USC Digital Folklore Archives / Material
Folk medicine
Foodways

Chicken Soup

Informant was asked if she knew any good cold remedies.

Informant: So if you’re not feeling well, you should have a lot of fluids and mostly chicken soup, if you can.  Water and what have you is for the birds.  And sweet stuff won’t help unless it’s orange juice.  Fresh squeezed.  But soup, soup is what you really should be having.

Interviewer: So just a can of soup is okay?  Like Campbells?  Do you add anything to it?

Informant.: You know better than that.  You don’t open a can of it.

You need the vegetables, you need them to cook together.  Just opening something doesn’t give you anything.  It’s the making of it that makes it do for you.

Interviewer: Okay, so–

Informant: So you know, you start with a pot of water and what they used to call soup herbs.  Soup herbs, you’d get at the green grocer tied up together in a bundle and it was a little parsley, a little dill maybe, a parsnip, a carrot, some celery with the leaves, and you put that in your water with enough salt to make the water taste like something.

And then if you have it and you have the, you know, you feel you can do it, you put in a whole chicken and you just put it on the low fire.  And you let it go.  You don’t want to boil it all the way up, you want just small bubbles, you want to keep it clear and it keeps the meat from being tough, if you don’t, you know, if you let it boil and what have you.

So you don’t have a chicken, so you use maybe bones leftover from your roast chicken or I don’t know you can still, if you can, if you can get them, but chicken feet make a very rich-tasting soup, and depending on the butcher, maybe you don’t pay for them at all.

But you put these all together and you cook it for a couple of hours and you put maybe a little pepper or lemon juice in it if you want something more to it, rice or kasha [buckwheat groats] if you want it substantial, and then you throw away your soup herbs and you shred any meat you want to have with the soup, or you save it and you make chicken salad, but you can put more vegetables and heat them through and let them get soft before you eat it.

And don’t skim off the fat, that’s the best part.

Foodways
general
Holidays
Life cycle
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Longevity Noodles


“Every birthday celebration, no matter where, and no matter the age, we always ate noodles to signify a long life.”

The informant was born in Taipei, and grew up in Shanghai.

After thoughts: Longevity is one of the most respected ideals in Chinese culture, and reflects Taoism philosophy. Longevity is most commonly associated with birthdays, and noodles became the food metaphor because it;s long and continuous in shape. It’s important to not break off the noodle you are eating, since the longer it is, the longer it suggests your life will be. Also, cutting the noodles is considered unlucky and equivalent to cutting your own life. Longevity noodles symbolizes a long and healthy life.

Foodways
general
Holidays
Material

Texas Sheet Cake

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

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

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

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

Customs
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Tamil Wedding Gifts

Informant: My friend’s family is from southern India, and every few years they go back in the summer for family weddings. This past summer she went to three, and recounted some of the traditions for me.
Original Piece: “Wedding traditions… there’s so many. This is very specific to Christian Tamil weddings. Bride and grooms families, they exchange fruits. And you give fruits because it’s a symbol of plenty… like having a lot, you know? Like fruitfulness, you know? It’s like a blessing. There’s a lot that has to do with food in all the traditions. Because it’s a symbol of plenty.
The bride’s family buys the groom a gold chain. Why do they do this…. it’s the first gift to give. Gold is a very big part of Indian culture and tradition, because it doesn’t lose value. So giving it to people in different life phases is very important, so it’s the first gift they give to the son-in-law. And they put it on during the wedding ceremony. The groom’s family buys the girl gold bangles and puts in on during the ceremony as well.”
Context of Piece: My friend was showing me pictures from this summer, and I asked her to tell me a bit more about their weddings customs.
Thoughts about the Piece: I really like this piece, and learning about the tradition of gifts in the culture. Rather than toasters or pots and pans, they get food and gold, all symbolic for the marriage.

Customs
Foodways
general
Material

Tamil Wedding Food

Informant: My friend’s family is from southern India, and every few years they go back in the summer for family weddings. This past summer she went to three, and recounted some of the traditions for me.
Original Piece: “Wedding food is a tradition, because we always have the same thing. You have your vegetarian floor, and your non-vegetarian floor. and rows of tables, and rows and rows of banana leaves. And you sit, and men come around with these huge silver—what are they called… like a canister. Like a really big canister and a ladle of food. and they put it on your plate unless you say you don’t want it. Like you have biryani…Tandoori chicken…and some other vegetable dishes.
But not everyone can eat at the same time because there’s too many people.
There’s another part of the wedding where the bride and groom stand at the end of the stage and people come and talk to them individually. So you’re either waiting for food or waiting to talk to the bride and groom. And people go up and talk to the bride and the groom, and give their gift, and take a picture. And so the bride and grooms can talk to everyone at the wedding, and thank them.”
Context of Piece: My friend was showing me pictures from this summer, and I asked her to tell me a bit more about their weddings customs.
Thoughts about the Piece: This piece was interesting, as it brought some order and sense to an otherwise crowded proceeding.

Foodways
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

An Easter Tradition

Nationality: Jamaican

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): French

Age: 59

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 13, 2017 (Skype)

 

Carlton is a 59-year old man, born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica who is a superintendent of a large apartment building in New York City. He immigrated to the United States over 38 years ago.

 

Interviewer: Good Morning. Do you have a family story about when you lived in Jamaica.

 

Informant: “Sure. I am from Jamaica and in Jamaica traditionally during Easter we bake buns and cheese and that is what we have for gifts that we eat that during Easter and so my father would always would always go and we would make these buns in ovens so we would light the fire and bake these buns and get them glazed and sell them to all the people, and give them as gifts and so on. So Easter is was a very traditional thing where people go to church and worship on Good Friday and it was very quiet. No one in in the store or shop so you just had people go to church and worshiping. That was a tradition of my family and others in Jamaica”

 

Interviewer:  You mentioned that your father would bake the buns at Easter. Is this common for Jamaica men to bake on Easter?

