Author Archives: fdarden

Armenian Coffee Recipe

Main Piece: 

Informant- “ I would like to share with you my culture’s coffee, Armenian Coffee. The first step is you add 1 cup of water per person. I am making this for me and my mother. I added a little bit of extra water because you want to make sure the cup is filled to the brim. 

So then I use columbian coffee and add it just a little bit over a spoonful of coffee. Add a little more so about 3 spoons. I like my coffee very strong. You can use coffee that is ground up very finely. 

Then start the stove on high and let the water boil.

It is important that you use the proper coffee cup in order to complete the fortune reading at the end.  You also use Jazve coffee pot which is also used in many cultures, Armenians, Turks, Persians. 

So when it is boiling you can let the foam break or keep it. I like the foam because it is full of tons of antioxidants and tastes really good. 

So now my coffee is done and I will pour it in. Make sure to fill the cup all the way to the top.” 

Background: The informant learned the Armenian Coffee recipe from her mother. In the video, she explains that she is making a cup for her and her mother. Armenian coffee is meant to be shared, an important way to bond with family and friends. 

Context: This piece was collected from a full tutorial video created by my informant. The informant lives with her family in Los Angeles and is 20 years old. The tutorial describes the steps to creating Armenian coffee. It is too long to upload so I have included an outline of the audio. 

Thoughts: This is an interesting tradition that is important to her family. She spends time making coffee for her grandmother and mother and remembers times they made her coffee. This recipe is important to the Armenian culture and is recycled through generations. 

Champagne Cork Game

Main Piece: Informant recalls the game of catching the champagne cork

Informant- So whenever we have champagne to open my sisters and I immediately run outside and prepare for the fun cork catching game. My father stands on one side of the yard and my siblings and I wait on the other. He opens the champagne, the cork flies, and we all scramble around trying to catch it. Whoever catches the cork is given good luck! 

Interviewer- When do you play the game? 

Informant- Usually whenever my dad pulls out the champagne, we are celebrating something. Whether it is good weather, luck with work, or a simple good mood the champagne represents happiness and celebration in my family. This drink comes with the fun lucky game of catching the cork. 

Interviewer- Do you try to win? Do you believe in the luck of the cork? 

Informant- Oh I always try to win. I love any opportunity to mess around with my siblings. I usually win the cork and love the feeling of catching it. I dont know is I particularly believe that it brings me luck but I feel great and love the celebration! 

Background: The informant is the eldest daughter of a large family with two younger sisters. She recalls playing the game with her sisters many times throughout childhood. She explains that as the eldest child she always wins and gets the corks good luck. She learned this game from her father and shares it with her friends. She remembers using the game as a playful release, pushing over sibling or wrestling for the best spot to catch it. The game is important to her because it is a happy way to celebrate opening champagne with friends or family. 

Context: The informant is 25 years old and the oldest of three daughters. The piece is recorded from her memory of playing the game. She recalls playing the game outside because the cork could break something or the champagne could spill. The game is usually played with a group of 2 or more ‘catchers’ and one person opening the bottle. She explains that her father is usually the one opening the bottle and she takes that role when playing the game with friends. 

Thoughts: This game was an important part of their childhood connecting the siblings as well as the father with his kids. It is important for parents to pass down fond memories, connecting them to their own childhood. The game is very simple and the folk belief is carried with the lucky powers of the cork. I am unsure if the player who catches the cork is given luck in reality. But this does give the person a chance to be celebrated. 

Camp Merrie Woode Table Prayers

Main Piece: 

Informant- Here are the breakfast, lunch, and dinner prayers. Each is sung in a large group and before eating. 

Breakfast prayer- “ god has created a new day, silver and green and gold, live that the sunset may find us, worthy his gift to hold” 

Lunch prayer- “for health and strength and daily food we give ye thanks o lord”

Dinner- “evening has come the board is spread thanks be to god who gives us bread”

Interviewer- Do you sing the prayer songs outside of camp?

Informant- I usually only say the prayers with other Merrie Woode girls. But when I come home from camp though, I find myself saying those prayers for a while. They are stuck in my head and are a habit. I hold on to what it means beyond just the prayer. It connects me to god but also connects me and my Merrie Woode family as a whole. It reminds me of being in the dining hall with everyone. 

