Author Archives: Brendan Hack

Mexican Proverb

Main Piece:

 

Mexican Proverb – “Mucho hablar y poco decir juntos suelen ir”

 

Transliteration – “Much talk and little say often go together”

 

Translation – “The empty vessel makes the most noise”

 

Background:

 

This is a proverb taught in schools and just as a general life lesson. It was told to me by my Mexican nanny, Mirna, who has been with my family for nearly 19 years, and she likes it because of its meaning as a way to determine someone’s ignorance. My nanny was told this saying at a young age by her mother, as a way to teach her proper etiquette when speaking and how to carry herself to stay on people’s good side, as well as how to tell when someone might just be talking out of their rear end.

My nanny has always been sort of quiet, and only really joining into a conversation when she had something to add. My sister was always just a talkative one and oftentimes just spoke to make noise, and my nanny would oftentimes just sit there and listen so as to please my sister. She would actually tell us this in Spanish when we were young, because being exposed to her speaking Spanish we could understand it a little bit, but I did not pick up on the deeper meaning of it.

 

Context:

 

I just asked for a proverb from home and this is what was told. It doesn’t seem to make much sense at first, but when it is looked deeper into the meaning of the two words – one being talk, and one to say – it is meant to say that just because someone talks a lot, doesn’t mean they really have much to say. The translation serves to say that those who have the least in their mind tend to talk and talk when they don’t really say anything.

When you hear someone talking and they just keep babbling on and on, a lot of what they say isn’t necessarily intelligent, and they are generally just talking to get attention and keep it. Because the literal translation (as given from my nanny) is “the empty vessel makes the most noise” this means that people who are empty minded tend to have a lot of nonsense to talk about.

 

My thoughts:

 

It is interesting to hear proverbs from other languages because the literal translation seems to just be nonsense but talking to someone who has grown up with it as a part of their culture and getting the explained meaning from them is much more interesting to me.  I was confused originally because with my knowledge of Spanish I thought hablar and decir meant the same thing so the saying made no sense to me but once it was explained this has become one of my favorite proverbs.

Mexican Proverb

Main Piece: Mexican Proverb

 

Original – “El burro sabe más que tú”

 

Transliteration – “The donkey knows more than you”

 

Translation – “The donkey knows more than you”

 

Background:

 

This proverb is also from my Mexican nanny, Mirna, and this one is more of an insult. My nanny says she likes to use this one especially in America because more often than not people do not understand Spanish and it is easy to offend them without even knowing. Donkeys are a large part of Mexican culture in agriculture and just life in general. They tend to be more of a source of power for hauling goods or farm equipment, and aren’t necessarily thought of as being the brainiest.

My nanny says that this was your generic grade school insult, and it was never really meant for too much harm, sort of an elaborate version of just telling someone their stupid. She and her siblings would use it on each other, and there is no profanity used in it so it was never really frowned upon by elders when they heard it.

 

Context:

 

My nanny has actually been saying this to me for a long time now, as she would talk to me and my siblings in Spanish at a young age to give us an understanding of another language while we were still apprehensive to it. Of course we would get into our usual shenanigans and she would say this to us and we would think it was funny not really knowing what it meant, but now knowing what it means it only really seems fitting as something you would say to a child, as an adult would think you were being childish if you just said “a donkey knows more than you.”

I was just told this in a face to face conversation so the real context of using it is not there, but I can see how it would be more so used between childhood friends on the playground or in instances like that.

 

My thoughts:

 

It is interesting to see how a culture’s lifestyle has an effect on how they insult each other, and even though it may be seen as something not very effective in offending someone, it can be thought of as more playful banter because obviously a donkey is not a smart animal. I doubt there is much of a real world application for this insult but it is interesting to me how it is more of an intellectual insult as opposed to simply telling someone the

Zirahuen Lake Legend

Main Piece: Zirahuen Lake Legend

 

Full Piece – Transliteration (told in English by a Spanish Speaker)

 

“The Legend say that when the fall of Tecnochtitlan. Spaniards come and was a handsome captain who fell in love with Princess Erendira. She was the daughter of King Tangazoan, the captain wanted to have her for himself so he kidnapped the princess and hid her in the valley surrounded by mountains. The Princess Erendira cry day and night, and pray to her gods to save her from her natural prison. The gods of day and night Juriata and Jaratanga decide to help her; they turn her into a mermaid and her tears were so powerful that a lake was formed in the middle of the valley.

