USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Chips’
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Foodways
Material
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Let Snacks Alone

This friend of mine has always been one of the most superstitious people I know. Her childhood was split between two households, each with their own unique beliefs and superstitions. Having been quite close for the past few years, I’ve heard innumerable stories regarding strange folk-beliefs her parents taught her as a little girl.

The following was recorded by hand during a group interview with 4 other of our friends in the common area of a 6-person USC Village apartment.

“I think it’s bad luck to open people’s food and eat it before they do. Like if Nas buys a bag of goldfish, and I take it and open it, and eat it. One time in 7th grade, my best friend, Rocky, and I were sharing a bag of pretzel thins. She took it from me, opened it during a movie, and immediately after the movie she had her period. My mom said it was just us growing up. Later, I did it to someone else, I opened their bag and took a test and then I got an F on a test. This was back in middle school. I believe in signs. If you follow signs religiously, it’ll be good. I don’t think any of my superstitions allow me to have a crutch, religion is a crutch.

It’s interesting to hear first-hand how some superstitions come into being outright. As far as I can tell from online research, no one believes that eating another person’s food before they do is bad luck. My friend came to this conclusion herself after the above anecdotes played themselves out. She strung together two ‘signs’ in order to formulate an original belief. And she’s passed it on to me! Whenever I go out to eat, and someone’s food arrives before mine, I have the urge to steal a fry. Before I do, however, a little voice in the back of my head reminds me of my friend’s experiences and asks, ‘what if?’. And so I leave the fry.

I tried explaining to her how her superstitions sometimes do act as crutches. As in the case of the test, where she believed she failed due to her opening of someone else’s bag of chips. However, she would have none of it. And insisted that her superstitions served only to explain, never to redact the blame.

Folk Beliefs
Protection
Signs

Folded Chip Superstition

As she is eating a bag of chips, I notice her shifting the chips around and only picking up particular ones. I asked: “what are you doing?”

She laughs and responds, “If I open any new bag of tortilla chips I will only eat the chips that are folded over. Those are the lucky ones”

 

Background: She is a 20 year old female from Los Angeles, CA and currently a sophomore business student at USC.

Context: This interaction happened in her apartment while we were doing homework.

Analysis: I find superstitious or “luck-driven” behavior like the one described above to be incredibly interesting. I don’t personally hold and superstitious beliefs that affect my everyday actions that I am aware of, but I find it very compelling to consider the behavior we adopt simply by believing something is “lucky” or “unlucky” without any legitimate knowledge of that being true. The first example I think of is throwing salt over your shoulder after spilling salt over to avoid its bad luck. Throwing salt over your shoulder has become a cultural behavior that is unconsciously done because it is so customary and normal. It is intriguing to analyze the origins of superstitions and how they manifest through different behaviors in an individual’s life.

Foodways
Material

SALSA

EXAMPLE:

My informant’s family’s Salsa recipe.

A can of tomatoes (16oz)

A handful of cilantro from the bushel

A little less than a quarter of an onion

Two Serrano Peppers, unstemmed

Take all the ingredients above and blend them together. Once at a good consistency, not too watery, able to see slices of the cilantro in it, sprinkle the top with garlic salt to taste. Blend again. Serve with tortilla chips.

BACKGROUND/CONTEXT:

ANALYSIS:

This definitely has the feeling of definitive folklore, as it has been passed down from generation to generation, family to family, race to race, even making adjustments for people’s tolerance levels of spice. The recipe has now become the salsa recipe for so many different people and walks of life. For my informant in particular, what started as a way to taste and remember home, has turned into something that he has inadvertently passed along to his friends, who use it all the way on the other side of the country with their family and friends.

The salsa recipe seems to be more than just a recipe but also a story of this family. It is fascinating that they have kept the recipe, and passed it down to all of the parents, children, and children’s friends, swearing that the recipe is theirs, even though they do not even speak to the person who brought the recipe into their life. I cannot help but feel my informant’s grandmother remembers her estranged son, the same way my informant remembers him, every time she makes this or eats this. It is almost as though she is keeping his memory and presence alive because after all there are so many salsa recipes out there; why stick with the one that surely causes the most heartache?

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