Okay so like, if people get like a knee injury, a really big thing is to, they’ll take raw eggs and they’ll crack the eggs and rub it on someone’s knee, for pain, and then they’ll wrap it for like two days. And apparently it really works.
Do you break the egg on their knee?
I think they just break it in a bowl, and then they put it on their knee and then they’ll wrap it. That’s a big one that I’ve seen a lot.
So is this for any injury?
No it’s not just like for any injury, I know it’s like your knee, maybe your elbow, and they’ll wrap it, I guess it’s for like a joint, just for joints.
Isn’t there also a ritual with eggs when someone gets a new car?
Oh yeah, okay so if you get a new car, I don’t know if it’s Persian or if it’s just a Jewish thing, I don’t know, it might be Persian… Okay so there’s two things, one of them is they’ll put like, eggs under each wheel, and you have to drive over the eggs, that’s like maybe to keep bad eyes away or something like that. And then another one is like, so when I got my car my mom would like, when I was gonna drive away for the first time they would pour water. Okay wait that’s what they do when they’re going on vacation, like a really big trip. Like when I was leaving for Italy, before I left, my mom or somebody would have to like, once you drive away, pour a glass of water behind you. I don’t know what it means, I think it’s just for safety and to have good luck or something like that, to have a good trip.
What do you think driving over the eggs is about? Like breaking new ground or something?
I don’t know, that would make sense, yeah like a new beginning or something like that, and it could also just be like having a positive entrance, like keeping bad eyes away. They’re really big on the evil eye.
These are rituals enforced by superstitions, mainly surrounding keeping bad luck and evil forces away from you. There is symbolism with breaking the egg, although the informant is not quite clear on what that is. It could be speculated that the inside of an egg resembles the evil eye; or it could be as simple as the fact that eggs break easily; or could have something to do with eggs being a fetus or a new thing in development, like a new car bursting into the world like a chick would burst out of an egg. These are protection rituals and good luck rituals.
Basically, when someone talks bad about you, or someone does something to like, harm you, or let’s say like for example I’m wearing a nice dress and I come home and I’m like ‘oh mom, this lady said “nice dress, it looks really good on you,”’ my mom would be like, ‘oh, she has a bad eye on you.’ And my mom will run, and she’ll get salt, and she’ll put salt all around my head. Like she’ll start spraying it, like literally having salt fly in the air, and like, pouring salt everywhere and then she says like, ‘to keep the bad eye away from my daughter,’ she says like a little prayer in her head. It’s like a blessing of salt over your head to keep away the evil eye.
So your mom does this to you?
She did it once. She learned it from her Persian friends. I’m not Persian, but my friends that are Persian, their moms have done it to me too.
Another thing is like, I don’t know if it’s traditional but like when you get a new car or you get something new, you take eggs and you run the eggs over with the car. You put like two on the back tires, two on the front tires, and you run them all over. So it’s like good luck cause you’re like coating the tires with an egg? Not an egg but like, you break the way for the car kind of. You break the way for the car to like enter the world, the streets.
Why eggs specifically?
I, I don’t know. These are just things that I’ve seen people do. And then, what is the jumping over fire one, Nic?
(Her friend: That’s for Persian New Year.)
(Friend: You’re asking the wrong person. Ask Sogol.)
This is an interesting folk superstition and ritual that has been adopted by a family that isn’t Persian, but is Jewish, and are surrounded by a community of Jewish Persian. The informant’s mom, through interaction with her friends, has inherited or adopted this belief and practice of protection and keeping bad spirits away. One can easily see, though, how the original meaning or belief has become lost / confused/ muddled, because the informant did not grow up being as exposed to this tradition in her family. However, as her friends and her friends’ parents have done these rituals, she has been exposed to them and so participates in them, just not as fully perhaps as her friends with Persian heritage. She does know why these rituals are practiced and some of the symbolism behind the eggs, for example. It is also a sort of initiation ritual for the car to enter into the world.