 

Villagers say that the mermaid is still living under the deep of the lake and sometimes she emerges to punish me of evil hearts.”

 

Translation

 

“The Legend says that when Tecnochtitlan fell, Spaniards came with a handsome captain who fell in love with Princess Erendira. She was the daughter of King Tangazoan, and the handsome captain wanted to have her all to himself, so he kidnapped the princess and hid her in a valley surrounded by mountains. Princess Erendira cried day and night, praying to the gods to save her from her natural prison. The gods of day and night, Juriata and Jaratanga, decided to help her. They transformed her into a mermaid and gave her tears so powerful that when she would cry she created a lake in the middle of the valley where she was held.

 

Villagers say that the mermaid is still living in the depths of the lake and will surface sometimes to punish mean of evil hearts.”

 

Background:

 

This story was told by my Mexican nanny, Mirna, of 18 years, and it is one of her favorite stories growing up as a kid. Her mother would tell it to her brothers and sisters as a sort of bedtime story, and to teach her sons what would happen if you were mean to a woman you loved. She likes this story because it gives her a feeling of empowerment as a woman, and likes to think that it gives her a voice in her head that she won’t take crap from anyone. Her grandmother passed on the story to her mother, who then passed it on to my nanny and her siblings.

 

Context:

 

My nanny is a native Spanish speaker, but she told me in English as to help me understand, and I did not get the chance to get the full Spanish telling. The origin of the story is from the Michoacán region of Mexico, where my nanny grew up and where her family still lives to this day. It tells of the formation of the lake nearby where they live, and is more of a creation story from the region.

I think of this as more of the kind of story that would be told around a campfire or to a child as they are being put to bed, because it has both a mythological part in the story of the gods helping out the princess, and also tells of why certain things came to be near their home and gives a reason that almost dictates their way of life.

 

My thoughts:

 

When I first heard the story, I thought it was a variation of the “La Llorona” story, where a similar event occurs in that a woman is distraught by her man and ends up living in a body of water. When I asked if this was a version of La Llorona, she began to explain that this was a local legend from where she grew up, and was a story explaining the creation of the lake near where she lived.

I don’t think this was the entire story, as it seems very short and not very detailed, but it still gets the point across as being a creation story.

 

 

 

For another version of this story, see:  The Leyend of Zirahuen’s Lake (http://ourcommunityblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/leyend-of-zirahuens-lake.html)

The Story of “Pile o’ Bones”

Main Piece: Canadian Story (Pile o’ Bones)

 

Full Piece –

“The transformation of the Canadian provincial capital of Regina, Saskatchewan, over the past 130 years has been nothing short of remarkable. Back in 1882, it was little more than a pile of bones – literally.

The location, near a creek, had been a stopping point for buffalo hunters and gotten its name from remains left at the site. The mounds of buffalo bones, some left by Cree Indians, were staggering.

The bones remaining from the hunt were laid out into cylindrical piles about six feet high and about 40 feet around at the base, with the shin and other long bones protruding from the center to make stable and artistic piles.

Because of this, the city was called “Pile o’ Bones.” It was also referred to as “manybones”, “bone creek”, all of which hurt the local chamber of commerce trying to promote the area.

In 1882, Pile o’ Bones was renamed Regina, after Queen Victoria, and the name change resulted positively. It was much easier to attract immigrants to the newly named town as opposed to “Pile o’ Bones.”

 

Background:

 

My mother told me of this story, with some help from the internet to refresh her memory. My mom grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan, and this story is a big part of their heritage as is explains how a town that used to just be an old post for hunters returning from the hunt where they would discard the animal remains. My mom heard this story from her parents, and was told it in school as well.

They take pride about this in Regina, because it is now the capital of Saskatchewan in Canada. This is more so of a creation story in a sense as opposed to a myth or a legend, because it tells of why the city has such an out-there nickname, “pile o’ bones.”

 

Context:

 

Of course, the name Regina sounds oddly similar to another word that would get elementary school kids to giggle (and even the occasional adult), so when my mom would tell people where she was from, she would often give this story as a background to what the city used to be known as, so as to keep the inner 3 year-old of everyone at bay.

