USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘food’
Customs
Foodways
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

Tradition of Gift Giving- Christmas (Cali, Colombia)

During Christmas, it is, really common for people to make a lot of breads and pastries in Columbia to just give to surrounding neighbors. The more popular treats would be empanadas which are a pastry in which the inside is filled with different type of sweet pastes. The sweet pastries are a form of telling your neighbors to enjoy the festivities and have a great time, basically a good omen for the holidays. Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people. This seems like a great way to start the holidays with gifts, as how usual Christmas goes in the United States.

Customs
Festival
Foodways
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ferias De Cali

Cities are important to the location, each city has its own party, they call it ferias, the feria de Cali just happens to be during Christmas time , the carnivals are in Barranquilla Carnival. These carnivals are huge festivals in which the Colombian people showcase different sets of parades and a lot of other different stands just to show off their different type of foods or even toys for the kids to have fun with.These carnivals last for many weeks sometimes in order to celebrate through the time change of the seasons.Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people

Customs

Family First- Meal Customs

It is common for the “man of the family” to always let everybody else start eating first, and then he gets served. This shows that the man is putting his family first instead of eating all the fruits of the labor. With this, comes to common tendency that people think about that the Male of the house is the only one working, and the Mom of the children is the one who keeps the house clean and always has meals ready after the Man comes back from work.

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Juan is a Mexican-American from Mexico city. He works demolition, but is super into his religion of being a Jehovah Witness. He has been passing down his traditions to his kids, just how they were passed down to him by his dad and grandpa

Customs
Foodways
Material

Food Preparation

Every time food is prepared, there are always a variety of spices available. The mexican-cuisine culture surrounds that taste. A common tradition of Juan is too have habaneros ready at hand for every meal. This has been a tradition between his dad, and grandpa, and so forth, mostly the males of the family, in which they would spice up their food to extraordinary levels. He says it comes as a way to show that food is fought for, and the spiciness not only adds taste, but also shows that the literal sweat and tears are needed to have food on the table.

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Juan is a Mexican-American from Mexico city. He works demolition, but is super into his religion of being a Jehovah Witness. He has been passing down his traditions to his kids, just how they were passed down to him by his dad and grandpa.

folk metaphor
Folk speech
Foodways

“Your mother-in-law loves you” Greek Tradition

Informant: The informant is Aliki, an eighteen-year-old young woman who grew up in Yonkers, New York. She is a freshman at Concordia University in Irvine, California. She is of Greek descent.

Context: We sat on the floor of my dorm room at the University of Southern California when Aliki visited me during her spring break from college.

Original Script:
Informant: This takes place when you are eating at the dinner table. Say my aunt will call us. In Greek, my mother will say to my aunt, “Your mother-in-law loves you.” When she says this, my aunt will understand that she is at the table eating. That way, she doesn’t have to explain to my aunt that she is eating; she just gets it. This phone conversation has to take place between two Greeks because you speak the phrase in Greek. My aunt, or whoever is on the phone, and my mom can laugh it off, and my aunt will tell her to enjoy her meal and hang up. My mother taught me this when I was about thirteen. That’s around the time I saw her do this for the first time. I just remember that one day, my mom kept saying it.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: I think it’s just kind of important to know because it’s part of my culture. Also, it’s useful to know because if I called someone and they said that my mother-in-law loves me, I should understand what it means.

Personal Thoughts: I like this piece of folklore a lot because I think it is very unique. It is interesting to me that Greeks have a general understanding of what to do when they hear the phrase, “Your mother-in-law loves you” over the phone. I also find it compelling because it seems that this phrase takes just as long to say as something like, “I’m eating right now. I’ll call you back.” Since the two are just as simple to say, it is interesting that Greeks choose to say something which most people would deem more confusing, rather than just explaining what they are doing.

Foodways
general
Legends
Material
Narrative

Buddha Jumps Over the Wall

Context: One of my roommates, when he heard me explaining to a friend about how stressful it was to try and find folklore from different sources, offered some of the stories he knew from his childhood.

Background: This is a legend behind a certain dish that my roommate knew about.

