USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Corn’
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

Haitian Halloween

Originally from Florida, this friend of mine grew up around a wide range of cultures and traditions. Raised by Haitian and Colombian immigrants, she speaks Haitian-Creole, French, English, and a little bit of Spanish. We share a love of food, and spend a lot of time talking about food and different recipes and whatnot, so when this project came down the pipeline, I knew I had to ask her about some unique, family recipes.

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

“Um, so like Christmas dinners – my whole family would come into like – we would rotate which house we would go to. And then everyone was – not really assigned – but everyone knew what like, what dish to bring. Cause like, that’s the only thing you’re good for, so just bring that. I was desserts. My mom was – there’s this thing called Soufflé Maïs, so. It was so good. It’s like sweet corn and cheese. And then – it was soufflé because it’s cooked in the oven. And then my mom also makes – I call it egg salad because I like the eggs more than the potatoes. With spam and hotdogs or either like mayo or mustard. It’s so good, it’s so delicious. It’s not a Haitian dish, it’s just a dish. And then uh, ah, Diri Djon Djon. So it’s like black rice basically. It’s soooo good. It’s like rice – of rice, and then the type of mushroom you put in with the rice. Cause it blackens the rice. And then you put peas in it.”

She later told me that these same dishes would be served around Halloween, as her family created a tradition of having a Halloween dinner every year. The Diri Djon Djon was particularly popular then, as the black color lends itself perfectly to the spookiness of Halloween-time. It was cool to hear about how her family mixed American dishes with Haitian dishes, at times using each culture as a sort of springboard into unexplored food territory. Before I finished the interview, I made her promise to bring me some Souffle Maïs next time her mom made it.

Foodways
Material

THE CORN MAN

EXAMPLE:

Interviewee: Growing up, we kind of lived in I guess sketchier areas or whatever.

Interviewer: Okay.

Interviewee: But I kind of miss it because the corn man would come by.

Interviewer: The corn man?

Interviewee: Yeah. Well there were like pretty much only Mexicans where we were. So the corn man was the old Mexican man who would come by and serve elotes to everyone.

Interviewer: Elotes?

Interviewee: Elotes. Mayo, butter, stinky cheese…

Interviewer: Stinky cheese.

Interviewee: Yeah. You know the stuff you put on pasta. Parmesan. Stinky cheese.

Interviewer: Okay.

Interviewee: So yeah, mayo, butter, stinky cheese, and chili powder. He would carry like this big tub of corn. And then you would come out of your house and he would put that stuff on the corn. I mean, I love corn, but that is like the best way to eat it.

But then, you know we moved, kind of away from that area, so know we have to make it at my house, homemade.

Interviewer: Do you make it at school?

Interviewee: Yeah. Like if we’re barbecuing out here, I will throw some corn on the grill to and make elotes. But nothing will be as good as the corn man’s. He was like the ice cream truck man. Everyone, my parents, my brothers, the whole neighborhood would come out and get the corn man’s corn. And he would just walk up and down the street.

Interviewer: Hot dogs, hamburgers, and elotes?

Interviewee: Exactly.

ANALYSIS:

I like this example for a few reasons. One is that the actual corn man himself seems to be somewhat of a legendary figure in this community. He comes in, shelves out delicious corn, and then leaves. It also seems like it has a sort of “locals only” feel to it, in that these people only come around these specific communities. More gentrified, less ethnic neighborhoods, are not privy to what they are missing out on.

It of course adds another element in that she makes it herself too. First it was her family, trying to recreate that delicious corn they had once they moved from the neighborhood. Trying to use the corn to travel back to those moments of nostalgia, fittingly she makes the caveat that its better from the corn man himself, every time.

Then, now that she has brought the tradition and food to college it is now her trying to find home again. I like that she has passed it along to her friends, many of whom did not know about the food prior, inserting it as somewhat of a staple when they barbecue together, meshing these cultures and this nostalgic cuisine together.

 

Earth cycle
Folk speech
Holidays

Indiana Corn Folklore

“Knee High by the 4th of July”

In Indiana, and especially in the source’s hometown near Indianapolis, cornfields surround most of the neighborhoods, and this is where all of the neighborhood kids play during the summer. In fact, when the source moved to Los Angeles, he said he was surprised to find that no one else knew how tall corn was supposed be during different parts of the year. He understood “Knee High by the 4th of July” to be common knowledge all over the country.

People in Indiana mark time, especially in the summertime, by how tall the corn is. It is accepted there that if a corn crop is doing well, it will be “Knee high by the 4th of July”. The height of the corn is also indicative of how hot the summer has been, or how much rain has fallen. He said that people use the cornfields in Indiana to gauge the weather conditions, much like people in Malibu watch the ocean for seasonal changes and weather patterns.

The source explained that the saying is used often, mostly in cars as people pass various cornfields and discuss how the crop is coming along that summer.

[geolocation]