USC Digital Folklore Archives / Material
Customs
Foodways
Material

Tourte Binchoise

Background of informant:

My informant YF is an international student from Brussels, Belgium. He spent the first two years of high school in Los Angeles, and the last year back in Brussels. He lived in Wallonia in Belgium, which is the French-speaking region that accounts more than a half of the country.

 

Main piece:

YF: “‘tourte binchoise’ is the food that only being made during the Carnival week, of the entire year. ‘Tourte’ normally means a sweet pie, and ‘Binchoise’ means ‘from Binche’. It’s basically a pie, with … just piecrust, made with sponge cake, as the vessel containing the cream. The filling is orange custard, with a layer of marzipan. That’s something made of confectioner sugar, you know, the really fine sugar, and almond meal. You can only find it during the Carnival. Because it is so limited in time and location, the recipe is so secretive, and it’s so hard to find one.”

Two weeks later, I asked about this pie again, and YF was trying to find a recipe of it online.

YF: “You will notice that the name of this pie is ‘Plus Oultre’. Plus Oultre comes from Latin ‘Plus Ultra’, meaning literally ‘More Far’, or ‘further in good’ in English. It is the motto in Spain, or the city where this pie is from, Binche, that is the name that backery gave its pie. [showed me a picture] This is a similar thing to ‘tourte binchoise’. This is the scandalous orange Tarte. It lloks a nit different than the one that I had in the carnival, but it has the same elements! So I believe it would taste the same!”

 

Context of the performance:

The first part was within a general conversation about the Carnival of Binche, within a interview I had with my informant YF. The second part was done two weeks later when I tried to acquire a recipe of the pie.

 

My thoughts about the piece:

After YF first talked me about this pie in our first conversation, I didn’t really pay attention to this pie. However, when I was transcribing the interview, I started to be really curious about the recipe of the pie. I then reached out to YF but he told me this pie is so rare and secretive, and it turned out that he couldn’t even find a recipe of it on the Internet, in 2017…

 

The orange Tarte recipe that YF showed me is online, here is the URL:

http://www.lacuisinedebernard.com/2010/10/la-tarte-scandaleuse-lorange.html

The recipe is in French.

Foodways

Why we can’t eat pork

Informant GP is my grandfather who has been a Muslim is whole life. My father’s side of the family has been Muslim for many generations. My grandpa is a devout Muslim who follows the Quran and all the practices described within it. Unfortunately my grandpa’s generation is the last generation in my dad’s side of the family to practice Islam. My father and my aunt and uncles do not practice it, so even though I know many of the things they believe and practice, I don’t know the reason behind it.

So why can’t you eat pork?

GP: “Well, technically not being allowed to eat pork is not only a Muslim thing, but should be followed by Christianity and Judaism since it is the Bible. The bible states that pigs are unclean and therefore humans should not eat it or else we will get contaminated and get diseases. Back in the day pigs lived off of dirt and their own feces so people thought they were gross and disgusting. Of course, I don’t know if nowadays things are different or if there is any health correlation between pigs and disease, but yea, that’s why I don’t eat pork.”

Thoughts: To me this just sounds like people in the past just thought pigs were dirty so they didn’t eat them. Of course that is well found, it’s like saying why don’t people eat earthworms. I did a bit of research and found that eating pork does in fact lead to health issues since pork holds more fat than other meats which can cause heart attacks. That being said, I feel like eating any kind of meat could lead to health problems, so in conclusion I feel like the Muslim tradition of not eating pork is a little nonsensical.

Customs
Foodways

Molletes

Background:

I met my informant at a cooking class in Cancun, Mexico. She and her husband hold these classes in their home just outside of the Hotel Zone. They’re both in their mid-50’s and have lived in Cancun with their three children for close to twenty-five years. My informant was born and raised in Mexico City, where she spent the majority of her youth mastering regional cuisines from throughout Mexico. She ultimately attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Though she is well versed in world cuisine, she considers herself an expert in traditional Mexican cooking, as the majority of her recipes have been handed down through both her family and her husband’s.

The classes she holds are for no more than twelve people and lasts roughly six hours. She gives a short lecture on different culinary regions of Mexico and then begins an interactive cooking lesson where the group prepares twelve separate recipes. The lesson was too long to record the entirety of the performance, but I recorded some of her specific introductions and explanations of several dishes. She also gave each participant a copy of the recipes, almost all of which were passed down through the generations. The informant transcribed them and included her own specific instructions.

Performance:

“You need crispy bread…In Mexico it is always a bolillo or teller, the Mexican version of…baguette…since the times of Maximillian in the 1860’s…You can use small baguettes or cut portions from baguette. Portuguese rolls work too. We eat these breakfast, lunch, and dinner…they are easy and cheap, so good for young people who maybe don’t have much time or money, like college (jokingly gestures in my direction.)”