Dialogue: The way the legend goes is that the original person who created it was cooking the soup, and on the other side of “the wall” there was, um, a Buddhist, or maybe a Buddha, since that’s what they call them when they achieve nirvana, um, meditating, and once the soup was finished it smelled so good that, uh, the Buddhist monk summoned all of his strength and leaped straight over the wall just to have a taste of the soup.

Analysis: I looked up the recipe this legend is based on (see below), and the complicated cooking process is one of the biggest clues as to what might make it delicious enough for a Buddhist monk to forsake their oath of vegetarianism (anything that takes three days to cook MUST taste amazing). While the other stories I’d heard from this roommate revolved around Vietnam, I found that this legend is of Chinese origin, and collectively these pieces then show us how the spread of Buddhism has affected lives and folklore tellings across East and South Asia (or, at least, in more than just one country).

Annotation: The recipe for Buddha Jumps Over the Wall, as well as a slightly different origin of the dish, can be found here.

Foodways
general
Material

Conserving Chili Oil

Context: I collected this from a high school friend when we were on a camping trip together over Spring Break.

Background: My friend is Chinese on his mother’s side, and she grew up in a poorer part of Communist China.

Dialogue: Recently, when my mom cooked, she would kind of be leading me through what she was doing, because I was gonna be going to college and needed to know how to cook for myself, live on my own and everything, and in the the past, like, three years I’ve helped her with cooking, helped her with dinner and everything. Um, and specifically, there is a sauce that we had at my house. My entire childhood we had this sauce. It was a, a special chili oil that actually her mo- her father made for her. Um… and I think I’m diverging but that’s fine! But the— this chili oil, like, it’s kind of like… You know how when people make sourdough you need to have, uh, like a seed sourdough batch that you use to build the next one, and then each sourdough is like a build on that previous sourdough? The chili oil was kind of like that, so she would have this— er, her father would have this chili oil that he, he had made a very long time ago, and then it would run low, and then he would just build on what he already had… Um, and so then the chili oil that we have in my house is vastly different from where it began, and honestly I have no idea if he was the first one to make the chili oil. But it’s in little glass jars now, so, it’s… become a little modernized now, at the very least.

Analysis: I really love how symbolic this is of the passing of the family line, and has some connections to the idea of ancestors living on in the form of little bits of chili oil that are still left over from decades earlier. It’s very unique as well, for something out of Chinese culture, and really reflective of how the Communist regime in the country affected the poor, what will the recycling of materials for each fresh batch of chili oil.

Foodways
Material

Mexican Recipe

Main Piece: Beer Battered Fish Tacos

 

For this piece, I asked my nanny of 18 years, Mirna, for a recipe, and being native to Mexico, she delivered. She prepared beer battered fish tacos, which consists of frying a white fish meat in a batter made from bread crumbs and beer (Corona, of course). It is put into a taco with a chipotle sauce, cabbage, and salsa. I asked if there was a set recipe she followed but there was not, she just cooked based off how she had done it in the past. The entire time she was cooking she was adding little bits of ingredients here and there according to taste, and nothing was perfectly measured. Once the fish was battered it was fried in a pan with vegetable oil, not a traditional deep fryer. There was no set time to cook or anything of the sort, just judging based on the look of the food and feel based on the cook.

 

Background:

 

This is a traditional recipe from my nanny’s home in Mexico, and she has been using it for as long as I can remember at home. It was a traditional recipe used when a successful fishing trip returned and would be cooked right away.

She learned it from her mother, who would generally cook for all of her brothers and sisters, of which there were 6 of them. She had many recipes she could’ve chosen from, having grown up in this large family and also having cooking as a big part of life for them. There was never really much take out or dinners out, so it was typically home cooked meals from her mother.

 

Context:

 

This time she cooked the meal for me, it was just one night for dinner, and did not have much contextual meaning. I used to fish a lot during the summer, and fresh fish was my favorite food for that span of time. I used to call my nanny as we were unloading the boat telling her what we had caught and she would prepare to cook it for me, and this became one of my favorite preparations of fish. She cooked a very large portion as it would serve as our family dinner that night, and had a sort of system going where she would be constantly breading the fish, frying it, warming the tortillas, and prepping the plates. She said that’s what it was like at home when her mother would cook for everyone, needing to feed many mouths.

