an heirloom. He hopes to keep the story associated with the sword, as it is something that is a part of their family history and where they come from.

 

My thoughts:

 

I personally am a big fan of family heirlooms and their passing down from generation to generation. I think it gives the holder a reminder of where they came from and not to forget their roots and their family. I think the story is a great accompanying piece to the sword, and it is a great conversation starter.

I don’t personally have a family heirloom, but I would like to start one by passing something on to my son that has a deeper meaning, not just something I decide to give as a gift but will be cherished and passed on through many generations.

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Finnish Tradition

Main Piece: Finnish Tradition

 

Told to me by my high school friend Mika, about his Finnish grandmother:

 

“On Christmas before dinner Mummi(his grandmother) would sneak off into the forests near their house with her brothers and sisters to go pick wild boysenberries, and explore in the forest.

After picking berries and bringing them back to the house, her brothers and sisters would go into the sauna, then after a short while after getting hot in the sauna they would run out and jump into either the snow or into a freezing cold lake.”

 

 

Background:

 

My friend Mika told me this story after I had first met his grandmother Mummi, and she had a very heavy accent so I asked where she was from. He told me that her and her husband were born and raised in Finland, so he went on to tell me some stories that she had passed down to him.

He particularly likes this story because he grew up in southern California where his house was surrounded by other houses, and the weather rarely dropped below 65. We have been friends since elementary school, and in the winter we used to go in his sauna when it was freezing cold out and after we got too hot we would run out and jump into his freezing (most likely 60 degree) pool, and cool off. I never really thought anything of this, just thinking it was something we did when we were bored and hanging out. But Mika did this because of what his grandmother had told him about when she was a kid.

 

Context:

 

Mika was first told this story during one of his family gatherings at Christmas time. Mummi told this story when they were all sitting down at dinner as a way to pass on her heritage to her grandchildren. That was another tradition that Mika told me had been in his family for many years, where they would have Christmas dinner with extended family, having grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins all for a large feast.

There isn’t much other context this sort of tradition would be passed on in, other than if you were in Finland and were attending their family Christmas. This may not necessarily a country wide tradition, but it is something unique to their family given where Mika’s grandmother was raised.

 

My thoughts:

 

I think this a pretty interesting tradition as it is very specific to the location and climate where Mummi grew up. It seems like something only the children would really do, as getting your body hot then jumping into something freezing cold to cool you off seems like a bad idea. My family has a Christmas tradition of watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation every Christmas eve, and I like to think this is a lot like that .

general

Family Heritage

Folklore Piece 13

 

Main Piece: Story of the Romanov Family

 

My family is distantly related to royalty through the Romanov family, and my mother told me this story as a part of our heritage.

 

“The Romanov Family rules Russia for over 300 years. The last Czar of Russia was Nicholas II, and he had been in power for over 20 years. In 1917, Russia was on a downturn in terms of following the current diplomatic state of the Czar. Their economy was on the downturn as a result of their involvement in World War 1. The Lenin-led Bolshevik revolution led what was called the Red Army in an attempt to overthrow the Czar, who’s loyalists were attempting to contain the coup, referred to as the White Army.

A curse was put upon the royal family by Grigori Rasputin, who was the advisor to the Czar. The general public blamed their misery on Rasputin because of his poor job of advising the Czar, including getting Russia involved in World War 1. Sensing something was coming, Rasputin warned Nicholas II of a prophecy: ‘Czar of Russia, if you hear the bell, it is telling you that Grigori has been murdered and you must know this: it was one of your relations who brought death upon me, and no one of your blood will live past two years, being killed by the Russian people.’

Both of Rasputin’s prophecies came try. Only two weeks after warning Nicholas II, Rasputin was killed by Prince Yusupov, who was married to a niece of Nicholas II, meaning his death was family related as was prophesized. A year and a half later, the entire Romanov family was executed once Lenin’s Red Army had seized power.

It is believed that Princess Anastasia of the Romanov family escaped the firing squad of the Bolshevik’s, carrying with her many family jewels. It is still unclear what was the outcome of Princess Anastasia, as she disappeared after escaping the overthrown state.

Imposters have tried to identify themselves as her over the years, but in 2008 there were remains found that match her DNA.”

 

Background:

 

My mom Laurie told me this story as a partial history of my heritage. I am distantly related to the Romanov family on my father’s side of the family, and my great grandmother told my mom this story once when my mom and dad still lived in Canada. My mom likes this story because it gives us a small bit of heritage in a royal family, and she thinks that is very cool to be able to say. She likes that it is historical while at the same time has a mysterious side to is, as it is still unclear what was the outcome of Princess Anastasia.