This isn’t the type of story that would be told around the campfire or as a bedtime story, but it does give a good idea of how certain places came to be. In this example, it shows how a simple name change can affect the overall attractiveness of a location, and without it, it would most likely never have become the province’s capital, as well as be nearly as populated.

 

 

My thoughts:

 

My mother said that still to this day people refer to Regina, Saskatchewan as “Pile o’ Bones” and unless you were from there, odds are you’re going to wonder why this is. I feel like this story is more so one that is going to be told on a tour of the city right at the beginning as they begin to talk about the history of the city, but could also be adapted and stretched to get a little more interest from the audience.

I like this piece in that it is a cultural heritage type of thing, and the natives to the town have something to hold onto as their own, and like I said not everyone who goes to visit will know why it is called Pile o’ bones, but the citizens will always have that in common with eachother.

Brazilian Cheese Bread

Main Piece: Brazilian Cheese Bread

 

My friend has a nanny named Lucia who would cook cheese bread for us when we were hanging out at his house. She cooked it for me the last time I went home, and it is a dish consisting of Cassava Flour, known as tapioca in the US, which I am told was a staple ingredient used in Brazil. They are small, pale rounds of dough, dating back to the first settlers and natives of Brazil.

Along with the tapioca, there were other ingredients used such as different cheeses and milks, not necessarily measured out but added in according to taste and what the consumer preferred.

Picture1

(I forgot to get a picture of the finished product but it was along the lines of this.)

 

Background:

 

When Lucia (my friend’s nanny) first started working for my friend’s family, she was very new to the US. She had been born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, and began working for them when my friend’s sister was 2 (she is 22 now) and would learn English along with her because she was so new to the culture.

Lucia learned this recipe from her mother, as she would prepare it for the family, and her mother learned it from Lucia’s grandmother, and so on. This is the perfect example of a recipe passed down through generations, and at this point it wasn’t something she had to look up everytime she wanted to cook it, let alone be the exact same everytime it was prepared. The ingredients would vary from time to time, adding some variety to the dish while still maintaing the same base. Different cheeses would be added to change the taste, with some being added to make it more of a dessert, while you could add different cheeses such as parmasen and serving it with a more italian meal.

 

My thoughts:

 

This cooking of cheese bread isnt necessarily my favorite, but I have found it in pastry shops as a more savory treat, and it is a nice treat from time to time. I like how it is a very adaptable dish, being able to make it with the same general ingredients but changing the variety to give it a different taste depending on the consumer. I’m personally a fan of recipes that don’t need a cookbook, with instructions that require exact measurements, and generally just give the cook a free pass to do whatever it is they want with the ingredients. This adds a level of artistic talent to cooking and I personally see it as a form of art.

Passover Dinner

Main Piece: Passover Dinner

 

I personally am not Jewish, but I had the opportunity to attend a Passover dinner at my friend Sam’s house this year with their family. We ate a lot of different foods traditionally associated with Passover. There was brisket, matzo ball soup, Gefilte fish, and a sweet matzo kugel. The matzo kugel was something new to me, so I asked about it specifically.

My friends mother told me that Kugel is a Yiddish term stemming from Germany. German Jews would mix flour, water, and apples, that created a sweet matzo-like dessert. This is a dish traditionally served in the family as a savory dessert that has a historical context to it. It consisted of Granny-Smith apples, cinnamon, sugar, butter, and matzo.

 

Background:

 

My friend told me this is a dish that has been in his family for many generations, being passed down to his mother by her mother, and to her by her mother, and so on. Matzo itself is a traditional dish in the Jewish tradition. It stems from the Jewish diaspora from Egypt, when all they had was flour and water (no yeast), which resulted in the matzo bread being flat, since it could not rise.

They liked this recipe because not only is it delicious, but it has cultural significance and is more of a delicacy made for special occasions. It isn’t just prepared for your everyday meal, and that gives you a way to make a meal special in that sense.

 

Context:

 

Passover is a celebration of their liberation by God from slavery in Egypt. It commemorates the Exodus, and lasts for seven or eight days depending on the specific religion, during the Hebrew month of Nisan. Matzo is a big part of the meal, as it is derived from the event that is being celebrated during this holiday. This is why a majority of the dishes consist of matzo, and it has a certain level of historical context to being so prominent in the celebration.

