USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Czech’
Foodways
Material

Řízek

Interviewer: You said you had a family recipe?

Informant: So you take a piece of meat, usually it would be turkey or pork, but it could be whatever honestly. A lot of people use chicken. You first flatten it out by hitting it, so you basically make it into a flat piece of meat. Then, you have three key steps.

First, You have flour. You put the meat into the flour and cover it all with flour. Then, there’s egg, beaten, you cover the whole thing in the beaten egg. The final step, you cover the whole thing in breadcrumbs, that you would traditionally make yourself from old leftover bread. Then, you fry the whole thing, flip it in the middle of the frying process.

Interviewer: Then serve?

Informant: Yeah, then serve. Usually you would serve it with mashed potato and a pickle.

Interviewer: You said your family modified the recipe a bit?

Informant: Every family does it a little different. What changes usually is the type of meat people use, whether or not they add other stuff to the mix. Maybe herbs or something, each family uses different things. Furthermore, you could not use meat at all. A lot of people just use different vegetables and make this recipe with them, which strays further away from the original recipe but, it’s still a variation that’s common. Personally, me and my family use turkey. We think it gets the most tender during the frying. Also, we add a few small pieces of rosemary into the batter , not a lot, but enough for it to be noticed.

Context: My informant is a nineteen year old Czech national attending school in the United States. He’s lived in Prague for most of his life, and Czech is his first language. The interview was conducted face-to-face in a college dorm room.

Background: My informant was taught how to make Řízek by his grandmother while back home in Prague. He likes Řízek because Czech cuisine is a fusion of German, Austrian, and Slavic cuisines, and as a result doesn’t have many uniquely Czech dishes. My informant told me that, because of this, Řízek is considered a sort of “national dish” in the Czech Republic, and is thus close to his heart. My informant himself has made it many times, and considers Řízek one of his favorite dishes.

Analysis: Usually, recipes don’t strike one as the material for folklore, but Řízek is an excellent example of the malleability and word-to-mouth nature of cuisine. The dish apparently had origins stemming from Italian “chicken parmesan”, but used flour and breadcrumbs to make up for a lack of flour. From there, ingenuity led to it further being changed, to the degree that the meat, herbs, and even recipe of the batter itself are subject to interpretation. Řízek is a dish of variation, everyone makes it differently. I also found it interesting that the dish was considered uniquely Czech. Considering that the Czech Republic is still a young country, it appears to be a valuable source of national pride. One might note the use of folklore in this instance to reinforce a nationalistic attitude.

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs

Jinxing

Interviewer: Got any Czech traditions or beliefs you could tell me about?

Informant: Sure, yeah there are some cool ones. So, we have one called “Jinxing”. Basically, when somebody predicts something positive about the future, anyone in the room should knock on an object made out of wood, in order for it to come true.

There’s also another variation for it. Same sort of.. Requirements for the tradition, but instead of knocking on something wood, you have to find something hollow and knock on it

Interviewer: Does anything happen if you don’t knock on an object?

Informant: If you don’t knock on an object, then that prediction won’t happen. Like, the exact opposite, worst case scenario would occur.

Context: My informant is a nineteen year old Czech national attending school in the United States. He’s lived in Prague for most of his life, and Czech is his first language. The interview was conducted face-to-face in a college dorm room.

Background: My informant, though he claims himself not to be superstitious, did profess that he did knock, since to do otherwise would be to “jinx” the prediction. He learned of the belief from his friends while living in Prague, and said that though he did not necessarily share this belief entirely, he was still afraid of “Jinxing” a prediction. According to him, if anyone were to not knock on an object, they would be accused if anything went wrong in the future.

