USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘alcohol’
Customs
Foodways
Game

Oscar Watch Party

To provide context, the ‘awards season’ is a film industry term that refers to the months and awards shows leading up the final, and most historically prestigious show, the Academy Awards (also known as the Oscars). Held at the end of each year to recognize various achievements in filmmaking, the awards given in this show are considered the highest achievement in the entertainment world.

 

Despite being centered on a relatively small industry, the place of movies is highly visible in the eyes of the American public, given that they are seen by millions of people. Therefore, it becomes a popular group activity to try and predict the winners of the Academy Awards, given its competitive nature, the widely familiar subject matter and the ability of anyone to play.

 

The following situation illustrates an ‘Oscar watch party’ with a number of guests at the house of a friend during the airing of the 90th Academy Awards. It should be noted this took place in Los Angeles, the seat of the film industry and the location of nearly all the awards shows, with the hosting friend a prominent producer in said industry:

 

Invited guests arrived at the host’s home in the hours preceding the show, with a dinner of pasta and salad being prepared at the same time. A number of appetizing foods were laid out for the meantime- chips, salsa, queso, guacamole, and bottled beers, with the television switched to the channel that the show would soon air on.

 

The awards show itself is preceded by a ‘red carpet’ program where nominees and their guests, naturally forming a sizable body of famous celebrities and movie stars in a single location. The stars are documented arriving to the venue of the awards show, showcasing elaborate dresses and participating in interviews.

 

The presence of this program allows a pleasant occupation of time before the actual show begins, alongside the appetizers and friendly conversation. During this time, the host additionally distributed ballots with a complete list of nominees in each category for guests to fill out and make their respective predictions.

 

As the show began, dinner was served alongside more alcohol-heavy tequila margaritas, ballots were handed in, and guests took their seats before the television.

 

Loud cheers, boos, praises, and surprises filled the room as each winner was announced over the course of the three hours making up the show. All the while, guests checked off their ballots to see whether they were correct or not in their predictions.

 

By the show’s end, the person with the greatest amount of correct marks earned a moment of pride, along with a physical prize of the last margarita.

 

On a further explanatory note regarding the Academy Awards and the fervor that comes to surround its airing, the months preceding the Academy Awards are peppered with smaller, less prominent awards shows (Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globes, BAFTAs) most of whose voting members have great amounts of crossover with the voting body of the Academy. Altogether, the nominees and winners of these preceding awards illustrate candidates of favorability to eventually be nominated for an Academy Award. Once the nominees have actually been announced, the winners and nominees of the awards leading up to the final show helpfully contribute to an overall historical record of statistics that allow one to pinpoint the likely ultimate winners.

 

With so many factors and events that present an increasingly clearer picture of who might win an Oscar, competition can become understandably heated as to making accurate predictions. The most interesting contentions arise when viewers are attached to certain films, directors, actors, or other nominees and insist their likelihood to win despite statistics suggesting otherwise. Given that there have been plenty of surprises and snubs throughout its 90-year history, upsets are not out of the question.

 

Although bets are frequently placed on the winners, this was not the case in the matter of this watch party’s ballot. The non-necessity of betting likely suggests the reason why so many people participate in the guessing-game conversation regarding the Academy Awards, being that the only thing at stake for most participants is the pride lost from having made an incorrect prediction.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Game
Humor

Friendships Toast

The following is a toast collected from a group of five friends who recite a pledge aimed at their longstanding mutual friendship. The pledge is performed during communal games involving alcohol, particularly ‘beer pong’ which is played between teams of two along the ends of a tall rectangular table.

 

The rules and practice of said game do not apply to the situation of the toast besides the table on which the game is played, which plays an integral and symbolic part to the performance of the toast. Therefore, the rules of the game will not be explained further outside of any direct relation to the proceedings of the toast.

 

The context of the situation proceeds as such:

The five friends gather around a handmade table constructed from available and basic wood materials. The table itself is kept at the host participant’s home, whose name has been excluded. While the participant is not the exclusive host to every party, each use of the table and recital of the toast is reserved to his home.

