USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Family recipe’
Customs
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Iraqi Traditional Family Meal

Marc’s mother, as I said, is of Arab descent, so I had a feeling that his mom would have some traditional recipes that she has had passed down. Marc told me about a dish that his grandmother home-makes, and taught his mom, and something that Marc has at all family gatherings.

 

Marc told me about his family recipe for his favorite dish. “Its something that we usually eat whenever our family gets together. It’s called Hameth Kibbee ‘d Girsa. They are kind of similar to meat dumplings. The stuffing inside the dish is what my grandmother taught my mom, it has chopped meat, spices, and homemade vegetable sauce. You then can make the outer shell out of different types of wheat and then you stuff it with the center stuffing, making it almost like a dumpling or ball. My mom has added her own twist to the recipe trying different spices and stuffing, it is one of my favorite family meals”

 

Background Info: Marc explained how his mother makes this Iraqi dish almost at all family events, but she learned it from her mother who also helps make it at many events. It’s a rare dish, but one of his family’s favorite.

 

Context: Marc told me about this tradition while we were in his apartment hanging out during small talk.

 

Analysis: When Marc explained this dish, it did really sound like the Asian dish of dumplings, or shumai. He explained how it has a very middle eastern type of flavor, as opposed to a very fishy flavor like traditional dumplings. This sounded very good and diverse, and Marc’s mom promised to make them for me one day.

Foodways

Sad Cake

Main piece:

9×13 Pan
2 Cups Bisquick
4 Eggs
2/3 Cup oil
1 to 1.5 teaspoons Vanilla
1 Box brown sugar

Beat eggs and oil until frothy. Add vanilla. Beat in brown sugar until thoroughly combined. Add Bisquick. Bake in a greased 9×13 pan at 350 degrees for about 30-40 min. However, be sure to check with a toothpick. Cake will fall upon removal from oven. This is part of its charm.

Context:

Recipe originally written by Elizabeth Bassa, Laura’s mother-in-law. Laura continues to bake “Sad Cake”.

Background:

Sad Cake is a charming desert which is comparable to the better-known “blondie”. The name Sad Cake is derived from the falling action of the cake which occurs when it is removed from the oven. As a result, the cake is very dense – especially at the middle of its pan.

Analysis:

This is a simple, tasty desert recipe which can be made with minimal preparation or supplies. It is accompanied by a name which makes it special, and something of a novelty.

Customs
Folk speech
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Italian Family tradition

I asked Mae her earliest memories of traveling to Chicago to visit her extended family, she responded:

“My great- great grandma moved to the U.S. directly from Italy so obviously they had a really Italian family and they ended up living in south side Chicago. She owned chickens, and every Sunday she would go into her coop, ring a chickens neck, clean it kill it, and make pasta Bolognese using the meat.”

I then asked, “When did you first learn the recipe or heard about the story?”:

“I must have first made the Bolognese sauce in 4th grade. I know I didn’t hear the story until later because I remember in 9th grade for an art class I did an art painting about my family and I painted a chicken head on the front”

 

Background: Mae is a 19 year old girl raised in Westwood, CA and currently living in Los Angeles, CA. Her parents are originally from Chicago and Little Rock, and she lived in Princeton, NJ briefly as a young girl.

Context:Mae shared this story with me while we were cleaning the dishes in our apartment.

Analysis: It is incredibly easy to overlook elements of someone’s culture that affect their folkloric practices simply by never asking questions. Mae is one of my closest friends, and I had no idea that her grandma immigrated from Italy or lived in south side Chicago. Understanding where someone comes from culturally and geographically creates the opportunity to really understand more about their identity. Hearing this story about Mae’s grandmother I felt like I was seeing a new side of her and gaining a clearer understanding of the origins to her stories she tells every day. I was reminded of recipes I have learned from my family members that have truly become a part of my own identity and my family’s identity like my mom’s banana bread and my grandmother’s scalloped potatoes.

Foodways

Chili

Main Piece: Chili

The following was a story told to me by a college of mine, RD, and I am DM. The story was about a family recipe that was passed down that she learned to do on her own.

RD: Every Christmas Eve we have tamales and it’s just a tradition we’ve weve for as long as I can remember we eat tamales but uh her specific salsa she told me always had to go on her tamales otherwise I would be cursed so um to this day even if its not one of her tamales I need her salsa to put on it otherwise I can’t eat it cause I don’t know I feel like something is going to happen to me.

DM: Do you know what’s in her salsa?

RD: Yes I do.

DM: Can you tell me?

