Author Archive
Foodways
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Recipe for Passover Kugel

Ingredients:

–  Can of Peaches

– Cinnamon

– Eggs (however you like them)

-Matzoh Bread

 

Steps:

D.F. – “So this is the recipe for passover Kugel.  And uh, this is different from regular kugel, because regular kugel has leavened noodles in it, and that’s a no-no for passover. So:

    • Instead of using noodles, you use matzah. classic.  We also like to use Frosted Flakes, but, uh, not for passover.  Instead of using Frosted Flakes, we just use more sugar.
    • Basically you crush the matzah (or just get crushed matzah which is easier because smaller pieces).
    • You . . . put eggs together with the matzah and mix them together, and add corn starch to make the eggs and matzah rise together a little.
    • Also we use cinnamon, that’s important for kugel.
    • You need a big batch of this, on a huge pan, and you pour your combination of ingredients into the pan across the whole pan
    • You’ll also get canned peaches, set the peaches of every square of kugel that you’re gonna cut out.
    • Put it all in the oven for a long time, and eyeball it.
    • That’s some passover kugel.”

 

This is definitely something I’ve had before.  Although this person’s recipe is happy in it’s relative straight-forward-ness, I must disagree with it’s simplicity.  When my family makes passover kugel, we include all different types of spices from all over the world, just for the sake of having a crazy taste that will knock us all down.  That’s how I prefer my kugel.  Oh, and with way more peaches.

Foodways
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Jewish-American Thanksgiving

D.F. – “Every year, my family and I go to my Grandfather’s house in Oceanside CA for thanksgiving.  And during the beginning of that week, my Aunt and her family fly in from MN to start cooking.  That’s usually a Monday or a Tuesday.  They start preparing that early.  Sometimes we come Wednesday night before thanksgiving, but usually most of us come on the Thursday morning.  My family usually says that we’re gonna leave by 8:30, but we always leave like a half hour later.    And then we get to oceanside, an hour and a half away, and my Mom is always in charge of the appetizers, and she usually has too many appetizers, all from Costco, and they all have to be KOSHER.  And then, the other families get there.  And then, we all bet what time my uncle and his family are gonna get there because they’re always late.  So then everyone puts down bets for what time he’ll get there, minute by minute, I’ve won a few times.  Once they get there, that’s the pause in the day when we have to figure out what we’re going to do because that’s when everyone’s cooking and they don’t like it when everyone is in the kitchen.  So my cousins and I go play pool at my Grandpa’s senior living house thing.  I didn’t get to start doing that until I was 14 because that was the minimum age; I was really excited.  We play pool for a little while, are forced to come home, everyone sits down at the dinner table (about 25 of us).”

“There are a few people who are assigned to bring in food from the table, and it’s very important that if you did not get asked to do this, that you sit down.  We start with appetizers; now, don’t forget that we already had appetizers, but now we have these sweet&sour meat-balls that my grandma used to make for dinner appetizers.  Sometimes we have matzah ball soup sometimes, if my aunt is up for it.  My other aunt always makes small challahs for everyone.”

“Everyone goes in a circle throughout the meal, saying what they’re thankful for, that year, in front of everyone.  Eating ends.  My brother and I get s**t every year for not helping clean up enough.”

“. . . My other aunt is always in charge of the deserts.  They’re never very good.  After desert, we all take our family photo every year on my grandfather’s couch.”

 

Such structure.  This is in many ways similar to my own Thanksgiving memories, but this seems to have a lot more structure.  My family is pretty tightly wound, but every year, thanksgiving is a very laid-back holiday.  It seems that this is not the case in this household.  Thanksgiving festivities are among the most prominent folkloric experiences in the United States, as most people who live in the country choose to celebrate with loved ones and friends.  It’s interesting not only to see how similar everyone’s Thanksgivings are, but also to examine how the days often differ. Also, it’s fascinating that this person’s religion intertwines here with their nationality.  Even on a holiday such as Thanksgiving, when one’s religion is largely unimportant, her food must remain kosher.