When this dish was being prepared, my dad had a few different beers at home but none were a Mexican beer, so my nanny actually went out and bought Coronas to cook this recipe, which I think is interesting in that even though I’m sure other types would have worked, it is more traditional to the recipe that she used a Mexican beer for the recipe.

 

My Thoughts:

 

I had always thought this was just a random recipe my nanny had found and cooked for our family, but it turned out this was a recipe she had learned from her mother and brought here to cook for us. There are many more dishes my nanny knows how to cook from home and makes them constantly, but this one is hands down my favorite that she does.

Foodways
Material

Brazilian Cheese Bread

Main Piece: Brazilian Cheese Bread

 

My friend has a nanny named Lucia who would cook cheese bread for us when we were hanging out at his house. She cooked it for me the last time I went home, and it is a dish consisting of Cassava Flour, known as tapioca in the US, which I am told was a staple ingredient used in Brazil. They are small, pale rounds of dough, dating back to the first settlers and natives of Brazil.

Along with the tapioca, there were other ingredients used such as different cheeses and milks, not necessarily measured out but added in according to taste and what the consumer preferred.

Picture1

(I forgot to get a picture of the finished product but it was along the lines of this.)

 

Background:

 

When Lucia (my friend’s nanny) first started working for my friend’s family, she was very new to the US. She had been born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, and began working for them when my friend’s sister was 2 (she is 22 now) and would learn English along with her because she was so new to the culture.

Lucia learned this recipe from her mother, as she would prepare it for the family, and her mother learned it from Lucia’s grandmother, and so on. This is the perfect example of a recipe passed down through generations, and at this point it wasn’t something she had to look up everytime she wanted to cook it, let alone be the exact same everytime it was prepared. The ingredients would vary from time to time, adding some variety to the dish while still maintaing the same base. Different cheeses would be added to change the taste, with some being added to make it more of a dessert, while you could add different cheeses such as parmasen and serving it with a more italian meal.

 

My thoughts:

 

This cooking of cheese bread isnt necessarily my favorite, but I have found it in pastry shops as a more savory treat, and it is a nice treat from time to time. I like how it is a very adaptable dish, being able to make it with the same general ingredients but changing the variety to give it a different taste depending on the consumer. I’m personally a fan of recipes that don’t need a cookbook, with instructions that require exact measurements, and generally just give the cook a free pass to do whatever it is they want with the ingredients. This adds a level of artistic talent to cooking and I personally see it as a form of art.

Customs
Festival
Foodways

The Significance of Yams in Nigeria

new_yam_festival2

My friend grew up in Nigeria before coming to the US for college. He says yams are life in Nigeria.

Friend:“The yam is the staple food and therefore a measure of masculinity and wealth. If a family has a lot of yams, you’re rich because you can feed your family. This makes you a strong man. Yams are equated to life in Igbo culture. Nigeria is the leading producer of yams in the world, so of course they are a big deal to us.”

Me: Do you still have family who farm yams?

Friend: “My father does not farm yams, but my grandfather did, and his father before him. When my grandfather got married, he had to present his yams to my grandmother’s family to prove he could provide for her, which is a fairly typical custom in Nigeria.”

Me: Is there anything specific about how yams are farmed that makes them special?

Friend: “On some farms in Nigeria, the women aren’t allowed to go to the farm until harvest time. Then the women do all of the harvest work. It’s superstition I guess. There are many people today who still grow yams. Yams are featured at any big gathering or at any holiday meal.”

 

Analysis: Many cultures have some form of staple food. For the Irish, potatoes are an important part of sustenance, and therefore are a large part of how people live. Because of this, a simple food like a potato, or yam, can come to have symbolic meaning.  What a family produces in terms of yams, and how it relates to masculinity is extremely interesting, given that yams are an unpredictable measure of success. One year, the harvest could be plentiful and the weather perfect. The next year, however, bad luck could lead to very few yams. Another aspect of this folklore worth noting is that while the men do the initial farming, the women do the harvesting. Perhaps this relates to the hunter/gatherer trope, but a man’s worth relies on work which is half done by women.

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