Traditionally throughout the week of Passover, Jews are not supposed to consume yeast, and only matzo, to pay homage to the religion and its history. Because this is such an important holiday in the tradition, matzo kugel is prepared for this special occasion.

 

My thoughts:

 

Personally I am not a fan of fruity desserts, I think desserts should be something along the lines of ice cream or cake. I still tried it out of respect and although it was not my favorite, I could tell it was a delicacy in my friends household, as everyone got excited once it became time for dessert.

Church Joke

Main Piece: Joke

 

“So this man gets up Sunday morning and is getting ready for church. He looks everywhere in his apartment for his hat but can’t find it. He decides to go to church and possibly steal one from the cloakroom.

When he gets to church, he sits through the service and afterwards as everyone is leaving, he goes up to talk to the priest.

‘Father, I was really inspired by your sermon today. I couldn’t find my hat this morning and I was prepared to steal one from the cloak room and your sermon on the 10 Commandments really helped me.’

The priest said, ‘Yes, thou shalt not steal is a very powerful commandment.’

And the man said, ‘Oh no no no, it wasn’t that one. When you got to the one about thou shall not commit adultery, I remembered where I left my hat.’”

 

Background:

 

My mother told me this joke, and she was originally afraid it was not appropriate enough but I told her anything goes. This is one of her favorite jokes she heard from growing up, as it was told to her by her great grandfather. He used to tell them jokes when they would have birthday celebrations for him, and he ended up living to be 104.

My mom likes this joke because it is one of those that you do not really know where it is going until the punchline, and she has used it many times before. My family would attend church every Sunday, so I think of it as a sort of comical approach to a more serious matter, which is important to have with every aspect of life.

 

Context:

 

The first time my mom told this joke my family and I were headed to brunch on Sunday after church as we always had when my siblings and I were kids. My parents would always ask us what we had learned that day in church, and this day was based around the ten commandments. My mom, being the jokester that she is, decided to whip out this joke in the car afterwards and it aroused a lot of laughter from my brother, sister, and I while my dad was slightly less impressed, but still chuckling.

I asked when else my mom would bring this joke out and it generally was along the lines of conversation based around church and religion, although it was more so when the environment was more loose and it wouldn’t offend anyone who was more so of a traditional religious person.

 

My Thoughts:

 

I like this joke in that when I first heard it I kept trying to figure out where it was leading from the beginning and it having to do with church and all. I also like that there is some sort of intelligence needed in the sense that if you do not know what adultery is, you probably won’t understand the comical aspect to it.

I’m also a fan of comedy that relieves some level of seriousness to certain subjects. Most people will generally think of church and religion as a fairly serious topic, and this being a play on one of the major teachings in the Christian religion definitely gives a sense of comic relief.

Story of Dundee

Main Piece: Scottish Story

 

From my friend Liv, who’s grandfather was born and raised in Scotland:

 

“Dundee is a town of around 150,000 residents on the east coast of Scotland.  It is known as the city of ‘jute, jam and journalism’.  Dundee is built on the river Tay estuary and was a trading center dating as far back as the 12th century.  Textiles, trading and shipbuilding were the center of the Dundee economy.  There is a story told to all elementary school kids when telling of Dundee’s glory days:  In the late 1700’s a ship of oranges from Seville, Spain had to seek refuge in Dundee harbor because of inclement weather.  Unfortunately, the delay caused by the storm caused the oranges to age and they were sold at a discount to Janet Keiller.  She was an accomplished cook and baker and she created the first marmalade with a rind present in the recipe and resulting preserve.  The Keiller family, then manufactured a large quantity of this particular brand of marmalade. The international distribution of this marmalade began in the 19th century when it was shipped throughout the British Empire and to this day it can be purchased throughout the world.”

 

Background:

 

Liv is a freshman at USC, and she told me of her grandfather who had been born and raised in Scotland, but is now living in the US. I asked her if he ever told her stories about home, and she gave me this one. Her grandfather told a lot of stories from home, and almost all were new to her because she was born and raised in New Jersey and wasn’t aware of them beforehand.