Adulthood
Customs
Foodways
Life cycle
Magic
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Turkish Wedding Customs: Coffee

P.N. – “When Turkish girls are old enough to make a good Turkish coffee, a joke is made in the family that they are now ready to be married off.”

What happens during a traditional Turkish engagement ceremony?

P.N. – “In the actual engagement ceremony, the groom’s family sits in the living room while the bride’s family stays in the kitchen, making and preparing the food of the day.  The bride is not to sit down with the groom’s family until the end of the ceremony, because the bride is supposed to be all up, being the working woman, and that kind of stuff.”

“But, at the very end, after all the pastries are eaten and the tea is drank, you always end the ceremony with coffee.  So the bride goes in to the kitchen to prepare the coffee, and she has to carry the coffee one by one to each of the family members present, and the most important one she has to hand the coffee to is the groom.  That always happens.  She is carrying the coffee to her future husband, whether or not that is what is desired or anything.”

“If she spills any coffee onto the saucer, it’s gonna be a failed marriage, and they blame her for it.”

“That’s the whole thing; whenever I’m carrying Turkish coffee, (I used to have really shaky hands) I’d always spill it when I was younger, and my mom would always tell me I’d have bad luck.”

 

 This particular story struck me as odd, because I could tell how conflicted the person was while she was talking.  She, an extremely powerful woman, clearly doesn’t love this custom, as it’s implicit biases against women both in Turkey in general and during the wedding specifically are clear.  

 

Folk Dance

Turkish Cricket Dance

P.N. – “Right now, I just realized how much of a theme Nature is in all of our dances.  Nature plays a huge part in our own understanding of the world.  It’s why we have these two characters, Karagoz and Hacivat, who represent the dichotomy of the city and the country, fighting.  There’s a reason why we have this constant back-and-forth of going from the city to the farmland.  I think the reason for this is that there are only a few really big cities in Turkey, and people who live there are very, very different from the people who live in the villages, and we have so many villages . . . Everybody comes from a village, and they move to the city.  Only the newer generations are from the cities.  On that subject, folk dancing has given me a deeper connection with nature. A more sub-conscious thing.  I didn’t see how it impacted me before.  I think Turkish culture teaches you to respect nature.  SO . . .”

-“There’s this dance where, again, we’re crickets; and we have these spoons that we click to sound like the chirping noises.  We dance in a circle together, kinda going around, to the music, and as it slows down the music breaks and somebody sings in the tone of a prayer.  Here, we bend down and click our spoons.”

And that connects you to nature how?

“I guess because we’re portraying nature.  It adds a much more mystical aspect to it, because, like, we have such a disconnect – especially now – with nature as an entity, because we use it more as a backdrop.  These dances help me keep nature here at the forefront.  Because; think about it, we exist because of nature, and I don’t think we focus on that enough.”

 

For me, this dance brings to light a very different topic.  While this person’s other dance reminds her of hardship and oppression, this one brings up thoughts of responsibility.  The environmentalist thought that everything we do counts, and that it is our duty as inhabitants of this planet to be mindful, is mightily prevalent here.  It makes me wonder how the idea of environmentalism, modesty, and perspective play roles in our everyday lives, as well as in our cultures. 

Legends
Narrative

Nasreddin Hoca: Turkish Legend

Who is Nasreddin Hoca?

P.N. – “He’s a man we get all of our idioms and fables from essentially.  I don’t know if this guy is real; I’ve been told that he was real, but I don’t know to what extent that’s the case; it’s super old.”

You’ve been told by whom?

P.N. – “Family members, teachers, Turkish people, we would watch movies and make animations of this guy.  He’s been portrayed by everyone, but I can’t say if he’s actually real.”

“‘Hoca’ means teacher; and he is a short, chubby man, with a really really big turban.  A comically large turban.  He has a white beard, and he rides around on his donkey.  He always has a little pack on him. He is the source of most fables, all folklore comes back to him essentially.”