 

While there is no designated time during these parties for the toast to occur, it often falls after a few rounds of initial play of any alcohol-centered games, where everyone will have had at least one turn playing and thus have ingested sufficient amounts of alcohol to be slightly intoxicated at the very least.

 

At this point, each member of the group gathers around the table. The toast itself goes as follows:

 

(recited altogether)

“There are good ships, there are wood ships. There are ships that sail the sea. But the best ships, are friendships. So here’s to you and me!”

 

Each member of the group then simultaneously taps their beer can on the table and raises it up to drink. While raising their drinks, everyone together says (with less intensity)

 

“Down with Hitler.”

 

Each member then drinks until satisfied.

 

The pledge itself is a cheerful acknowledgment of the mutual bonds of friendship between each participant, and for the group as a whole. The concluding mention of “Down with Hitler” serves as a humorous reference to the host participant’s Jewish heritage, serving as a sarcastic assurance of false machismo that underlines the lightheartedness of the toast itself.

 

The table on which the toast is centered is constructed with dimensions of around 8 feet-by-2 feet and standing at waist height. Its top is painted with horizontal stripes of blue, green, yellow, and red, giving it a vibrant and outstanding place in the room.

 

Written in permanent marker across the top of the table are the words to the toast itself, along with various doodles such as star-bound rockets and bizarre imaginary creatures.

 

The names of each participant, accompanied by self-applied nicknames (often overly elaborate and nonsensical, otherwise only a vague relation to a defining characteristic of each person) meant to be referenced in an exclusively ironic manner.

 

These nicknames include:

 

Dr. Dreidel

A play on the stage name of popular rapper Dr. Dre and a reference to the participant’s Jewish faith.

 

Dookie Prada-G

The second part of the name a reference towards rappers’ tendencies to reference high-end clothing brands in their music in public image, itself a play on the word ‘prodigy’ despite Trevor’s complete lack of a musical background.

 

The other names of MC Betty, The Mist, and Boogiewitz 3000 are intentionally nonsensical, unrelated to the participant’s real names in any way. Thus, their humor is derived from this very nature of having no connection whatsoever to their makers.

 

 

 

 

 

Festival
Foodways
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Boston University, Trash Can Punch

Title: Boston University, Trash Can Punch

Category: Recipe/Food

Informant: Julianna K. Keller

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 20

Occupation: Student

Residence: 325 West Adams Blvd./ Los Angeles, CA 90007

Date of Collection: 4/09/18

Description:

“Trash Can Punch” is a mixed alcoholic beverage made in the fraternity houses at Boston University. The trash cans used are the large grey janitorial trashcans that are often used in cafeterias and janitorial carts. The trashcans are bought or cleaned thoroughly before use (one can hope). “Trash Can Punch” has no real recipe but follows the same general guidelines. There is usually a strong fruity component or flavor, and then a variety of different forms of alcohol. Each fraternity or house serving “Trash Can Punch” will usually have its own recipe and sometimes color. All guests are welcome to drink it at the party and is served by the host or resident of the house throwing the party.

Context/Significance:

Ms. Keller visited Boston University her senior year of high school to catch up with a friend and gain firsthand insight about the university as she considered where she might study after graduation. Her visit just happened to fall over halloween weekend and her friend invited her to go out with a group of them for the occasion.

When they got to the party, held at a fraternity house, Julianna asked where she could find drinks being served. The girls hosting her visit pointed to the trash can in the corner where it was filled close to the top with a sweet orange alcoholic mixture. When she asked what was in the drink, no one was really abel to tell her an answer.

One of the girls said they were made from recipes. That each fraternity house had their own mixture and color and was only served at their house in particular. Another friend agreed and that the remaining contents from the party was poured into a bucket and saved in the fridge for use at the future party as a base to go off of (kind of like a rue for gumbo or starter for sour-dough bread.) A separate girl told her that ht house will only fill the trash can half way and then as party guests arrive they bring alcohol with them to add to the trash can so no one can ever really tell what’s inside.