Recipe

4 teleras bolillos, petite baguettes or large baguettes cut into 6” portions

2 cups refried beans homemade or store bought

2 cups Mexican oaxaca mozzarella or monterrey jack, grated (any melting cheese of your liking will do)

2 tablespoons of butter

Serve with pico de gallo salsa or another salsa of your choice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the bread in half lengthwise to have 8 pieces. Spread each piece with butter then add 2 to 3 tablespoons of refried beans and add 3 to 4 tablespoons of grated cheese on top. Arrange molletes on a baking sheet as you make them. If you want, add additional toppings like ham, turkey, bacon or chorizo. Sprinkle them on top of the cheese. When they are all assembled, place the baking sheet into the oven. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the bread has a nice toasted crust around the edges. Serve with pico de gallo salsa, or a salsa of your choice, on the side or on top.

Thoughts:

As Claudia suggests in the recipe, we used crumbled chorizo. It was interesting how familiar it felt to be eating a soft, white roll; despite the beans and salsa, the dish tasted decidedly European, like something I could buy on any street corner in Los Angeles. This can probably be explained by the historical context she provided; the rolls entered Mexican cuisine under the influence of a European monarch but has become a big part of everyday Mexican cooking.

Customs
Foodways
general

Bean Tamales

Background:

I met my informant at a cooking class in Cancun, Mexico. She and her husband hold these classes in their home just outside of the Hotel Zone. They’re both in their mid-50’s and have lived in Cancun with their three children for close to twenty-five years. My informant was born and raised in Mexico City, where she spent the majority of her youth mastering regional cuisines from throughout Mexico. She ultimately attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Though she is well versed in world cuisine, she considers herself an expert in traditional Mexican cooking, as the majority of her recipes have been handed down through both her family and her husband’s.

The classes she holds are for no more than twelve people and lasts roughly six hours. She gives a short lecture on different culinary regions of Mexico and then begins an interactive cooking lesson where the group prepares twelve separate recipes. The lesson was too long to record the entirety of the performance, but I recorded some of her specific introductions and explanations of several dishes. She also gave each participant a copy of the recipes, almost all of which were passed down through the generations. The informant transcribed them and included her own specific instructions.

Performance:

“Tamales…they’re party food. We have them for weddings, for birthdays, for…everything (laughter)…so we make the cooking of tamales a party too! We invite people over to come and work on the tamales…it helps because there are many steps, and we make…uh…lines, you know? We take turns doing steps. So when you make tamales, tell your friends and your family and bring out the tequila for a tamale party (laughter — she gestures to Lorenzo who brings out a bottle of tequila and begins to pour shots).”

Recipe

5 cups corn flour maseca

3 tablespoons of bacon fat or lard

2 cups of refried beans

4 jalapeños in strips or julienne

30 corn husks

1/2 teaspoon salt

Oaxaca string cheese or salsa

2 cups of chicken stock or the stock of the process of cookings the beans or water as kneed

Soak the corn husks or totomoxtles in hot water for half an hour and allowed to drain. Mix the flour with salt and little by little is added warm water. Add the melted bacon fat and mix well with the flour, beating vigorously for 10 minutes. Cover a large wooden board (25 X 40 cm.) With a piece of plastic and spread the dough with your hand, evenly, to half an inch thick. With the dough make small tortillas. Place the refried beans on top of the dough and add the peppers or cheese or salsa cover with the masa by rolling, help yourself with the plastic and to form a cylinder an roll it to make it thin with the hand on top of the board. Then cut into regular pieces of 3 inch long. Then graph them with the corn husk. The tamales are steamed for one hour and served with cream and salsa.

Thoughts:

Just as Claudia said, participating in this ritual was a lot of fun. This was the part in the class where, as a group, we all began to get to know and enjoy each other’s company. Both laughter and tequila were plentiful. This, in particular, was a great example of the joyous and communal nature of Mexican cooking and the ways in which it is used to bring people closer together and bond over a shared recipe.

Customs
Foodways
general

Tortillas

Background:

I met my informant at a cooking class in Cancun, Mexico. She and her husband hold these classes in their home just outside of the Hotel Zone. They’re both in their mid-50’s and have lived in Cancun with their three children for close to twenty-five years. My informant was born and raised in Mexico City, where she spent the majority of her youth mastering regional cuisines from throughout Mexico. She ultimately attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Though she is well versed in world cuisine, she considers herself an expert in traditional Mexican cooking, as the majority of her recipes have been handed down through both her family and her husband’s.