“I remember one story – he comes into the village, and there’s a blind man begging on the street.  He comes over and offers him money, but the blind man refuses.  He leaves the next day.  Comes back, tries to offer him money again, but again the blind man refuses.  And then, the third day he comes back and he offers him a job, and the blind man agrees.  And it kinda teaches you – give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but teach a man to fish, he’ll eat forever.”

“To me, Nasreddin Hoca symbolizes the fact that there are so many ways to help people.  A lot of it is: live your life with simplicity, be independent, grow your own food, very much just help people and accept help as well.”

Would you say that you’ve taken this mystery man’s advice into account throughout your own life?

“Without noticing, definitely.  It’s been ingrained in my head.  Not necessarily because ‘oh, Nasreddin Hoca said this,’ but more just like ‘oh, my mother said this, and she got it from this guy, who got it from Nasreddin Hoca!'”

The tale that this person told me, with the blind beggar, reminds me of how many tales are told.  Immediately, I thought of the rules of a folk tale, and how – seemingly – every rule was checked off, making it a perfect story.  This Nasreddin Hoca character was someone I’d never heard of, but he also made me think about my own interpretations of folk tales.  Do I consider all tales told to me from the perspective of one man, going through life, learning lessons?  I just might; and that thought is jarring for me.   In the same way that I may or may not think everything with one voice, I may or may not relate all folklore to one character.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

Familial Legends: Dreaming of the Devil

Every family member on J.R.’s father’s side has experienced the same DREAM.

J.R. – “Every single person in my family on my dad’s side, as far back as, like, 4 generations, has had this terrible sleep paralysis at least once in their lives, and during this nightmare they see a manifestation which they believe to be the devil.”

Can you describe the dream?

“So essentially, uh, they – well, really, it’s not a dream, it’s that; when they come to, they’re completely frozen, and usually there’s a window or a door for some reason, and by the foot of the bed.  So what my father saw was a foot-tall figure, usually completely shadowed, has appeared on their bed and walked towards them with blood red eyes.”

“As soon as it gets really close to them, it goes black, and they wake up.”

“My grandmother’s was slightly different than my father’s: she was passed out on her bed, a similar situation to my father, and it appeared.  And the staple of this figure is definitely it’s blood red eyes.”

When you think about the possibility of that happening to you as well, what crosses your mind?

“I’m intrigued, especially because of my father’s family’s interesting relationship with religion.  My dad was a mormon at one point, but now he’s not even religious . . . my grandmother had some issues which kinda drove her away from religion . . . in my eyes, I wouldn’t put it past anything – just for me, I’m not super religious.  I don’t necessarily believe in that stuff, but I don’t think my dad ever has ever, and so I’m intrigued to say the least.”

 

This is fascinating to me.  The person who told me this story is a close friend of mine, and I would have known by now if he was in any way overtly religious.  I’ve known, in fact, that he isn’t particularly religious at all, and neither is his family.  So, it shocked me to hear this from him of all people, because I would never have imagined something so spiritual, so saint-like, could have happened to that family in particular.  Subjectively, I think think that this is a prime example of spiritual fluidity, going through all members of one family.  It’s also interesting to hear what this person, who had not yet had this nightmare, has to say about the possibility of it’s occurrence.  I’d be terrified, as I often am, although he seemed so cool about it.

 

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative
Protection

Why You Can Never Keep Glass on the Floor: Puerto Rican Tale

Is this tale well known in Puerto Rico?

L.O. – “Nah, this is just something which was told to my father, and he told it to me.”

How does the story go?

“So, there was a man in my dad’s like, village, or his small town, and he’d just always leave his dishes on the floor after he finished eating and was watching TV.  And one day he tripped, and the glass cut into his neck, and he died.  *Chuckle*  And that’s why you can’t ever leave your dishes on the floor.  It’s funny, this is definitely something that you just tell your kids, so they’ll behave around the house and such.”

Do you live by those rules now?

“Yes, absolutely.  We have like, actually kept those rules in our house.  Because I used to keep my dishes all over the floor, and my dad would be like, ‘this dude injured his neck and died, don’t do that,’ and so I never do.”