Background: The informant is 18, a counselor at Camp Merrie Woode. She began attending Camp Merrie Woode at age 7 as a camper and returned every summer. Camp Merrie Woode is a catholic all-girls Summer camp. The Merrie Woode community is extremely important to her and represents a family. The prayers are an important connection for her to be thankful for her Merrie Woode family and to God. The prayers hold a religious aspect but also reflect the larger group of loving people that the camp. 

Context: This prayer is sung by a large group of people at mealtime at Camp Merrie Woode. The dining hall is a large room that seats over 200 people. The campers range from 6-13 and counselors are usually young adults. The groups sing the songs together in unison. The camp is in session only during the summer months. The camp is located on a lake in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina

Thoughts: The oral tradition of dinner prayers allows for multiplicity and variation. This version of the dinner prayer is used in the specific Camp Merrie Woode community and creates a unity during the sacred time of prayer. The repetition of these phrases is important because it creates a community that sings and prays in unison. The large group of people participating in the prayer creates a powerful experience with loud voices echoing through the dining hall. This experience is an important aspect of singing prayer. The importance and meaning of the prayer represent the camp community. Even while not at camp, people sing this prayer and are reminded of the strong bond they share with the Camp Merrie Wood community. 

“Hotty Toddy” Ole Miss Greeting

Main Piece: 

Informant: Hotty Toddy is a saying that represents an Ole Miss rebel. 

Interviewer: What does the phrase mean? 

Informant: Hotty Toddy is a rallying cry, an identifier as to who you are and who you support, it crosses boundaries in ways that only sports and the unconditional love of a team or a college can. If you say Hotty Toddy you are showing your support for the Ole Miss Rebel community

Interviewer: When did you first use or hear the phrase? Do you still use the phrase even though you are no longer a student at Ole Miss?

Informant: I heard the phrase when I first attended Ole Miss and started using it immediately and felt connected to the community. And yes of course! I scream hotty toddy when I am excited or cheering on or complimenting a friend. I will continue to use the phrase for the rest of my life!

Interviewer: When was the last time you said Hotty Toddy or encountered the phrase? 

Informant: Recently in NYC I heard a stranger yell “Hotty Toddy” my way when wearing an Ole Miss hat. I yelled it back and felt an immediate connection. This made the large city feel smaller because I knew my Ole Miss family extended to NYC as well. 

Background: The informant shares that she learned the saying from peers and word of mouth from her time studying at Ole Miss. She explains the phrase represents a community around the school. The phrase is used as a greeting. She used the phrase as a student and continues to use the phrase in different scenarios. 

Context: The information was collected between informant and interviewer as an interview recalling times the phrase was used. The informant is a recent graduate to Ole Miss and recalls using the phrase numerous times. 

Thoughts: This saying “Hotty Toddy” has varied meaning and is used in many different scenarios. The phrase is used as a greeting, cheer, or secret message. “Hot Toddy” has changed over time. The first documented evidence of the phrase (then written as “Heighty! Tighty!”) appeared in a November 19, 1926 copy of the student newspaper, The Mississippian. Although originated in sports, the saying has expanded beyond sports and campus connecting the Ole Miss community in weddings, funerals, on social media platforms, and every day life. 

Southern California Slang: “Hesh”

Main Piece:

Interviewer: What does Hesh mean?

Informant- It’s a casual word I use when talking about a vibe or aesthetic. I would use it as an adjective to describe someone or their Instagram. It means that someone has a causal aloof style and vibe. Like they don’t really care or have a skater look to them. Someone who is hesh is down to earth and goes with the flow. Usually, they never look into the camera in pictures or post photos of aesthetic things. 

Interviewer- Does it describe people and places? How would you use it?

Informant-  It describes a person and their style, not a place. I would say, “ She is so chill and has a hesh vibe.”

Interviewer- Who do you use the word with? Would some people not understand you? 

Informant- I only use the word with my friends and feel people on the eat coast wouldn’t understand it. 

Background: The informant shares that she used the word frequently in casual situations with her southern California friends. She learned the word from her southern California friends.  The word represents a style and aesthetic of a casual skater vibe. The word is an adjective used to describe the character of a person. She likes to repeat the word because it describes a characteristic that other adjectives don’t capture. She explains that she and her friends all understand what it means and communicates. It is an esthetic that she and her friends strive to have. 

Context: The interview above was taken in a casual setting as the informant recalling times using the word hesh. 