The classes she holds are for no more than twelve people and lasts roughly six hours. She gives a short lecture on different culinary regions of Mexico and then begins an interactive cooking lesson where the group prepares twelve separate recipes. The lesson was too long to record the entirety of the performance, but I recorded some of her specific introductions and explanations of several dishes. She also gave each participant a copy of the recipes, almost all of which were passed down through the generations. The informant transcribed them and included her own specific instructions.

Performance:

“You’ll need a big cast-iron skillet or griddle and a tortilla press, too (gestures to a very old, metal tortilla press) this belonged to my grandmother, who got it from her mother, so has been in my family for…130 years? More? A long time (laughter). In most every recipe for corn tortillas the proportion is 2 cups of corn flower to 1-1/4 to…maybe 1-1/3 cups water. The difference between 1/4 and 1/3 cup can be a lot…can be very important. Also, don’t confuse corn flower and corn meal. Very different. Corn meal is a completely different process and it won’t work…when you’re done, you can keep them warm how you like…I use this (holds up a dried gourd with the top cut off as a removable top)…gourds keep things nice and warm, how we like.” 

Recipe

2 cups corn flower

1-1/4 to 1-1/3 cups of water

Mix the corn flower and the water little by little. Work with your hands to form your masa and roll it into a big ball. Take a pinch off a golf-ball sized piece of masa.

    1. Set the masa on a piece of plastic in the tortilla press and core with another piece of plastic
    2. Press the masa in tortilla press
    3. Transfer tortilla to a hot dry skillet
    4. Cook for about 30 seconds on one side, turn
    5. Cook for about 60 seconds (it should puff slightly) turn back to the first side
    6. Cook for another 30 seconds on the first side
    7. Remove and keep the tortilla warm

Thoughts:

Though both simple and fairly generic, Claudia seemed to take the most personal ownership of this recipe. This seemed to be in large part because of the antique tortilla press we used to prepare them. She was very proud of the press and its history, and appeared to have an almost spiritual connection to its personal and cultural significance.

Customs
Foodways
Material

Salsa Xnipec

Background:

I met my informant at a cooking class in Cancun, Mexico. She and her husband hold these classes in their home just outside of the Hotel Zone. They’re both in their mid-50’s and have lived in Cancun with their three children for close to twenty-five years. My informant was born and raised in Mexico City, where she spent the majority of her youth mastering regional cuisines from throughout Mexico. She ultimately attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Though she is well versed in world cuisine, she considers herself an expert in traditional Mexican cooking, as the majority of her recipes have been handed down through both her family and her husband’s.

The classes she holds are for no more than twelve people and lasts roughly six hours. She gives a short lecture on different culinary regions of Mexico and then begins an interactive cooking lesson where the group prepares twelve separate recipes. The lesson was too long to record the entirety of the performance, but I recorded some of her specific introductions and explanations of several dishes. She also gave each participant a copy of the recipes, almost all of which were passed down through the generations. The informant transcribed them and included her own specific instructions.

Performance:

“This is a salsa from the Yucatan peninsula, right here (gestures to map of Mexico)…right near Cancun…the word ‘xnipec’ comes from the Mayan language…in English it means like ‘dog nose’ (laughter)…but it’s good…very spicy so you just do a little drop like this…(takes a spoon and makes small drops on the back of her hand)…and you taste first…don’t do too much…we’ll have to take you off the floor (laughter).”

Recipe:

2 limes

5 roasted habaneros

1 garlic clove roasted

2 tablespoons of chopped red or white onion

Salt

Pinch of oregano

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Squeeze the juice of several limes (Yucatan lemons, which are more like limes) into a small bowl if you don’t find them lemons are ok. In a mortar add garlic roasted Habanero pepper, ground the ingredients and add spoons of chopped onion, oregano, juice of limes and olive oil and season. Mix all this and set aside you can make the salsa a day in advance and this will make the salsa milder.

Thoughts:

This dish was prepared with a stone mortar and pestle; the habaneros had been roasted on the flame of a gas stovetop shortly before we began the lesson. Claudia spoke at length about the different kinds of peppers used in Mexican cuisine, but interesting she did not appear to enjoy the habanero flavor herself.

general
Material

Positive Energy

The interviewer’s comments are denoted through initials GM, while the interiewee’s responses are denoted by a VA.

GM: Has anything happened to you or your family that you found strange and inexplicable?

VA: Like, a supernatural presence?

GM: Yes, anything along the lines of that. Can you tell me about a certain such incident?

VA: Okay, this isn’t really like a ghost story, but I still can’t think of scientific reasoning for it so I’ll tell you it. In 7th grade, my parents decided to buy a house in Gurgaon, just outside of New Delhi. The house was at a very good location at a very good price. The only reason the house hadn’t been sold yet because of the direction it faced. Really silly stuff for people outside of India to hear that, but it’s a very common thing in India to make sure your house faces north and east.