When you see dishes on the floor, do you think about it?

“Yes.  Immediately.”

 

This story served to remind this person why he should never leave dishes on the floor.  For me, though, it was a reminder to always remember your roots.  While that sounds cliche, it makes sense to me.  Again this is a person who is completely independent from his previous life where he grew up.  To think that, although one day he’ll live far away from his father, he’ll always think of that one story which was told to him, is quite sentimental.  They are stories like these which we hold onto the tightest.  You can also imply this story in other walks of life, using it as lessons for your children, and their children.  

Old age
Proverbs

Italian Proverb: “Old Age is Trouble”

Is there something of a proverb that comes to mind from home?

J.A. – “La vecchia e una rogne; ma si non l’arrive, e una veregogna.” (Italian)

Translates to: Old age is trouble; but if you don’t get there, it’s a shame.

J.A. – “My parents’ people were farmers in Italy.  This saying has a fatalistic humor that resonates with me.  I feel closer to people I never knew hearing the clever play on words in the original Italian.”

 

This being a dark proverb, it brings to my mind the mortality of those I’m close with.  I got stuck for a few minutes on the first half of that sentence; “old age is trouble.”  What does that mean?  Are you going to die?  Is disease coming for you?  It’s interesting – this person thought of the proverb as an example of “fatalistic humor.”  I’d disagree with that, actually.  I’d argue that it’s a blatantly depressing proverb, explaining that any life is better than death.  The inevitability of what’s coming for you may be frightening, but – hey, at least you’re alive.

Foodways
Holidays
Material

El Trancazo: a Familial Cake

Ingredients/Steps:

– preheat oven to 250 degrees Celsius

– Have two pans ready

– 1 Kilo Butter

– 1 Kilo Granulated Sugar (slowly put into mixer while butter is whipping)

– 1 kilo flour

– Add 8 Eggs into Whipped Butter and Sugar

– 8 Egg yolks go into the same bowl

– Set aside the 8 egg whites which remain

– 2 cups of the original Kilo of flour go into Mixer

– For every cup of flour, add a tablespoon of baking powder through a sifter to the mixer

– 2 Oranges and their shavings

– Add a little bit of vanilla (eyeball it)

– Mix the rest of the flour with the juice from the oranges

– You’ll need 1 cup of warm milk; heat for 1 minute in microwave

– Mix the 8 egg whites from earlier with the milk and water

– put 2 Kilos of the batter into each pan

– Prepare topping while cake is in the oven

– put pot on stove with 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and 5 tablespoons of Cacao (bring to a low boil)

– Soak cake part of cake in Bacardi Rum

– Spread what was on the stove onto the cake and spread apricot jelly as well :)

 

A.H. – “I’m the only person who has this recipe written down, it comes from my aunt in San Luis Potosi, and everyone knows about this cake because she always makes it for everyone’s birthday.  It’s literally a concoction of a bunch of stuff; because – her family didn’t have a lot of money growing up, and she didn’t want to have to borrow money from her family, or from anyone, so the recipe basically started when she just took scraps from around the kitchen and put it into the cake.  And it’s just a little bit of everything.”

“She calls it El Trancazo, which literally means like, “getting hit,” so it’s kinda just something that’s thrown together.  And the cake is massive.”

How long has she been making this cake for everyone’s birthday?

A.H. – “The first time she made it was for her first grandchild.”

When it’s someone’s birthday, and they’re in her presence, they know it’s coming?

A.H. – “Yes.  I only learned how to make this cake because I happened to be in Mexico at the time of my cousin’s birthday, and the cake was made.  It took like all day.  If you look at photos of different birthdays, the cake is always there.”

When you think of that cake, or the idea behind it, the fact that it is just thrown together, is it a source of pride?  Identity?  Reminders of your aunt?

A.H. – “I know so much about my aunt’s upbringing – and I know that it was really tragic, really sad, like – her life sucked growing up.  So it’s that idea of – or a sense of, how mothers are just idolized.  Put on a pedestal to the nth degree.  I think it reinforces that idea, that she did what she could with what she could.  My lack of resources isn’t gonna stop me from making my grandchild’s birthday any less memorable or special.”