Personal Thoughts:

Sounds dangerous to me, but who am I to judge? This seems like a form of half passive bearers of tradition, half active bearers of tradition. No one is explicitly taught how to make “Trash Can Punch,” but underclassman seem to hear these stories of how it’s made and perhaps learn them from fraternity histories during the pledging process. When these students reach the level of upperclassman, they then attempt to make these recipes themselves and alter them themselves in the process. The recipes have undoubtably changed over the years but remain somewhat iconic to each fraternity in some way.

Customs
Folk Beliefs

Eye Contact

Background:

My informant is a twenty-one-year-old college student in Boston, Massachusetts. She is studying to be a nurse and has worked in the emergency room at both Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Performance:

“I heard this when I was in Australia for the summer. It was just before junior year, I think…yeah, that sounds right, but anyway I was at a party kind of near Melbourne and these guys were pouring shots. So I took one and was about to take it and this one guy like grabbed my wrist and was like ‘Wait! Stop! We all need to make eye contact otherwise we’ll all have bad sex for seven years!’ Like that thing with breaking the mirror or something, you know? So we all made eye contact and took the shots and that was that. Weirdly I heard that a ton in Australia, like in Sydney and Cairns and all over. Not just from guys either, like from girls I made friends with and everything. It wasn’t just some gross dude…like, being gross, or whatever (laughter)  I’ve done it ever since. I mean, obviously it’s probably not a real thing, but like, why risk it? (laughter).”

Thoughts:

It seems appropriate that this superstition is prominent amongst young people, a demographic which in all likelihood sees a close connection between sex and alcohol. The ritual itself invokes a certain intimacy; one must look into their companion’s eyes, “the gateway to the soul” before consuming alcohol with them. Since the superstition is present amongst both groups of single-sex, heterosexual friends and mixed-gender social groups, it may not necessarily have much to do with sexual intercourse; the eye contact and intimacy may speak more to the idea that drinking is a social activity and means through which people can develop new relationships.

Adulthood
Customs
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Great Norwegian Graduation Rager

“So in Norway, when we graduate high school, we have this tradition that the two weeks leading up to our, um, independence day, um, we essentially do college in two weeks. And by that we, uh, everyone essentially has like a startup company where they fund, they get money and they work and they buy a bus. And this bus is to represent a group of people that have together to party on this bus for these two coming weeks. You build this bus to represent you as a group. So you paint it, you have your own song. They usually spend about twenty to forty thousand dollars on these buses. And they pay a couple to three thousand dollars per song or more. People live off this shit. They graduate high school and they just make music for these crazy graduating students. And they have a pretty decent life. Umm, so what you do is you do this and then you buy a suit, you buy like overalls that are completely red and covered in the Norwegian flag, and it’s got different colors. That’s the only time that you’ll ever see these colors in Norway which is why I find it so baffling that people in America keep wearing and wearing their flag everywhere. I guess it’s like weird, it’s like nationalism, which is bad, but for these two weeks in Norway: totally cool. So everyone gets drunk, everyone has sex with each other, there’s a bunch of STD things going on and like a lot of people take precautions so there’s just condoms everywhere in the capital for those two weeks, literally just so that teenagers can just grab them passing by. They’ll be in like metro stations, bus stops, random places there’ll just be like a little cup of condoms because people are just like doing things all the time. So there’s a lot of drugs, a lot of drinking, and you kinda like, you do all of those, you get all your immaturity out. That’s the whole point of it. So by the time you have your independence day, everyone’s so fucking exhausted that when you actually celebrate the day  that you celebrate Independence Day  and that you celebrate your graduation, then finals happen. Afterwards. So it’s a big thing in Norway where people have been trying to get the finals to happen before these two weeks. Because what happens is a lot of, like,  not a lot, but  maybe one out  of twenty people failed their finals because of this tradition. Every year. So they’re trying to change that now. I think it’s going to change this year, but the fact that the government, that all entire Norway works around this insane tradition: just get fucked up and have sex for two weeks? It’s fucking fantastic.”