RD: Sure so its uh a couple different kinds of chiles she puts um jalapeno then she put habaneros and then she puts cilantro and tomato and onion salt and pepper. I think that’s it. Yeah I think that’s it.  

Background/Context:

The participant is twenty-eight years old. She is a Mexican American assistant principal at a high school. One day she posted a picture on instagram of her making her grandma’s recipe from scratch. I wondered how long that family recipe was passed down in her family, so I asked her about.   

DM:Why do you like sharing this recipe/Why do you know this recipe/ Where/who did they learn it from/ Why is this repice important to you?

RD: Cause he salsa is the best salsa I’ve ever  had in my life um even when I go to Mexican restaurants I want it know. I don’t know if its because she’s convinced me that it has some special power or just because I think it is really good. She was also really important to me and she’s has alzheimer’s so um it’s like definitely not the same person as when she kind of gave me the story so I feel like it’s kind of a way to keep that part of her.

Analysis/ My Thoughts:

I think this story was actually very similar to what we were debating in class about oral versus written folklore. Her grandmother’s recipe book in her head with becomes something authored by her. She won’t be giving it to another else but her family. Instead of being an oral book it will now become something physical that can be passed down within her family. It raises the question of who the recipe book belongs to. The recipe book is hers, but the recipe book is her grandmothers. As it gets passed down, will it raise the question of where these recipes came from.  

Material

Grandma’s secret recipe

Background Information: Justin is a senior at college, and he grew up in San Francisco. His family on his father’s side is from Hong Kong, and they used to run a noodle stall while they still lived there. Now, his father works in real estate, but some family recipes still live on. I interviewed Justin about a ‘secret recipe’ passed down from his grandmother.

Justin: So, um, there’s… So my dad says a lot of like, “secret recipe this, secret recipe that”, but usually he’s making it up, but, one time, during I think, Thanksgiving dinner with like, my extended family on my dad’s side, two of my uncles brought some kind of, um, zha jiang mian (炸酱面), um, that they’d made. And, I thought it was pretty good and I was wondering where they got it, and my dad tells me that… “oh this is actually like a family secret recipe, like for real this time”. Um, and… they actually made it like, buying the ingredients and putting it together, and… whatever else you need to do to make the sauce. And, apparently it’s passed down from my grandma, who used to make it, or… she and, um, the rest of my… the rest of her kids, including my dad I suppose? Used to make it, because they ran a noodle stall in Hong Kong before they moved here. And so they made that, and it’s pretty good. And so when they came to America, and they were looking for work, um, one of the restaurant owners that my dad ended up working for as a waiter, offered my grandma a job? But, she couldn’t take it, because the sauce is really labor intensive, and you—you couldn’t make restaurant quantities of it with just one person, but she wouldn’t teach anyone else how to make it. So, she had to turn down the job.

Thoughts: It is interesting to me how protective Justin’s grandmother was over her family secret recipe. She was unwilling to relinquish ownership of it to the restaurant. This is reminiscent of the discussion we had in class about authorship and folklore. If Justin’s grandma had taught the restaurant her secret recipe, it would then belong to the restaurant and become standardized and institutionalized as a dish of that restaurant. Instead, it remains within Justin’s family, and can have variations and different forms.

Foodways

Ziti Recipe

This informant comes from a Middle Class, New York Italian family. He learned the recipe from his father, he has never bothered to ask his father were he learned the recipe from but here is how he describes it.
“we melt mozzarella and Polly O’ String cheese and onions and garlic
it’s like a layer cake made of pasta… one layer of pasta,then meat, then cheese then sauce…
shove it in the oven… we are a very white family”
This dish really follows no real traditions, it seems to be made whenever. The informant has made the dish by himself but usually makes it with his father. It seems to be a recipe passed down from his family.
I believe that this dish is a combination of both of the informant’s cultures. It’s a very traditional Italian dish of layered ziti but with American bought items. His phrasing of how he must use Polly O’ String Cheese as supposed to any other brand of string cheese. A string cheese found in many New York supermarkets and convince stores. It’s a homogenous blend of both of the informant’s cultures, combining both cultures from his family’s past in Italy and his family’s current situation in Queens.
Foodways
Material

Faherty Irish Bread

Folk Piece:

Recipe for Faherty Irish Soda Bread

3 cups flour                        1 cup raisins
½ cup sugar                      ¼ pound butter (less 1 tbs) – room temp
1 shake nutmeg                 2 eggs
3 tsp baking powder        1 cup milk
3 tsp caraway seeds

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and lightly flour 8” round cake pan.  Mix all ingredients together by hand or bread hook (if using machine).
Bake for 55 minutes.