Thoughts: The word ‘Hesh’ is a slang used in with young adults in Southern California. The slang word describes a vibe and character that other words can not. This aspect brings exclusivity to the group that uses the word. The aesthetic of Hesh has positive connotations and is a popular ‘cool’ term. The word has original roots from the 1980’s LA skater community and subcultures.  From the informant’s description, the term also carries a digital aspect applying to social media platforms like Instagram. She describes Instagram aesthetics that strive to be hesh with their posts. 

Quarantine Meme: Hand Sanitizer

Main Piece:

Background: The informant and group of students in the chat respond and understand this piece because of its relevance. The young students feel a connection to the importance of hand sanitizer and also identify with the apple product AirPods. AirPods were an important new product circulating in 2019 which many students identify with. The meme pokes fun at the new best product of 2020 being hand sanitizer due to the coronavirus. 

Context: This meme circulated through a group of college students group chat in early April 2020. The students were all around 20 years old. 

Thoughts: This meme is interesting because it comments on the relevance of commercial products in folk culture. Social groups hold brand loyalty and identity with certain products and therefore those products are apart of their folk identity. In 2019 groups attached their identity to the new Apple AirPods. This brand loyalty is compared to the new identification with the hand sanitizer product due to Coronavirus. Now people everywhere identify with the hand sanitizer product and always have it by their side or attached to their belts. This commercially produced product has increased meaning to culture. 

Wishbone Game

Main Piece:

Informant: After eating dinner my sister and I grabbed the wishbone from the counter. The rest of the family gave their permission and all gathered around the watch the game. My sister and I sat across from each other on the dinner table and held both ends of the bone, with our elbows level on the table. No one is allowed to be positioned in a higher ground or else it is unfair. So we waited for my dad to say ‘Go!’ and then we both pulled the bone in opposite directions. Unfortunately, my sister won the game and because her side of the bone was larger after it broke. So she got all the luck and was able to make a wish from winning the larger side of the bone.  

Interviewer: How do you find the bone in the bird?

Informant: Well my dad loves this game and usually handles cleaning the meat off the chicken bones. So he always knows where to search for the wishbone. It looks like a V and is delicate! I think it’s in between the shoulders but really my dad knows. 

Interviewer: When do you know to play the game?

Informant: Well the bone is easily breakable so you always have to be extra careful when handling it. So my dad always lets the kids play but loves to watch and make sure we are extra focused. So my sisters and I are always eager to play the game right after dinner but sometimes my dad makes us wait till the bone is dry and ready to be broken! 

Background: The informant is 22 years old and home visiting her family of sisters and parents. The game is a family tradition when they are eating birds, bought, or hunted. The whole family participates in the game as observers or the second player. The informant recalls playing this game at a young age usually after dinner or once the bones have properly dried the next day. She learned this game from her father who insists on using the bone to make a wish, recounting his own memories playing with family and friends. The informant recalls this memory and continues this tradition because it is a fun way to bring friends and family together. 

Context: This piece was performed at the dinner table between siblings after dinner. The whole family has gathered around the watch the game. After the game ended, I interviewed the informant and learned more about the tradition. 

Thoughts: This is an interesting superstitious game played in the family setting. The family uses the bones from the meal they had just eaten. This is interesting because the luck comes from the food on the table. Whether the luck is real or not, the game brings camaraderie and light hearted fun to the family. It is deemed to be unlucky not to save the “Wish Bone” when eating a chicken or bird, and that this game is apart of the whole bird eating process as a whole. When returning home from living away from your family there is a need to play old childhood games and continue traditions. 

Armenian Coffee Readings/ Ritual

Main Piece:

Informant- “So when you are done drinking your Armenian Coffee you want to flip the cup away from your body and place it down into the saucer. You wait for the grounds to fall from the bottom of the cup. This is why it is important to use the Armenian style espresso cup which is not rounded on the sides. The grounds fall down the sides of the espresso cup and dry at the bottom. 

So you should never read your own fortune. Thats what my friend, who is a professional Armenian coffee cup reader, tells me. 

Waiting for the coffee to dry is important because it is time to have a conversation with your friends or family. 

So when its ready.. you take a look at your cup. So there are a few things to look out for when you are reading someones cup. 

If you cup sticks to the bottom and is hard to take off, then someone is in love with you! This is what some people believe and it is what my Armenian grandmother told me. I have had many Armenian grandmothers teach me how to read cup and what to look out for. 