 

The source definitely looked upon this tradition with a lot of happiness. It seemed to be one of his favorite parts of high school. He said it’s not a very long-standing tradition, but that it’s definitely been around as long as he’s been alive. He says it’s a way for them to release all the pent up stress from the year. It allows them to let loose and do crazy things that, under other circumstances, wouldn’t be allowed.

This tradition seems to come with its own sort of hall pass. It sounds like the kind of thing that these kids would never get away with if only there weren’t so many of them participating in it. That’s probably how it came about in the first place. Some group of kids wanted to let loose, but they knew they’d get in trouble, so they got a whole bunch of people together and went nuts. It probably didn’t fly as much back when it started, but now that it’s mainstream, the whole country probably knows to expect this debauchery and just lets it slide.

What also makes it interesting is that it involves a lot of responsibility. It’s almost like a rite of passage, really, because these kids have to work and save up money in order to be able to afford this massive, two-week rager. They also need to plan and organize it all themselves. Basically, they’re doing very adult things in order to be able to do some very not adult things. Quite the contrast.

Folk speech

Names

Collector: Oh! Do the story about why that guy got mad at you, or got mad at someone…

Informant: So, I don’t know if you’ve heard this story Maddie, um when I was in Spain, uh, so the word, like the colloquial term for blowjob is a person’s name in every city in Spain, and so, um, like in my friend’s town Toledo, Maria, and then in Granada it’s Victoria, um, so that’s just the context. So, I’m out with my friends—I was friends with this Spanish guy named Mario—and in Spain you go on dates, it’s like middle school style dating, so group dates. And so, um, Mario would ask me out and said invite some of your friends, so me and my two American friends were meeting up with his two friends, but then last minute his really good friend from where he’s from, Cordova, came to visit down in Granada, and so we were like—he was like “one more person” and I was like “oh my other friends are busy,” and he was like, “it’s fine, like [whatever his name is] will just come hang out”—I think his name was David. And so, we’re all at this bar hanging out, and then, um, we were doing like a pub crawl, and so we were supposed to head down to the next place, and so, um, his other friend, Luis, was like “oh guys we’re going to this next bar in 5 minutes, like finish your drinks,” and so like all the Spanish people are lightly sipping, and the Americans start to, like, you know, really try and down their drinks, and my friends, Claire and Diana, had like straws in their drinks and so they were trying to, kind of like, furiously sip.

Person: You have another friend named Diana?

Informant: Mhm

Person: Rude. Rude!

Informant: She looks nothing like you, so it’s okay.

Person: Sorry, continue.

Informant: She’s Italian and from upstate New York. Um, and so, we—but I had a beer, and so I needed to like, chug it, so I just, you know, like, I’m an adult and a frat star, I chug my beer. And I look, everyone’s kind of staring at me, because in Europe you don’t have to, like, chug your drinks because you’re an adult, um and you can drink it slow and be a normal person. Um, and so I’m like, whatever, I did it, it’s done, don’t make fun of me. And, um, I look up, and David is like smirking, and he says, “Aye que buenas Mayas,” and in Granada, at least in Spain, mallas, I’ve always been taught that means leggings, so it’s M-A-L-L-A-S, leggings, like, you know, like, the pants, so, um, I was like “what?” because I was wearing jeans, so I was like, maybe he thinks these are like, jeggings, okay whatever. And, like, I look over at Mario, and Mario looks furious. And I’m like, okay. And he said something really fast to David in Cordovan slang, and—Cordovian—and like, I don’t know what it means, and I, but I can tell he’s really pissed, but I’m like, I don’t know why you’re angry, okay. And so we start walking to the next bar, and I’m like holding hands with Mario, and I’m like, “Why were you so upset?” And he was like, “Oh, I don’t want to talk about it.” And I’m like, “No, I don’t understand, I didn’t really get the joke, so like what did that mean?” Because like Mario speaks English and Spanish, and so in Spanish I’m asking this, but like, “Can you explain it in English because I don’t get it.” And he was like, in English, “No we’re not going to talk about it.” And I was, he never speaks to me in English unless I ask him to, so I was like, “No, just, just, tell me.” And he like, will not say it, and I’m like, I’m the worst, when I want to know something, I will, I will force you to tell me, and so eventually he’s like, “He was saying, you know like how here Victoria means, like, blowjob?” I was like, “yeah.” He was like, “Well, in like, our town, outside of Cordova, like, Mayas are like blowjobs.” And I was like, “Wait what?” And he was like “Cause, you know, you chugged your drink, so you have to like open your throat, just kind of pour it…” And I was like, “Oh, Bueno, Bueno, [what sounds like "tamos"] a qui…” I switched right back to Spanish, because I was like I don’t want to talk about this hmmmm. So, that’s the end of that story.