She likes this story in particular because it gives her a sort of cultural heritage that would not be felt if she didn’t have anything to relate to from her grandfather’s past. Although she is not from Scotland, she still holds this story as if it is part of her and where she was originally from.

 

Context:

 

Liv tells me her grandfather mentioned to her that this is a story told to elementary school kids about the prosperity in Dundee where he is from. This is more so a historical account of the region but it is a sense of pride for the inhabitants because of its mention of an event in history that accounted for the creation of a popular spread used worldwide nowadays.

The only other context this story would be used in would be history books talking about the creation of Orange Marmalade, or something outlining the history of Dundee and how it became to be prosperous at one time or another.

 

My Thoughts:

 

I found this story pretty interesting because I did not know where or how orange marmalade was invented, and I always find those facts to be pretty interesting. I doubt this would be used much outside of the given contexts, but it is a pretty interesting fact to pull up when talking about where their family is from.

Peruvian New Year’s Tradition

Main Piece: Peruvian New Year’s tradition

 

This was told to me by my friend Liv about a New Year’s tradition in Peru:

 

“In high school, my Spanish teacher was from Lima, Peru. She told us about celebrating New Years Eve in Peru and the many festivities that went on. First, people in Peru buy new clothing to wear on New Years Eve to represent a fresh start in a new year with new clothes. They frequently buy and wear yellow clothing, as yellow represents happiness and luck. Some people even go so far as to wear yellow underwear. Secondly, at the stroke of midnight, adults and children across Peru eat 12 grapes for good luck in the upcoming year- 12 grapes for 12 months.”

 

Background:

 

Liv is a freshman at USC, and this tradition was told to her by her high school Spanish teacher around New Years before they went on winter break. Liv likes this piece because it is a great tradition, and has much more of a meaning than how Americans usually celebrate New Year’s with parties and those types of festivities.

Liv told me she began to incorporate these traditions into her New Year’s celebration to give it a more symbolic meaning. She doubts many other people will do it, but it is something she enjoys doing.

 

Context:

 

This is a commonly practiced tradition in Peru, and occurs every year with most of the citizens participating. This tradition is only practiced on New Year’s and does not necessarily hold any other context.

 

My Thoughts:

 

I personally like this tradition, as it gives an added symbolic meaning to the New Year, not just people going out and not remembering the festivities and making resolutions that fall through within the next week.

I may start using this tradition at New Year’s, and could give me something to take the New Year seriously and use it as a time to get more done and more effectively.

English Recipe

Main Piece: English Recipe

 

This was told to me by my friend Liv, who’s grandmother was born and raised in England.

 

“My grandmother was born in Wimbledon, England and grew up during WWII. Her father worked for the British Army putting out incendiary bombs with sand and her mother did not work, so they did not have a lot of money. Because of this, my grandmother and her siblings would often eat mashed turnips or rutabaga to fill up their stomach as they were growing children. On special occasions though, their mother would make them Shepards Pie, a recipe that is still his favorite many years later. The recipe has been passed down from her mother to my grandmother, to my mother, and finally to me. It is pretty simple as it just uses the ingredients for mashed potatoes for the top, and a lot of different fresh spices, vegetables, and ground beef for the filling.”

 

Background:

 

Liv’s grandmother passed this recipe down to her, and it is one of their families favorites. Liv likes this recipe because not only is it delicious, but has a cultural connection to where her family came from and their heritage.

This was passed to Liv’s grandmother by her mother, and it continues to be passed down through the generations, and gets brought out for family gatherings and holiday celebrations.

 

Context:

 

The present day context of this recipe is not the same as what it was used for back when Liv’s grandmother first had it, but it is still used in the same sense. It is brought out at family gatherings because they all have the same ties to the culture and heritage of England, and her family’s recipe is something she holds close to her.

This is a common recipe found with microwave options and even variations at restaurants that put a modern spin on a classic dish. The origins though are English, and the traditional recipe is something unique to different families from the region.

 

My Thoughts:

 

I’m personally a fan of Shephards Pie, and remember my favorite being sold by a street vendor I passed after surfing one day. I’ve never had a traditional Shepherd’s pie, but I hope some day to try the recipe Liv has been taught by her grandmother.