My informant came from a mixed background. One side of her family was Romanian and the other side was Italian. During Easter, she would take part in traditions from both groups. One of the Romanian traditions she would partake in was called Choking Eggs, where two people make painted eggs and then hard-boiled them. Each person would then take their egg and smash them against each other until one of them broke. The value of winning was increased if your egg was especially pretty. One of the Italian traditions involved playing a game called Bachi in the lawn and the game involved throwing marbles. Also an Italian Easter tradition involved making all sorts of breads. One such bread was a woven bread filled with breakfast foods like hardboiled eggs and salami and such.
You start by buttering slices of bread and decrusting them and then cutting them into little cubes. Then you put them all in a big baking dish and mix 2/3 quart of milk (as this recipe got handed down it really got complicated), four eggs, a teaspoon of dry mustard, 2/3 a teaspoon of dry salt and you mix all of those ingredients together and whisk it and then you pour it over the bread. Also before all this, you would fry up eight pieces of bacon. So, after you have the bread in the pirate’s pan and the milk poured over the eggs you crumble the strips of bacon and sprinkle them on top and then put it in the refrigerator and let it sit overnight. Then, in the morning you bake it at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
Every Easter, my informant would have this Cheese Casserole/Souffle. Her mom used to make it every Easter and she had it given to her by a friend at a church and the church was the one she used to attend when she was little, so she would eat it there too. Her daughters say that they will make it for their families as well.
For me, it was interesting to here that a casserole dish was so popular amongst a family. For some reason, all my childhood, I had thought that brussel sprouts, casseroles, meatloaf, and fruit cake were the four no-no foods in American society. I had never eaten any of then because my mom would always make us traditional Chinese food and though I always ate more American food anyways, my mom knew nothing about casseroles. So, to hear that this dish was passed down so many generations and actually liked was so mind-blowing. In this case, the informant always made this for Easter Day and I believe that it is made on that particular holiday because of the main ingredient of eggs and the yellow color of the dish. I remembered last year actually when I celebrated Easter with my friend’s family, there were an array of egg-based dishes and only egg-based dishes, but such an assortment it was. Since on easter we have the tradition of the Easter Egg Hunt and Spring chicks, that is a natural food we eat on that Holiday as well.
Easter egg hunts have long been a family tradition for this informant. Every year, her parents will hide eggs for her and they will also paint eggs the night before. In the Easter eggs, they will hide candy or small toys. Of course, now that she is older it is more of a fun tradition they keep. However, when she was younger, her and her sister always had huge Easter egg hunts.
This year, a few days before Easter, this informant, me and many more of our friends went around campus at midnight at we hid a total of 1,000 filled Easter eggs in random places. After getting our bags of Easter eggs, we became the Easter bunnies and hid the eggs all around the school campus. We did not tell anyone we were doing so, but the next day, we found out that it was a great success and many people found the candy-filled eggs with delight!
When I was younger, my parents would hide eggs all around our backyard as well and then as we got older, we started going to the city-wide Easter egg hunts at Chase Palm Park in Santa Barbara. There kids from all over the town raced to get as many eggs as possible, some eggs would have candy, some eggs would have tickets to redeem for prizes. I always loved this and we would go with all our friends. The golden eggs in each arena would have extra big prizes too.
Easter has always been a time of traditions, as is any holiday. And easter egg hunts have been a tradition for many both in childhood and then in adulthood. I believe that many childhood traditions stay because when we all grow up and have kids, we then pass our childhood traditions to our kids, so in a way, we never stop hunting for eggs or trick or treating.
My informant explained that Mestre Bimba would often use the proverb, “if you want to make an omelet, you’ve got to break some eggs.”
Informant: “He would let, he would ask his students to throw rocks at him, so he could defend with Capoeira defenses. He also used to train defenses with, by tying a straight edge to a string and then tying that to a tree limb, and throwing it in a way that it would swing in all kinds of directions and he would have his students use Capoeira defenses to evade the razor blade. Hence, “if you want to make an omelet, you’ve got to break some eggs.” You’ve gotta have a little risk to really get out of the way.”