 

Informant is a junior at the University of Southern California. She is studying communications here. She is from Boston, Massachusetts. She spent a while in the southern part of Spain, and speaks fluent Spanish. I spoke to her while we were eating lunch at my sorority house one day. We were sitting together with some of my other informants. Much of what she told me was learned from her own experiences.

 

I had recalled her telling this story, and thought that it was interesting and a new part of a culture I wasn’t very familiar with. As we were sitting at lunch discussing folklore, I remembered that she had told me this before, and asked her to tell it again. I haven’t heard of any other culture that does this to so much of an extent. It seems that every place, or so it’s suggested, uses some woman’s name for blowjob. It’s also interesting to see the difference in cultures having to do with the consumption of alcohol. It seems that a stereotype perpetuated by the party culture of many large and small universities is so different than the way the majority of the world consumes alcohol.

Game
general

King’s Cup

“You have like a big, giant cup or pitcher, typically in the middle of a circle at a party and everybody who sits around has their own drink, and you take a deck of cards that are mixed up in the center of the table around the pitcher and you go around the circle, one by one, and you pick up a card and depending on what card you choose will depend on what you have to do with your drink. So if you draw an ace, like that means that you drink, just you. If you draw a two, that means you get to choose someone to drink with you. If you draw a three, then you choose someone to drink. If you draw like a four, like you can come up with like the different rules, but the way I’ve played it like a four . . . all the women drink. If it’s a five, all the men drink. If it’s a six, you do categories, so somebody, like the person who pulls the card would say, ‘Animals’ and then you have to go around in a circle and at like a really quick speed name an animal off the top of your head and when someone pauses or can’t come up with one, they have to drink. Um, and after they drink they pour a little bit in the middle. And then if you pull . . . it goes on, till the end, but if you pull a king, you just have to pour in the middle pitcher.”

 

Interviewer: “What are the other cards?”
“I don’t know all of them off the top of my head, but I know you can, like, there’s one that’s like . . . a rhyme and so like you can say, ‘fish’ and the person next to you has to rhyme with it and say like, ‘dish’ and then it goes around in a circle and if you can’t come up with a word, or can’t come up with a word that rhymes, you have to drink and then pour some in. And so at the end, the point is basically whoever draws the last king of the whole game has to drink the pitcher in the middle and it’s really disgusting because there’s usually like different alcohols involved so it’ll be like a mixture of like whiskey, and like tequila, and beer, and something that’s not tasty . . . There’s [a card] where like if you start to drink the person next to you has to start to drink and when you stop, they can stop, but it goes around like consecutively in the circle, um, so the last person can’t stop until everyone else has stopped in the circle, if that makes sense . . . I wanna say like ten, like the card ten, you drink for ten seconds. Um, I think seven rhymes with ‘heaven’ and I think we all drink. And then one card you have to do, like, ‘Never Have I Ever.” So like you put up five fingers and you say, ‘Never have I ever . . . kissed a girl’ and then anyone who’s kissed a girl, despite your gender, um, has to drink. And you do it, you have, um, you do it until your five fingers are down. And that’s King’s Cup.”