GM: Why do you think that is?

VA: Generally, it has to do with the sun. Since the sun rises in the east, and north is generally synonymous with “up” and “good”, both those directions are preferred. Having the sun rise in front of your house is considered a good omen, bringing positive energy in. This house, however, faced directly Southeast. Most of our relatives and friends strongly advised against buying the house because of the stereotype I just mentioned. However, my family, generally not religious, thought that it was a silly idea to only buy houses that faced a certain as all directions could be peaceful if the people inside remained happy. So, my parents went ahead and bought the house. Within a couple of months, we moved in, and initially everything seemed fine. Now, I don’t know if this was because of the paranoia stemming from our social pressures, but somehow strange things started happening in the house after a few weeks. The first night that something strange happened, my parents were awoken by loud sounds coming from the kitchen. I was young and deep sleepers so I assumed my parents were just being paranoid. However, more weird things started happening over the course of the next year. I found myself having weird nightmares. Sometimes, I’d wake up in the middle of the night and my bed would be covered in sweat. My parents at the didn’t feel comfortable: it didn’t feel like the type of house anyone wants to come back home from work every day.

VA: You see, the people inside the house weren’t happy: there was no positive energy. Whether this was because of influences from others, or whether there was a genuine lack of positive energy in that house, I’ll never know. Despite the fact that my parents didn’t believe in the directional theory earlier, we were eventually convinced that there was some truth to this idea. So, the next year we moved to another house, strictly facing East, and sold the other one. We lost a lot of money in the process, but my parents have no regrets: today we live in a house that we all feel comfortable coming back to each night.

Conclusion, written by the interviewer:

This story shows the fine line between self-guided perception and the belief of a genuine supernatural force. Had there been no preconceptions going in to the house, this would have been a much more concrete ghost story: but such stories are never concrete in the real world. A “weird experience” is the name given to such events not only as a means to repress them but also to understand them. My interviewee still did not think there was a ghost present, but that they went against nature – a dark energy, in hindsight, was inevitable for him. This story is told by an international student from India, and I especially chose to ask him for a story because I knew that not only would the social views be different, but his reaction to the weird events as well. While loud noises in the US could be attributed to a poltergeist or spirit, he just noted a “lack of positive energy” –nothing more.

Foodways
Game
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

12th night

Subject: 12th Night

Informant:

 Liz was born in a traditional English household but grew up traveling around Southern England and the middle east because her father was in the Royal Air force. Her mother was a Nurse and her father a serving officer. She had two siblings a brother and a sister. Her family was not religious but consider themselves members of the Church of England.

Original script: “On the 6th of January a cake is bake usually a fruit cake and inside the cake a bean was hidden, and the person who received the bean in their cake became the lord of misrule for the night. It was a general practice in Britain at the time. My father always got the bean and we were always disappointed because we were so looking forward to being in charge. I don’t know where they learned it from, just tradition.

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Preformed on January sixth or the last day of Christmas in the Church of England and usually coincided with taking Christmas decorations down.

Context of the Performance: Preformed on the sixth of January.

 

 

 

Customs
Foodways
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Jewish tradition

Subject: Jewish Traditions

Informant: Abby

Original script: “Matzo Ball soup is a Jewish tradition usually made for high holidays like Yom Kippur or Shabbat. However, in my family we make it when we are also sick. I don’t know, it really makes us feel better.

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Abby grew up in a traditional Jewish family but they ere very reformed and adapted the soup to sickness as well as holiday celebration.

Thoughts about the piece: The matzo ball soup has been removed from its traditional place in Jewish tradition and made it’s was to everyday practices of Abby and her family. Much like chicken soup, matzo ball soup, for Abby, is associated with home and curing sickness, a comfort food that has it’s origins steeped in tradition.

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Magic
Material
Protection

Kitchen Witches

My informant is an American from Minnesota, who has ancestors from Czech republic and Sweden, back to 1880.

“The other thing that Sweden has, we have the kitchen witches. So hang a witch in the kitchen and they protect the kitchen. I still have kitchen witches, I have several.  It’s like a little figurative witch on a broom, but they go in the kitchen, they’re called kitchen witches. They protect the food in the kitchen. So it’s a very Scandinavian sort of thing. It may have different looks in each family, but it has to be a witch, and you hang it in a kitchen. It keeps you up from messing up your kitchen.”

She is very proud of this specific object that they keep in Sweden culture, even though she has been immigrated to US for a long time. I think it’s very lovely that in many Scandinavian cultures they believe in magic and magical creatures, and sometimes they really work when you believe in them. In this case if you do believe in the kitchen witches can protect you from messing up your kitchen, and hang them there, you may really become more cautious while cooking.

 

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