My great grandmother died before I had the chance to really have a conversation with her, let alone remember having seen her, and she had many stories about our family’s past. My Great Grandparents were raised in Eastern Europe during World War 2, as my Grandfather told me the story of how his father lost three fingers on his right hand. He was out playing in the field with his siblings when a grenade landed in front of him, and being a naïve child, ran to it to pick it up. It detonated near him, causing only damage to his hand but blowing off his middle, ring, and pinky fingers in the process.

 

Context:

 

My mother told me this story to give me a sense of where our family came from, and although we are distantly related, we still hold close to our heritage. When people ask what nationality our family is, saying Canadian isn’t exactly intriguing to people, and since my grandparents were the first generation to live in Canada, we tend to tell people we have Eastern European roots, giving this story as a background to where we come from.

This is generally told when someone asks about our heritage, and doesn’t necessarily have much context otherwise. It is usually an attention grabber, as most people would not expect my family to be of Eastern European descent, let alone royalty. Obviously the Romanov’s were overthrown, but to still have a connection to them is something I will hold on to and tell my kids about.

 

My thoughts:

 

As a kid, I loved the movie Anastasia, which was an animated depiction of how Anastasia escaped the Bolsheviks and was on the run to avoid getting executed. I like the mysterious aspect to the story in that we are not entirely sure what ended up happening with Anastasia. I personally would’ve loved to have a distant relative still in royalty but just being related to something so significant in history.

 

Myths
Narrative

How the Islands were fished out of the ocean

Main Piece: Hawaiian Legend

 

“So the legend goes, Maui was out fishing with his brothers in a canoe one day, when he cast out a line. He had something big on the line, and told his brothers to row, and not look back, as it was a bad omen when fishing from a canoe to look behind you while rowing.

The brothers did not look back, and Maui continued reeling in his catch. Once he got it up, it became known that Maui had fished the Hawaiian Islands out of the sea.”

 

Background:

 

Danny told this story as a creation story of the Hawaiian Islands. Maui is a demigod in Hawaiian mythology, being the son of the two major deities in Hawaiian mythology. Danny likes this story because it is a creation story, and although untrue, gives the natives a good mythological explanation of how the Hawaiian Islands came to be that they can pass on as a part of their beliefs.

Danny likes this story because even though it is obviously not true, it is something almost every Hawaiian believes in, and all other people in the world will just disprove with science. He likes that it is a story dating back to the original inhabitants of the island, and gives him a sense of pride in his culture and where he comes from.

 

Context:

 

Danny told me this is a legend that would be told as a bedtime story. He does not remember the exact details but remembers the main story of it, but he does remember it as a prominent story from his childhood. He says his grandmother used to tell it to him and his siblings, and his mother would occasionally tell it as a bedtime story.

There aren’t many other contexts this story would be told in, other than possibly in a children’s book explaining how the islands came to be, or as a tour guides introduction to the history of the islands.

 

My Thoughts:

 

This story reminded me a lot of stories such as the Grand Canyon story where Paul Bunyun dragged his axe behind him as he was walking, and carved out the Grand Canyon, or a Native American story where the Kiowa’s came to earth through a log. Creation stories are generally too far-fetched to be true, but the general consensus of the people who live there is a small sliver of belief in the myth, but more so they serve as something to hold on to as a piece of their cultural heritage.

 

 

 

For another version of this story, see here: Maui (http://kms.kapalama.ksbe.edu/projects/ahupuaa/waianae/wan/wan12maui/index.html)

Folk Beliefs

Hawaiian Superstition

Main Piece: Hawaiian Superstition

 

This was told to me by my Hawaiian teammate Danny:

 

“You are not supposed to take sand or rocks from the beaches in Hawaii, as it will upset Pele and she will curse you.”

 

Background:

 

This is more so a superstition that is used for tourists to the islands, as an incentive to not take sand or rocks from the beaches. The goddess Pele, who is believed to curse you for taking them, is known as the goddess of fire, volcanoes, lightning, and is known as the creator of the Hawaiian Islands. It is told that when rocks or sand are taken from the beaches, you are taking away Pele’s home and this is why she curses you. The only way to please Pele is to return whatever was taken, and not take anything else away.

This is another generally known superstition in the Hawaiian Islands, and Danny tells me it is something told to help preserve the environment in Hawaii, and keep nature the way it is and just appreciate it in the moment and not take a souvenir that is a natural part of the earth.

 

Context:

 

This is a superstition told to tourists to prevent them from taking sand and rocks from the beaches to hopefully preserve the ecosystem and not disrupt nature and the islands natural beauty. If every tourist who went to Hawaii took one rock or one bottle of sand, the make-up of the many popular tourist destinations would not be the same, and it could harm the ecosystem of the plants and animals that inhabit them.