 

The informant was a 21-year-old USC student who studies communication and minors in dance and is a part of a prominent sorority on campus. She grew up in a relatively small town in southern California and was the captain of a prominent sports organization. She has danced for her entire life and, when she was growing up, would often drive for long stretches of time with her family to dance competitions. This interview took place late one night in my apartment’s living room when I began asking her about different games she knew. When I asked her where she learned “King’s Cup,” she said, “I couldn’t tell you who specifically, like a name, but, um, at my first party that I went to in high school, um, it was a game that was very often played and it’s typically more fun with the more people who play it, and so I was kind of like forced into playing it. And so I was forced into like learning the rules and for like my 21st birthday was when I played it with my closest friends and like my mom and we were all playing it. And we kind of just like took the rules that I knew and like would put a twist on it. So like we would change the card numbers, so instead of, I think the typical is like an ace being you drink, we would say like that would be the rhyme one. Like we’d confuse which ones were which, but we would write it down so we knew which card we drew.”

 

When asked why she practices it, she said, “It’s fun and it’s like a social atmosphere and it’s supposed to be funny to like . . . ‘Cause you could be the one who pours in a ton of alcohol and be like, ‘Somebody’s getting fucked up tonight! . . . I mean, screwed up tonight,’ and then, um, you end up screwing yourself over because you’re the one who ends up drawing the last king so then you have to drink the pitcher which is you pouring your whole entire drink basically in there trying to screw someone else over. So it’s supposed to be like funny and it’s like a game of fate, you kind of just, you don’t want to pick the wrong card, but there’s no one to blame but yourself if you do. I don’t know, I feel like people aren’t super serious about drinking the pitcher at the end because everyone kind of knows that if we’re all drinking different drinks it’s probably not gonna actually happen. But also like, people get sketched out, like they don’t want to pour all their drink in knowing the last king’s still out there, you know?”

I asked her what she thinks it means, and she said, “We’re all alcoholics! No, uh, I think it’s uh, I think it means . . . instead of standing around and drinking and talking or like forcing conversation, it’s like an excuse to be in a group and drink whether you know the person across from you or not, it’s just  like a group game and you don’t have to know everyone in the game to play it.”

 

Looking at King’s Cup in particular is really interesting to me because it is an extremely popular drinking game within parts of my generation, yet I have never met two people who play it the same way. Despite the fact that the informant is sure there are some official rules somewhere that would be the “correct” way to play, she does not know what these are and it does not seem to matter. What matters is that there are specific rules and actions associated with every card that someone pulls, and that these are strictly followed once the game begins. In addition to this game being entertaining and a reason for a group of people to get drunk together, it also acts as a way of dividing up the group and defining the people playing it. Many of the cards pulled mean only a part of the group drinks, e.g. the men or the women present, and this draws a subtle, but perceptible line between the people playing. The frequent involvement of other games such as “Never Have I Ever” occurs to reveal embarrassing or “secret” information about the participants to the rest of the group, thereby bonding them to one another or singling out someone at whom everyone else can laugh.

general
Legends
Narrative

La Llorona- Colombia

Informant (“M”) is a 52 year old woman from Bogota, Colombia. She moved to the United States in 1992, at the age of 30. She has two kids, a boy and a girl, who she raised in the United States. She has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, she was the second born. She has a 102 year old Grandmother. Collection was over Skype.

Collector will be specified as “S”. Collector did not speak during this portion.

Transcript:

“M: A cousin always visit us, and he always scared us with a sort of story. He would use the crying woman or the Llorona… I remember he turned the lights off and everyone in the living room, we’d sit down in the living room, and he would repeat the same stories.

“Could you tell again the story of the Llorona?” [said by "M" and her siblings]

” …everyone needs to be quite, never look outside in the windows, she could be outside there.” [Said by the Cousin]

The story was of a woman tha…. Uh… let me see thinking about how is this story…. Yeah they say that the husband took the kids from her. Yeah, and she killed herself, and she appeared every night in the cemetery, and she crying “where are my kids, where are my kids?” and the more funny thing is, my cousin was so funny, he said: “I was drunk one day, I was crossing the cemetery”.