My informant is a Capoeira Instructor of Brazilian descent, raised in California. Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that came to be due to the cultural exchange that occurred in Brazil during the slave trade. He has spent about one year of his life in Brazil over the course of many trips, and is immersed in Brazilian culture within the U.S. Many stories within the Capoeira community float around from one region to the next. Many stories revolve around one man in particular – Mestre Bimba. He was a pivotal man of Capoeira who’s efforts led to the martial art’s legalization in Brazil in the early 20th century. Instructor Guatambu has equated Mestre Bimba to being the “Bruce Lee,” of Capoeira. Stories are sure to follow a reputation like that.
My informant says this about his background:
“My parents are both um…from Mexico… and then they moved to the uh…Sacramento, California in uh ’88 and had my sister and I was born shortly after that in ’91…um…we lived in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood until the time I was in third grade at which point my Dad’s career brought us to a point where we could move into a high income neighborhood elsewhere in Sacramento and I lived there since until I moved to Los Angeles this year for college.”
My informant was raised in a Catholic family. He provided this Hispanic folk food way in the following conversation:
“Informant: So this is a folk food way, it’s interesting because I’ve heard of it outside of my family’s context and outside of the town that I grew up in, but uh…only rarely and never in the same way that I’ve seen with them. Uh…this food way is Chilaquiles, which are a uh… breakfast food in Mexico umm is basically a uh…chopped up tortilla, fried and served with, in uh… via you mix it with eggs umm, sometimes peppers… and then it’s served with really hot salsa on top and on a rare occasion, served with soul scream on top…that, at least in my home, this was a very uh, weekend-y thing because it takes time to prepare, we didn’t really have time for it on a weekday, um, at least for my parents growing up, it was very much, very much a luxury, um, because this has meat in it, you might get meat once a week and eggs were also…not quite as much and so, these ingredients, so…is very very simple. This was uh, uh, quite the, it was uh, a rare deviation from the usual diet, a very luxurious one.
Collector: What do you think is the significance of this uh, food way?
Informant: Uh, the significance is that it’s rarely reflective of the way that, at least the way that people who grew up in that town, um, it’s a very modest upbringing um…you don’t get fancy breakfast like you see in America where traditional breakfasts are pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, orange juice…very very simple, but it’s not as appreciated by the children who grew up with that because they don’t recognize the luxury of that sort of breakfast.”
This folk food way is very much reflective of the living standards of what my informant describes as a modest upbringing in a Mexican village. The addition of meat, eggs and soul cream, which are considered expensive food items in a small town like the one my informant’s parents grew up in, show the Chilaquiles’s role as a luxury or celebratory food–it’s a special food, something different from what is usually consumed. I find that many folk food ways are created out of this situation, where a specific food, such as eggs or meat, are main ingredients of a special dish (special as in special occasion) because it was considered a luxury food back in the day.
To show an example, my father often recounted to me about luxury food items in the past.
Here’s a little background on my father:
My father was born as a farmer’s son into a veteran’s family in Taipei, Taiwan. His father and mother ran away from China to Taipei during the Chinese Civil War. Many of his cultural practices and beliefs are taken from mainland Chinese culture. Because of his background, he is considered a “mainlander” in Taiwan (Chinese in Taiwan are divided into Mainland Chinese, Taiwanese or indigenous). My father graduated from Iowa University with an MBA. His B.A was obtained in Taiwan.
While my father often tells me how precious sweet foodstuffs, such as jawbreakers, watermelon and rock candy, were to him in his childhood, he never forgets to reinforce how precious eggs are. He said that in his childhood, eggs were extremely expensive so much so that families couldn’t afford to eat eggs. The only chance he would have to eat an egg was on his birthday. He came from a family of five and on their birthdays, his mother would make ??? (Yang Chun Mien, which directed translated would be “not complicated noodle” or “simple noodle”), which is basically water, noodles and scallions, and put an egg, one egg, in the soup, as a sort of luxury food. Thus, nowadays, when eggs are a lot cheaper, my father never forgets to add egg into the noodles.
From these recollections, we can see how historically rare food items have shaped folk food ways.
For more information on Chilaquiles, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilaquiles
For pictures of Yang Chun Mien, go here: pictures.