Background Information

From the informant: I learned the recipe from my mother Rosalie Faherty.  She learned it from her childhood friend’s Mom.  The recipe originally was in terms like a saucer of this and a pinch of that.  She had to convert it to cups and tablespoons. I first made the Irish bread in high school, and since I have made it every St. Patrick’s Day that I can remember.  My mother used to make up to a couple dozen on St. Patrick’s Day, but now me and my eight siblings make it and make about thirty collectively each year.”

 

Context

My mom taught me this recipe, too, but I never cooked it on my own this year. I never even had the recipe written down until I asked my mom for the formal one – it’s often taught from person to person. I thought it would be perfect for this project, so I asked her a bit more about it. It’s widely known in my family as our go to family dish.

 

Analysis

I grew up eating this Irish bread each and every year on St. Patty’s Day. Living north of Boston, other neighbors would leave Irish soda bread on our porch, and we would leave some on theirs. I would take it to class, my parents would take it to work, and it really signified the Irish holiday of St. Patrick’s Day. This specific recipe was taught to me by my mother when I was in high school, and I would occasionally help her cook it. Similarly, her mother, my grandmother, taught it to her when my mother was just a child. Interestingly, even after all this time, I had always just thought that the recipe originated with my family. This class made me speculate that wasn’t true; recipes don’t just appear out of thin air. After my interview I found out that my grandmother actually learned it from her friend, and my grandmother was the one to translate this “folk dish” into an actual measured recipe.

Therefore, the dish that my family feels identifies ourselves is actually only two generations removed from another family. Additionally, while it was my grandmother that authored the recipe, she herself is not Irish. In fact, she’s the only grandparent of mine that isn’t 100% Irish; that I associate my Irish identity with a recipe that was from another family, authored by a woman who isn’t at all Irish, just shows how folklore can change hands and mediums every year and every generation. For an added bonus, see below the Irish bread I made this year, brought into work just like my parents.

 

FullSizeRender

 

Foodways
Material

Tomato Soup

The informant is a Film Production and Biochemistry major at the University of Southern California, where he is in his third year. He is originally from Washington state, and his family moved there from North Dakota. Before North Dakota, his family lived in various parts of Eastern Europe. The informant says that is very much influenced by his grandfather, who is a professional storyteller.

In this piece, the informant describes how his family sees tomato soup—they have very particular thoughts on how it should be made and why.

“Both of my grandparents come from European places, and they’re very particular about their recipes and stuff. Like if you look at the way they care about their recipes, it’s just like equally the way that they would care about their folk tales. Like, we have the same borscht recipe that has been used since like my great grandparents. It’s passed down, you know, and it’s an old piece of paper and you can tell it’s been recopied over the years, but the most recent copy is in an old 1940s, it’s like an Eastern European cooking book that a bunch of the grandparent women, my family’s from North Dakota, so it was a bunch of North Dakotan Czech and German and Austrian, you know women and Russian and they all came together and they sat down at a typewriter and made, typed up all their family recipes from whatever cards or whatever.

So it’s kind of like, a little encyclopedia of like, a lot of family recipes, and my family’s borscht recipe, which is like a Russian soup, is in there. And it’s like, that’s like a very important thing to pass on, that recipe. And, you know, in like, I wish I had like a story I could say that they took from Europe, but that same preservation, like in a sense the recipe is its own like thing, and there’s a dill, like a dill tomato soup.

There’s like a little story about, like it’s like you know those grandparent sort of rant things about like “you don’t realize how important this is” but it like really changed, like, it’s like, they have this rant about tomato soup, and how like, how like Russia kind of invented tomato soup, and like how important, it’s like… Cause their version of tomato soup is um, there’s tomatoes, there’s dill, there’s sour cream, and like rice, and more like, substantial than just a regular soup.

And they kinda just like, this is like the original soup because you have grains for the soup that wouldn’t last because of mold and other stuff, you have tomatoes, which is like, were kinda hard to come by, so when you got those you just, cause it’s acidic and it’ll go bad, and like, they just talked, I don’t know, like, it’s just kinda a thing that they’re like, and you wouldn’t have tomato soup like this today, cause it’s just tomato soup in a modern sense. And this is another one of those recipes that they put into this book. I wish I had more of that rant off the top of my head.”

Analysis:

This piece brings up the question of ownership—when the grandparents talk about tomato soup, it’s to imply that Russian tomato soup is the “original” and most important tomato soup. The recipe itself is also interesting; though the informant did not remember the exact recipe, he remembered the specific reasons why ingredients were chosen, which gives the recipe much more context. To an outside listener, tomato, dill, and rice may seem like an arbitrary combination, but with the context that the tomatoes and grains would go bad unless made into soup, the reasons become clear. The way that the older women recorded these recipes for their descendants was also interesting, and it helped reinforce the importance that these recipes hold for them.