He wanted to take a shortcut, so he took the cemetery. And he said the short way was in the cemetery, and when he was passing he heard the voice say “where is my kids, where are my kids?” . He said he was so scared he peed in his pants, and he wasn’t anymore drunk, and he said he ran like a crazy. But the funniest thing is he peed in the pants, when he went in the house, and his in the blankets.

But he doesn’t know if that was real or not, because he was drunk.

That story start in the 18th century, they said that was the time that that happened, in the 18th century.

He told us a lot of stories, that is the one I remember more.

 

Analysis:

La Llorona is a myth that has heavily permeated Latin culture, being a very common piece of Folklore in these countries (Kirtley, 1960). La Llorona, or the cying woman, is referenced here with the assumption that the person collecting the folklore knows about her origins, and her ability to be interested as a generic sort of scare in a funny situation only serves to reinforce her ubiquity in Colombian culture. The covering of the windows showed that at the very least, she believe the story could have been true at the time it was being told to her. I should also note, “M”s explanation of her origin story was simply at my request, and did not reflect her original approach to the story (the portion directly after the ellipse).

 

 

 

Kirtley, B. F. (1960). ” La Llorona” and Related Themes. Western Folklore, 155-168.

Foodways
general
Material

MAKING WINE

ABOUT THE INFORMANT:

My informant is a father of three who lives just outside of Boston with his wife of over 30 years. He is originally from Cambridge, MA, but moved to central MA when he was younger. Graduating from Tufts, Northwestern, and the getting his PHD at MIT, he is an engineering professor.

EXAMPLE:

Interviewee: I’m gonna tell you about making wine.

Interviewer: Okay.

Interviewee: It would always be in October, mid-October or so. That’s when the grapes were in season. We were in Cambridge and we would come home from school. I was like in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade. Kindergarten through third grade we would do this.

So we would come home from school and the crates of grates would be stacked up against the house. And you would know that that was the day.

Interviewer: Did you know that it was gonna be that day? Did you know it in advance?

Interviewee: No, you didn’t know that that was the day until you saw the crates coming home from school.

My grandfather would go to the rail yard. It was over by Lechmere were Science Park is. East Cambridge. So he would go to the train yard and go to the trains that would bring in the fruits and stuff in. So he would get his whole stack of grapes.

Interviewer: When did he immigrate to America from Italy?

Interviewee: He must have been in his 20’s, right? So like early 1910’s because he was born in 1890.

So those crates would be stacked against the wall. And you could actually stick your fingers against the grapes and pull them out and eat them. That was always the first order of business. And my grandfather would actually encourage us to because they were so sweet and fresh.

So then my father would come home from work. And then my two uncles would come. And they would have to get the grapes into the cellar. So they would take the cellar window off. And then they would slide the grape bushels in through and get them down into the basement. There would have to be someone in the basement side too. Making sure the crates got through the window.

The next order was to grind the grapes. The grinder originally was a hand ground machine. So you would have to dump the grapes and then hand grind them. Then you put them in a crate to ferment after.

But my father put a motor on the grinder so you could do it in one night. And at the time we lived on the first floor, my grandfather lived on the top floor, but we were on the first, so it would smell like grape juice. Because we were doing it in the basement, so the whole house would smell like grapes. It was exciting. And so sweet.

A week or two later, my uncles would come back with my father and grandfather. And now they needed to put the ground grapes from the barrel into the press. So in order to turn the press it was kind of like a screwdriver on the side. And the juice would just flow and flow. But they would take turns, turning the press, making sure they could get every last bit of wine out of it.

And my grandfather would collect them in these special tin buckets that he would then pour into storage barrels. And the press, that had like a screen on it, to collect the debris and chunks of grape. So you had to open the press and then clean it off after every single batch. And two people would have to try and turn the screwdriver handle to get every last bit of out of the grapes. And the juice would go into the storage barrel.

