Tag Archives: food

Ebleskivers

Ebleskivers are a folk object and food that originates from Denmark. They are very similar to pancakes and are a breakfast item. They are spherical and cooked with another folk object, an ebleskiver pan. This is a cast iron pan with round holes in it to cook the batter. This pan is used exclusively for this food, so it is a very important folk object to food culture in Denmark. They are typically served with jam or other breakfast condiments, but the informant eats them with butter and powdered sugar. There is yet another folk object used, which is a porcelain bowl filled with butter placed in a rack over a candle. It is similar to an object used to melt butter for shellfish like crab and lobster.

            The informant learned this practice from her mother. The initial recipe goes back to the informant’s great, great grandparents and she still uses the same pan passed down by the family members. The great great grandmother is from Aabenraa, Denmark. The informant only has it with family members and the combination of butter and powdered sugar seems to be a family-specific thing.

            Upon further research, it seems that this food is rarely prepared by restaurants. Instead, it is typically only made in family gatherings and by street vendors in Denmark. Because of this, it seems to me that the food is more authentic and less likely to have a standardized recipe and in doing so, is not found in much-authored literature. The folk objects only add to the culture and lore around it as these are food-specific, something not often found in many cuisines.

Til gul gya, goad bola on Sankrati

Piece

Original script (if applicable)

तील गूळ ग्या, गोड बोला

Phonetic (Roman) script

Til gool gya, goad bola

Transliteration

Sesame jaggery get, sweet talk.

Full translation

Eat sesame jaggery candy and talk sweetly.

Background

This is a Marathi phrase that is said on a holiday called Sankranti. It is spoken to everyone on this day while feeding each other Sesame and Jaggery candy.  

Context

My mother told me this piece of spoken folklore when I asked her about traditions specific to my people: Maharasthraians. This holiday is specifically celebrated by Hindus in honor of the Sun God, Surya. The day is also called Makar Sankrant or Makar Sankranti. It is said that you are supposed to reap benefits from your business or life if you eat the “til gul” (sesame and jaggery rolled into a ball)

Thoughts

    On asking my mother why sesame and jaggery were used specifically, she told me it is because the two ingredients help the body maintain heat in the winter. Sankranti is celebrated in January, one of the coldest months. It varies according to the lunar calendar but the point is that the people of Maharashtra consume sesame and jaggery to keep their body temperature up in  these cold months. In addition to that, this is the beginning of spring and the end of winter which foretells a new harvest. 

The more salsa you eat while pregnant, the hairier the baby

Main Piece

Informant: Some Mexican families believe that when you are pregnant the more salsa you have the hairier the baby is gonna come out. I didn’t like salsa a lot, and I was pregnant at the same time as my cousin and she loved salsa, she would chug it. So our family would joke that her baby was going to come out with a full head of hair and mine was going to be bald. 

Interviewer: Was it true?

Informant: Yeah, all my cousins’ kids had a lot of hair, even on their back- they looked a little monkeyish haha. Mine had hair but it was normal hair, no back hair though. Plus, it all falls off so does it really matter at the end of the day? … Do you want your child to be born with hair? If you did, then eat salsa! I also think about pregnancy cravings and trying to make something out of it. It reminds me of the saying that spicy food puts hair on your chest, but in this case it is a baby. 

Background

The informant is my mother, a Mexican woman who is first-generation and the oldest of 3, who was born and raised in San Ysidro,CA  a border town just north of Tijuana, Mexico. Influenced by memories and conversations with her great great grandmother, many of her practices, customs, and beliefs were passed down from her maternal side of Mexican customs. Fluent in both English and Spanish, the informant has always felt conflicted about her culture as she wanted to fit in with American customs but wanted to preserve her Mexican heritage and traditions. The informant had her first child when she was 18, and worked her way as a single mother with two kids to attain her Master’s Degree and is now the Executive Vice President at a non-profit health clinic that serves the community she was raised in.

Context

It is often a running joke in our family that the informant is the only one who could not handle her spice, and when this is brought up my family jokes that she is the reason all of her children came out to be bald. Wanting to learn more about this joke and its superstitious origins I asked her about it in the interview that we had. 