Analysis: This belief is reminiscent of a similar belief held in the Northwestern United States that I’ve encountered, though I’m unsure how widespread of a phenomenon it is. In the US, “Jinxing” simply means that if you second-guess someone or say your misgivings about an action or event out loud, whatever you worried about will actually come true. This seems to be tied to some overarching belief in fate, especially as a malicious, or at least unforgiving force. Though this understanding of faith seems to be malleable, it can be constrained – in this case, when one does not voice their concerns, the belief is that fate will turn a blind eye. The fact that this understanding of fate is present in both the US and Czech may suggest a sharing of cultural attributes, perhaps through channels of immigration.

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Pomlázka Celebration

Informant: On every Easter Monday it is a Czech tradition for men to create a Pomlázka, which is an approximately one meter long wooden stick. This stick is then used to whip women on the butt.

The whipping is traditionally accompanied by a song, its purpose is to cleanse the woman of diseases and they are rewarded with sweets if they are children and alcohol if they are old enough to drink. Then, in some parts of the country, it is also a tradition for women to spill or pour a bucket of cold water on men as a reaction.

The songs usually are something along the lines of “give me eggs”, referring to the overarching tradition of Easter eggs. The most commonly song is something like: “Hody, hody, doprovody, dejte vejce malovaný, nedáte-li malovaný, dejte aspoň bílý, slepička vám snese jiný”, which I believe roughly translates to: “Hey, hey, give us coloured Easter eggs, if you don’t have coloured ones, give us at least white ones, your hen will give you new ones”

Context: My informant is a nineteen year old Czech national attending school in the United States. He’s lived in Prague for most of his life, and Czech is his first language. The interview was conducted face-to-face in a college dorm room.

Background: My informant actively participates in Easter celebrations in Prague, where this tradition is widely practiced. According to him, most people find it ridiculous, but nevertheless entertaining, a view which he shares. He believes that this is an important expression of Czech culture, as this tradition dates back generations, but also thinks that it is practiced mostly for entertainment.

Analysis: This was one of the first holiday based customs I encountered while collecting elements of folklore. I was surprised that, despite occurring on Easter, the custom is actually relatively devoid of Christian symbolism, instead focusing on the egg element of the holiday. This seems to reflect a less-dominant role of religion within Czech culture, as Easter Sunday, a not unimportant day for Christians, is celebrated without the mention of Jesus or the resurrection at all. There are, however, some religious undertones, as the whipping sticks used by the men supposedly “cleanse” the women of their diseases.

Humor

The New Priest

Informant: So.. I have a joke about a priest if you want to hear it.

Interviewer: That sounds great.

Informant: So there’s a new priest that is taking over a church after another priest that is retiring. The old priest is teaching him about how he runs the church. “The most important part” he says “is the confessional. For small sins, I give one Lord’s prayer, for larger sins, I give two, and for really big ones I give three. If you have any questions, ask the warden, he’s been working here with me for a really long time so he knows almost everything.” So, one day, long after the old priest has left, the new priest has a woman in his confessional, who says “I had oral sex.” The new priest isn’t sure how bad this sin is, so he goes and asks the warden: “What did the old priest give for oral sex?” The warden replies “I’m not sure about other people, but to me he gave a fidorka (traditional Czech snack).”

Context: My informant is a nineteen year old Czech national attending school in the United States. He’s lived in Prague for most of his life, and Czech is his first language. The interview was conducted face-to-face in a college dorm room.

Background: My informant heard this joke from one of his friends. According to him, the Czech populace tends to be agnostic or atheistic, so jokes making fun of religion or religious figures are not uncommon. However,  these jokes are not mean spirited, but rather are used to criticize an institution which was normally difficult to criticize for much of Czech history.

Analysis: This joke is evidently poking fun at the church, but when one delves slightly deeper into its wording, there is a greater underlying significance. The joke references the older priest, supposedly a veteran cleric of the church, who, despite being a seasoned clergyman, still needs sexual satisfaction. The price of that satisfaction aside, it outlines an element of the Catholic church in particular – that is, the supposed abstinence of clergymen – and suggests that, perhaps, the clergy are not so pure after all. Here, we see the role of folklore in questioning larger institutions, their inner-workings, and their greater cultural roles.

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