Customs
Foodways
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

French Kiss Cookies

Me and my grandma, my Gigi, we would always make cookies together, these like these French cookies, they’re called like, Bisi or something, it’s “kisses,” like bissou, I think the plural is Bisi (Bises?), I can’t remember but you can just look it up. But we would always make them and she invented these cookies which she called them French kisses, and they’re basically like buttery as fuck, even though cause like French people love butter, like even though a lot of the stuff like in their pastries they love butter, in their croissants and stuff. And then we have this meal that we have every Christmas, I’m not good at this cause I don’t speak French, it’s called…oh it’s just Chicken Kiev, but you just change the chicken, whatever chicken is in French. But it’s so good, it has like cheese inside, you stuff the chicken, and there’s asparagus and different vegetables, and then you kinda pair it with like Ratatoui or stuff like that, so it’s kind of weird, but it’s good. And my great grandma has the recipe, she just died. It’s a really old family recipe. We have it every Christmas. Basically a lot of like, for us, how we’ve taken on our French culture is through food, so we have a lot of French food, and all those have come through my great grandma, it just keeps getting passed down. My great grandma lived in France, she was the first one from our family to come to America.

 

If you see my mom, she has black hair, like all my family has really dark brown hair and really tan skin, so they all call me white bread. Cause for some reason I came out like this, really blonde, blue eyed, like a little German kid. They all have green eyes.

 

ANALYSIS:

This is an example of a family tradition that has been kept alive and continued in an effort to preserve their original (French) heritage and nationality, even generations after having moved to America. It is apparent that even so, much of that tradition is being lost, as the informant doesn’t speak French or know what the cookies are called, or much about the French culture surrounding the food that her family makes. It seems that she has a very American view of French culture, but yet has a desire to hold onto and continue her family’s French traditions as best she can. Her family’s ethnic traditions are important to her, and this is one way for her to access this, through food. This ritual of making cookies and other dishes with her grandmother is her way of expressing or trying to get close to her French heritage, and it has become much more of a family ritual and tradition than a national one.

Customs
Foodways
Holidays
Material

Christmas Casserole

The informant is an 18-year old college freshman at USC majoring in environmental studies and geology. She is of Irish and English descent, and when she is not at USC lives in Las Vegas with her parents and two siblings. I asked her about what her family does to celebrate Christmas. She said although her family is “not very religious,” they do have a Christmas ritual they do each year.

 

Informant: “I can tell you what I do for Christmas, I guess. So, we always, in the morning…Well, the night before we have to make a casserole. I know it sounds disgusting.

Interviewer: “What’s in the casserole?”

Informant: “I can ask my mom for the recipe.” [Recipe provided beneath interview.]

Interviewer: “Did she learn it from anyone, or was it a recipe from a book?”

Informant: “Both my parents learned it from their parents. We have to make the casserole the night before. And so then in the morning, we’ll wake up…so all the kids have to stay upstairs and we have this landing you can look over, but we aren’t allowed to look over it or go downstairs until my dad has his video camera and then he records us all coming down the stairs together. We go in a circle after our presents are sorted and one person opens and then the next, etc. We go through the whole thing until everyone is done, and one of my parents will put the egg casserole in. Once it’s ready, we eat that, and we just go and play with our presents. It’s so good, it’s like breakfast food, called egg casserole. It’s so good.”

 

 

“Recipe:

6 eggs

2 pieces of bread (need to rip apart in small bite sized pieces)

1 pound of hot sausage

1 cup of mile

2 pinches of salt

2 pinches of pepper

Dry mustard (No exact amount, but around the same amount as the salt and pepper)

 

Brown the sausage. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

 

Place in baking dish over night.

 

Next morning—preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook for 45 minutes. It might need an extra 15 mins. Closer to one hour.”

 

Thoughts:

My informant told me that it was a casserole passed down to her mom, as opposed to some other treat, because in Ireland—where her family is from (my informant described herself as “very Irish”)—they were very poor and as there was a lack of food, casseroles were something that could be thrown together using whatever they had. I thought it was super interesting that my informant perked up when she talked about he casserole and said multiple times how good it was. Food is fuel, but it is much more to people. There are emotional connections to food—memories of specific times or holidays or family members associated with certain foods—and that is passed down through families from one generation to the next is one example of this importance.

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