So, when you look in your cup the coffee grind will settle at the bottom. You look and interpret what you see. So for example you could see a bird, and that may mean you are about to travel or freedom. You can see an egg or something.

So it is very important to read your cup during the day. You get bad luck if it is read at night. You shouldn’t read you own cup because then you will just see what you want to see. If the cup is very dark and filled with ground then your mind is full. If the cup has clear spots then your mind is at ease. 

Lastly you should hold your cup and think of an intention or wish and then mark the bottom of the cup with your finger.”

Background: The informant learned about the practice of reading the coffee cup from her mother and grandmother. She says it is a fun way to keep traditions. Reading cups is a good bonding experience and has connected her to her parents and grandparents. 

Context: This piece was collected from a video tutorial sent by the informant. Here is the audio transcription describing her experience with coffee readings. In the video she shows the espresso cup used and the different shapes of dried coffee grounds. 

Thoughts: This is a very interesting tradition and fun activity that brings family and friends together. This is an interesting folk practice and belief that is widely believed. She explains her friend who is a professional coffee reader. You can read more about the history of cup reading or  Tasseography in many blogs or academic sources. There are many professions or products distributed surrounding this folk belief. 

A variation of the Armenian coffee reading can be read about here;

Giorgi, Carina Karapetian. “Intuitive Knowledge: The Queer Phenomenology of Armenian Matrilineal Rituals of Tasseography.(Essay).” Armenian Review, vol. 56 -2, no. 1, Armenian Review, Mar. 2018.

Christian Dinner Prayer

Main Piece: 

Informant- Dinner prayer: “God bless this food which now we take and do us good for Jesus sake.” 

Interviewer- Do you add or take away things when repeating the prayer?

Informant- I always keep the beginning, but I add specific stuff at the end. Never more than a short phrase

Interviewer- Where did you learn this prayer? 

Informant- My father shared it with me at a young age at church. I think it was a little rhyme on a church prayer cube in the kid’s section. You could roll the cube and read different prayers but we found the one that we like the best and it stuck with us. 

Interviewer- Is your variation of the prayer particularly important to you?

Informant- It reminds me of my family but honestly I just like the prayer because it rhymes (laughing). I really prefer praying with rhymes

Background- The informant feels a connection to this prayer because her parents showed her the rhyme when she was younger and it has become a habit. She remembers and repeats this prayer because she prefers to says prayers that rhyme. This prayer is important to her because it reminds her of her close-knit family dynamic. 

Context- This prayer is performed before at the dinner table before eating. The informant explains that the family members held hands in a circle and one family member repeats the prayer. The informant is an only child with two parents. The family is Christian and worships at a Lutheran Church. They live in Gastonia, North Carolina.

Thoughts: Prayer is a part of religious folklore that allows for much multiplicity and variation. It is interesting how each person speaks and prays to God in their own way. The informant shares that she speaks to god closely through rhyming. This shows how prayers and give thanks for food can vary across families. Christians usually pray before eating the food and mainly at the dinner meal. 

Kill Ritual: Hunter’s first Deer Kill

Main Piece: 

Informant- So whenever a young adult kills his first deer the group of hunters performs a blood tradition that celebrates the kill. After skinning the animal, the friends smear blood across the young hunter’s face. The young hunter is usually squeamish but accepts the honor of the tradition. Then the hunter must wear the blood with pride and wait for it to dry.”

Background: The informant learned this tradition when he first killed a deer and participated. He felt the tradition was an important moment to celebrate killing his first deer. Wearing the deer’s blood is a prideful notion. The tradition is important because it celebrates the hunting practice and is a rite of passage. The informant explains that the blood rituals express respect for the hunter and the animal.

Context: The tradition is usually performed by hunting partners to the hunter that has killed his first deer. The hunter is usually a young adult embarking on his first experience killing a larger animal. 

Thoughts: This tradition is a right of passage in the hunting community. It is a tradition that celebrates killing your first deer. This tradition circulates around the hunting community in many variations and changes from making the hunter bite into the deer’s heart or pushing his face into the deer’s guts. The ritual brings exclusivity to the group and ties them together with a bond of respect and honor. The ritual offers a way to give respect to the deer. The tradition can be dated back for many years and represents an initiation into the hunting world. This tradition is dated back to the 700s A.D as a tribute to St. Hubert. In this version of the tribute, the hunter received crosses with blood placed on his forehead and cheeks. This tribute gave thanks to the animal and celebrated the hunter.