That’s an idea for you to to live by as well then, that never give up attitude.  As well as just, being reminded of the strength of your great aunt, and maybe your own mother.

A.H. – “Yeah.  I guess.  I don’t think that much about the cake specifically, it’s just very telling to think of everything.  It’s a lot more than just a cake.”

 

It’s a lot more than just a cake.  Again, this cake, created by this person’s aunt, is itself a symbol for the strength and resolve of her family members, some of whom grew up during tough times.  It’s easy to see a theme here; many of these submissions bring to light a strong sense of identity – of solidarity with their family.  Attributes of resolve are what create the fondest of opinions in many people, and this cake reminds me of countless other examples of strength in family.  

 

Folk Beliefs
general
Magic
Protection

Red String: Mexican method of Warding Off Evil (The Evil Eye)

Tell me about the Red String in Mexico.

A.H. – “Um, it depends on the person; but, people who are superstitious and use the whole red-string-fending-off-the-evil-eye put these strings around their babies, like, as soon as they’re born – literally.  So like, even before they’re before they’re competent, they already have this red string around them.”

And this red string repels the evil eye . . . That is what’s being repelled?

A.H. – “Right.  It supposedly does.  And I think it’s used even more on kids, because they can’t really defend themselves, and/or are less conscious of their surroundings.  Now that I think of it, adults definitely use it, but I definitely see it more on kids and babies.  In Mexico.  So, it’s really interesting what’s considered to be the evil eye itself; it can be even someone just looking at your kid on the street, and it’s obvious that they think they’re cute, or something, and I think people just have a lot of malice in them; the parent will assume like – and it’s not even always a bad thing, it can be a jealousy thing too, like someone could be threatened by some cute-ass baby . . . obviously not that that person wants to be the baby, but that they’re jealous in some way or another.”

A.H. – “If someone does see that, they have to be cleansed of that.  If not, then you’re affected by the eye, supposedly.  And I don’t really know where the egg thing comes from.”

Egg?

A.H. – “Yeah.  You’d grab an egg and rub it all over the kid’s body, and supposedly the egg absorbs the evil.  But, it’s weird – I feel like people who aren’t very superstitious still do that.”

Let’s go back to what you said about malice and the people.  Do you think that . . . the vibe, at first thought, when you have your child wearing one of these, is: you would assume that the first thing someone else would think about your child isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but is something like jealousy, or envy, 0r anger, or just a want to ruin what’s been given to you?

A.H. – “Yeah.  Whenever I ask my mom about this – because she’s the one who told me about this in the first place – It’s not even just if somebody gives you a bad look.  It’s like, you can’t really trust people, strangers- if someone’s looking at your kid, you assume it’s because they’re going to do something to them . . . I don’t know.”

So at it’s base, in it’s most rudimentary form, it’s just “stranger danger?”

A.H. – “Yeah.  It does the job of fending off the eye, as well as reminding the wearer of the dangers of what the evil eye can be.”

Would you say that if you were to see somebody wearing a red bracelet, you’d wonder why? 

A.H. – “Yeah.  For instance, a friend of mine always wears a red string bracelet and I always think about it, even though it’s probably not for the same reasons.”

And what does it make you think of?

A.H. – “I guess just what my mom told me.”

How else can you repel this evil?

A.H. – “It’s actually interesting, if some parent were to see some stranger giving their kid the evil eye, the instinct would be to ask that person to touch the child.  So once that happens, the evil is absolved, regardless of whether or not that child is wearing the red string.  At it’s roots, it’s another example of the dangers of voyeurism, I feel like.”

 

This example of the Red String vs the Evil Eye is perplexing, as it is both completely similar to and totally the opposite of another cultural superstition; that of the Turkish evil eye.  The dichotomy of cultures, as well as parallels in those same cultures, are exemplified here perfectly.  It’s funny, even, that the very thing which keeps Turkish families safe is that which is being repelled by the red string.

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