Then, they would take the ground grapes and press them. Just to get all of the wine out. And we would watch them and just drink grape juice all night. We could actually get a little buzz. Just because it had been sitting there for a couple of weeks, fermenting.

My grandfather had these gallon jugs,like glass jugs, and he would fill them up with wine. You didn’t buy wine ever. Even after we moved to Medway, he would just load us up with wine when we saw him.

He had this house in Nantasket, on the beach, that he bought when I was like 1. He would move there for the summer in May and we would move in the summer. And we would have to move all of these jugs and jugs of wine. And sometimes we would have to go to Cambridge to give him a refill.

We would use it for everything though. Cooking and drinking. It went to the whole family. At Christmas people who didn’t have their wine would get more. He would take you down to the basement and fill you up.

Eventually the barrels got old and let air in, in the end you could only cook with it. It wasn’t as flavorful because the barrels were old.

But those were exciting weeks, watching them press the wine, the smell of grapes in the house.

ANALYSIS:

This clearly brought my informant back to his childhood, specifically before he moved from the immigrant neighborhood of Cambridge that he lived in with the rest of his family. The smells of the grapes circulating throughout the house, “lasting for days,” is definitely a memory of nostalgia for him. But there was definitely a sense of tradition here. Wine is clearly important to his grandfather, and therefore to the rest of the family as it was a patriarchy. As a little boy, there is definitely something striking about watching any older man partake in a sort of tradition or ritual together. Every little boy wants to do what the big kids do. My informant certainly enjoyed being part of the ritual, drinking the freshly pressed wine, eating the grapes, even if he could not really help.

For his grandfather, this is most likely the continuation of the old world brought to the new world. I would not be surprised if he did the exact same thing growing up with his father and so on and so on. Sure he had to adapt, going to the train yard to get the grapes, putting the motor on the grinder, but I’m sure that the tradition and ritual are very constant.

It is also interesting that this wine flowed through this family. It did not stop and start with the men. Nobody bought wine ever. His wine was the whole family’s. A sense of belonging and identity, this is his family’s wine, all through a drink.

Customs
Holidays

Trick or Drink

Item:

“Eventually it got super boring and some dad drank too much and they had to take care of him, so we left.”

The informant’s hometown had a tradition on Halloween catered toward fathers in the neighborhood. Mothers would typically stay home, passing out candy to kids, while fathers would take the children out for drink or treating. However, at each stop at a father’s house in the group, they would Trick or Drink, which involved going into the house and spending a short while having pre-prepared drinks. The dads would usually prepare the drinks at their respective homes before gathering up to go out, and when they got there on the journey with the kids, the moms would bring the drinks out for all the dads. As the drinking sessions got longer and the dads a little less “focused”, the kids would break off and go out alone or with minimal supervision to continue their trick or treating. The starting house was determined simply by cycling through ones that hadn’t been done in recent years.

 

Context:

The tradition started a few generations before the informant. It served as a way for dads to spend time with their kids but also have fun with each other in the process. The informant remembers it being a rather high energy night until the dads slowed down and took longer at each house, to the point where to kids got bored and wanted to go back out on their own. She wasn’t sure what kinds of drinks were being made since she was so young, but just knows there were a lot of them. Other people in the room chimed in when she mentioned this tradition saying they had looser but similar things that would happen in their hometowns.

 

Analysis:

It’s a little funny how formal this tradition is. While other people present for the performance noted similar tendencies from their hometowns, this particular one had ample preparation, planning, and repetition. While it wasn’t the case that this was the only way the dads could be incentivized to go out with their children, it was obvious that making sure their kids had fun and got candy was not the focus of their night. To a certain extent, it’s a night where the fathers can act more like kids, but with the added benefit of alcohol. The fact that every year at least one dad drank too much and had to be taken care of is also a bit humorous. It wasn’t clear what level of supervision the kids had after they abandoned the dads, or why they needed supervision earlier if they were comfortable going out later alone.

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