USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘creole’
Foodways
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Creole Foodways: Gumbo

Main Piece: “So culturally my family is Creole and… um… both sides of my family, my mom and dad, are all from Louisiana. So a big traditional food that we eat is gumbo, which is kind of like a soup… um… and it’s filled with seafood, sausage, and it’s served over rice. Um… my family eats it every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s the main meal at Thanksgiving versus traditional turkey and stuff. We have both.. but gumbo is like our big thing.”

Background: The informant says that this tradition has been around her entire life. The meals involves her entire family, immediate and extended. For the informant and her family, gumbo is a traditional Creole dish only eaten on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The meal is important to the informant because it involves her grandparents, who speak broken French and English, as well as her parents and brothers, who only speak English. She understands this meal as a unification of different parts of Creole heritage- being black, being white, and/or being French.

Performance Context: I sat across the informant at a table outside.

My Thoughts: It is interesting that the informant describes her family as “culturally Creole”. The informant’s identification with Creole heritage seems to be indicated by her parent’s Louisiana lineage. The informant and her family only eat gumbo on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The context, however, is not religious or patriotic, but rather a special occassion where the entire family eats together. The choice of making and eating this dish on Thanksgiving and Christmas is an interesting time to celebrate a traditional Creole dish. Both holidays seem to be a way to gather the entire family in one setting while incorporating individual tradition and ethnic foodways. The unification of different domains of being Creole (black, white, French) are understandably significant to the informant, whose family has different backgrounds contributing to their identity.

Foodways
general

Creole Foodways: Crab Boil

Main Piece: “A big tradition in my family is to have an annual crab boil. So this event is where we all get together and we just celebrate our Creole heritage. And we serve traditional foods like crawfish, shrimp, um crab, corn, and sausage. Um this is another event where my entire family- extended and even family friends- will come to. We have different things that we do that are typical of Creole people, like the second-hand line which is when people will get in a line and sort of dance and walk around like a konga line.”

Background: According to the informant, this event usually happens at the end of July when everyone is more available to come together. The informant notes that the food is “traditional” of Creole dishes- the seafood, vegetables, and meat. She mentions that Louisiana typically has crawfish boils, but her family’s tradition uses more than just crawfish. The second-hand line is a celebration that usually culminates the event. The informant describes it as a type of line dance without real structure. She says people throw and wave handkerchiefs during the second-hand line. Unlike other family-specific gatherings, friends of the family are also invited. She says this event is less exclusive, “like a barbecue.”

Performance Context: I sat across the informant at a table outside.

My Thoughts: The unifying component of the crab boil is the traditional Creole foodways. This gathering seems to be rather fluid, finding meaning in it’s gathering of family and friends unlike an exclusively celebrated holiday. The inclusivity of the event allows for adaptation and interpretation. For the informant, the event is a fun time to see family and friends, while eating, dancing, and socializing. The structure of the event itself is also quite fluid. It is centered around the crab boil and ends with the second-hand line, but seems to be mostly about bringing its guests together. The event’s food is “traditionally Creole,” meaning the dishes use different elements of Creole foodways, specifically the seafood (crawfish, shrimp, scallops). Although other cultures certianly utilize crawfish, shrimp, and scallops, Creole foodways have claimed them as important elements in their recipes.

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