 

Informant: “No I don’t think so as far as I know, I can only speak about my father. It was a very special indeed special memory for me and me sisters.  He never did anything in the kitchen.  He said that was women’s work. But on Easter this was his special tradition and that he had to carry out and me and my sisters were expected to help him out. He was so so very serious about this. He would even wrap our hands if he caught us tasting the sweet glaze of the buns.  I just remember him being so proud that he did this and I think he was doing this so we would always think of him, he died a few years back, when me and sisters celebrate Easter with our families”.

 

Interviewer: Do you carry on this tradition with your family?

 

Informant: “Sorry to say I do not. I feel this was a um very very special thing that my father did and I cherish this memory of him when I celebrate Easter with my family here in the US.”

 

Interviewer: Thank You and I wish you a Happy Easter.

 

 

Thoughts about the piece:  

Food is a powerful memory aid to immigrants like my informant. This British import is a Good Friday treat, which may have roots in ancient Babylon. It has been adapted for Jamaicans by the addition of local molasses. The cross bun song can be found at: http://keepitjiggy.com/2011/03/a-jamaican-easter-bun-and-cheese/ Here is a recipe for making homemade Jamaican hot cross buns: http://eatjamaican.com/recipes/Jamaican-hot-cross-bun.html

 

 

 

 

 

Customs
Foodways
Material

Family Recipe

“My dad taught me this recipe, it’s not even an ethnic recipe, just a family recipe for this cool dipping sauce.  You combine paprika and garlic powder and a little water and then this other ingredient I’m forgetting, but it makes for this really good, kind of dry sauce that goes really well on a hamburger or something.  My dad said he picked it up from a diner he worked at, so I guess that means this recipe went from some unimportant condiment at a diner to a staple ingredient at all our family’s meals, which is pretty cool.  But I’m not sure he’s telling the truth about picking up the recipe from a diner, I feel like that doesn’t make enough sense for it to be true, because I’ve worked in restaurants before and no such recipe exchanging has happened around me, but nonetheless, now that sauce recipe is a staple of our family.”

ANALYSIS:

This origin story of a family recipe is super cool because it subverts two common tropes of family recipes: that they are long traditions passed down from the ancestors of the family, and that they are secrets.  Not only did this family recipe start in a diner that the father of the informant just happened to work at of all places, but the informant clearly has no regard for who hears the ingredients, and they are listed very clearly above.  Still, the recipe has quickly managed to become an important part of the family, so it makes me think that maybe this is the beginning of what will become a long family tradition with this family.

Foodways
Material

Brazilian Brigadeiro dessert

Ricardo is a 20 year old student at USC. Before USC, he lived in San Paolo, Brazil his entire life. He grew up with little to no American influence. One thing he spoke of that was very different was the food in Brazil. He spoke of his favorite dessert:

“Brigadeiro, it’s like a chocolate sweet with cream of milk and butter and sprinkles, my mom used to make them for me when I got good grades”

Ricardo said these were very special for him as he did not get these very often. He said his mom would specially make them for him as he said when he got good grades. She said she would also make them and bring them to big parties where families gathered. I think this dessert looks very good and I would definitely love to try it. I have never even heard of it.

brigadeiromordido

Foodways
general
Material

Canadian middle school food ritual

Tim Marino is a 20 year old engineering student at USC. He was born in Calgary, Alberta and had lived there his entire life. Tim grew up a victim of Canadian stereotypes, playing hockey and eating maple syrup. The maple syrup part was actually a big part of his life and his daily eating habits, as he said the maple syrup in Canada was plentiful.

“In middle school people would come out with trays of ice and would put maple syrup in it and put a stick in it, and would freeze them to make maple syrup popsicles.”

Tim said that this was a very popular thing to do in middle school, and that each new generation of kids would learn it from the older years in middle school and would do it themselves, and it became a very popular lunchtime snack. I find this interesting as for one it reinforces the maple syrup stereotype of Canada, and for two it is not something I have seen performed in the US.

folk metaphor
Folk speech
Foodways

“Your mother-in-law loves you” Greek Tradition

Informant: The informant is Aliki, an eighteen-year-old young woman who grew up in Yonkers, New York. She is a freshman at Concordia University in Irvine, California. She is of Greek descent.

Context: We sat on the floor of my dorm room at the University of Southern California when Aliki visited me during her spring break from college.

Original Script:
Informant: This takes place when you are eating at the dinner table. Say my aunt will call us. In Greek, my mother will say to my aunt, “Your mother-in-law loves you.” When she says this, my aunt will understand that she is at the table eating. That way, she doesn’t have to explain to my aunt that she is eating; she just gets it. This phone conversation has to take place between two Greeks because you speak the phrase in Greek. My aunt, or whoever is on the phone, and my mom can laugh it off, and my aunt will tell her to enjoy her meal and hang up. My mother taught me this when I was about thirteen. That’s around the time I saw her do this for the first time. I just remember that one day, my mom kept saying it.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: I think it’s just kind of important to know because it’s part of my culture. Also, it’s useful to know because if I called someone and they said that my mother-in-law loves me, I should understand what it means.

Personal Thoughts: I like this piece of folklore a lot because I think it is very unique. It is interesting to me that Greeks have a general understanding of what to do when they hear the phrase, “Your mother-in-law loves you” over the phone. I also find it compelling because it seems that this phrase takes just as long to say as something like, “I’m eating right now. I’ll call you back.” Since the two are just as simple to say, it is interesting that Greeks choose to say something which most people would deem more confusing, rather than just explaining what they are doing.

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