There is no other context that this could be told in, other than a parent telling their kid to just leave nature as it is, because if it was made that way, that’s the way it was supposed to stay. Danny was told this by his mother who was a big advocate for respecting nature and keeping everything the way it naturally came to be. It is also a pride thing for Hawaiians, because they want to preserve the beautiful place they live in and keep it from changing unnaturally.

 

My thoughts:

 

I had actually heard this superstition before once when I went to Hawaii. My brother and I had made what we called “beaches in a bottle” one day where we would fill an empty plastic bottle with half sand and half ocean water and a piece of rock or coral, and when we were coming back to the hotel from the beach one of the workers told us that if we took the sand, it would upset the beach gods and we would have bad luck until we returned it back to its rightful place. We immediately returned everything to the ocean and didn’t think to take anything again. This gave me a better appreciation for experiences, and not necessarily needing a souvenir or any sort of memorabilia to remember a place.

Humor

Anti-Joke

Main Piece: Anti-Joke

 

My brother told me this joke:

 

Brother: “Ask me if I’m a tree.”

 

Me: “Are you a tree?”

 

Brother: “No.”

 

Background:

 

This is my brother’s go to joke and has been for a while, and he finds it funnier than the person who he tells it to. He was told this by a teammate in high school who is around the same age as him, and tells me it is called an “anti-joke.” This was a big thing for a while, when people would begin to tell a joke and the listener would expect a funny punchline, but there really is no comical aspect to the joke. Here is another example of a joke like this:

What is green and has wheels?

Grass, I lied about the wheels.

 

My brother loves this joke because it is generally not seen as funny, but the fact of how stupid it is and how the listener is trying to think of what the punchline is leaves them dumbfounded by how simple it is and how there really is no point to the joke. Some people may think of how stupid the teller is, but once the joke sets in the listener tends to find it pretty comical.

 

Context:

 

This joke doesn’t necessarily have a subject, but is more so something you tell people at a random time when they’re unhappy or need to get their mind off something, because you are so caught off guard by the joke not having a punchline and having no real point.

That being said, there really isn’t a specific time or place when this joke is told, but rather it comes up when least expected and tends to catch the listener off guard, and that is what can make it so funny.

 

My thoughts:

 

I personally find this joke pretty funny, but I have a pretty odd and very far out sense of humor. My brother first told me this one day when I got home from water polo practice after a rough day of classes and the coach ripping me for messing up, and I had a pretty downer mood at that point. He had picked me up that day and could tell I was in a bad mood, and the first thing he said to me was, “ask me if I’m a tree.”

I find the stupidity of anti-jokes to be the funniest part, and seeing the confused and puzzled look on the listeners face more satisfying than the joke itself. I have used this joke occasionally and it tends to put a smile on the listener’s face whenever I tell them.

Folk Beliefs

Whistling at Night in Hawaii

Main Piece: Hawaiian Superstition

 

“It is told that you are not supposed to whistle at night in Hawaii, because it is believed to summon the Menehune who will capture and kill you”

 

Background:

 

My teammate Danny was born and raised in Hawaii, and this is a very common superstition in Hawaii. The Menehune are believed to be dwarf sized people, who live in the hidden valleys and forests in Hawaii, far out of sight of the humans.

Danny told me that he does not remember who specifically told him this superstition, but tells me it is just a generally well known superstition on the islands. He likes this superstition because it is just one of those random things that is known primarily by natives. This is especially interesting because Hawaii is a dominant tourist destination, and this could be one of those facts dropped by tour guides or natives to possibly scare the tourists or add a level of mystery to the island.

 

Context:

 

Like I said earlier, this is most likely a fact told to tourists by tour guides or natives working at a restaurant or something along those lines. It could also be something told by parents to their young kids when they go out to keep them from staying out to late at night, by instilling a little bit of fear in them to keep them out of trouble.

It could also be something found in a tourism book or a history of the islands when speaking of the mythological beings, the Menehune. This also seems to be more of a legend told around a campfire at night or at a luau, because it doesn’t seem like it would be one of those things that you are just walking down the street with your friend and they say “Oh hey by the way, don’t whistle at night or it will summon the Menehune.”

 

My thoughts:

 

I personally think this is sort of a Hawaiian version of the Boogeyman, being one of those things that scares kids into behaving and giving a far out consequence if not followed. Obviously an adult is not going to believe that a dwarf sized human is going to appear solely by the simple act of whistling, but a naïve and imaginative child would most certainly believe it.

I doubt this would come up in any other context aside from the ones told above, but it is an interesting fact that could be thrown around on a vacation with one’s family when visiting the Hawaiian Islands, that could make you seem fairly knowledgeable on the location. I have been to Hawaii many times before hearing this and I had never heard it so I doubt it is used much outside of family superstition.

 

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