Analysis

I think this superstition is impacted by the dietary qualities of Mexican food as well as pregnancy cravings that many expecting mothers have. Usually, the spicier food or salsa you eat the tougher you are viewed to be, and this thought could have transpired to create the origins of this folklore. I also think it has to deal with the masculin stigma revolving around what “toughness” constitutes, and usually hair is a more masculine trait so the tougher the baby the tougher/more masculine the baby.

Armenian Coffee Recipe

Main Piece: 

Informant- “ I would like to share with you my culture’s coffee, Armenian Coffee. The first step is you add 1 cup of water per person. I am making this for me and my mother. I added a little bit of extra water because you want to make sure the cup is filled to the brim. 

So then I use columbian coffee and add it just a little bit over a spoonful of coffee. Add a little more so about 3 spoons. I like my coffee very strong. You can use coffee that is ground up very finely. 

Then start the stove on high and let the water boil.

It is important that you use the proper coffee cup in order to complete the fortune reading at the end.  You also use Jazve coffee pot which is also used in many cultures, Armenians, Turks, Persians. 

So when it is boiling you can let the foam break or keep it. I like the foam because it is full of tons of antioxidants and tastes really good. 

So now my coffee is done and I will pour it in. Make sure to fill the cup all the way to the top.” 

Background: The informant learned the Armenian Coffee recipe from her mother. In the video, she explains that she is making a cup for her and her mother. Armenian coffee is meant to be shared, an important way to bond with family and friends. 

Context: This piece was collected from a full tutorial video created by my informant. The informant lives with her family in Los Angeles and is 20 years old. The tutorial describes the steps to creating Armenian coffee. It is too long to upload so I have included an outline of the audio. 

Thoughts: This is an interesting tradition that is important to her family. She spends time making coffee for her grandmother and mother and remembers times they made her coffee. This recipe is important to the Armenian culture and is recycled through generations. 

Red Bean Porridge recipe

Main piece: A Red Bean Porridge recipe taught by my grandma, acknowledged being especially helpful for reducing symptoms of period.

Original Recipe:

红豆一两,黑米一两,薏米一两,红枣数颗,桂圆数颗,花生少许,糖少许

Translated Recipe:

Red bean: 50g; Black rice: 50g; pearl barley: 50g; Red dates: a few; Longans: a few; Peanuts: a few; Sugar: a little;

Background Information:

Almost all of the ingredients in this recipe except sugar and peanuts, are believed to be healthy to women, especially during their periods. Food like red beans, black rice and red dates are supposed to enrich the blood because of its color. Pearl barley are believed to be good to women’s skin. Longans are just healthy in general. And I think my grandma only adds peanuts and sugar to make me willing to eat it. If you want to be extra healthy, you can replace sugar with brown sugar.

Context:

My grandma called me when I was in quarantine and share this recipe as concerning for my health.

Thoughts:

I was never a fan of this red bean porridge when I was young. I thought it is disguesting that my grandma put in all the ingredients and boiled them. When I grew older and started having my period, this porridge actually helped reduce my pain several times. I don’t know if it is just because it’s some hot stuff and you always feel good eating hot food when you are in period. I’d rather believe it’s a magical recipe that would make me feel better.

Tamales in Christmas

Main piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer.

Interviewer: Can you tell me about the tamales? When you make them for Christmas? 

Informant: Oh of course! Well you know how it works. Everyone has to contribute in one way or another. For example, your mom and sister help me with the preparation and you and your dad put the money. And that way everyone puts their share. 

Interviewer: But isn’t there like a myth where if you get mad, the tamales don’t cook? 

Informant: That’s very true so don’t you dare get mad. 

Interviewer: But why? What happens? Or how do they not cook? 

Informant: They just don’t, don’t you remember 2 years ago we had to start over because your mom got mad and they didn’t cook. 

Interviewer: Oh yeah but maybe that’s just a coincidence? 

Informant: No it is real. And if you get mad you have to dance or they won’t cook. 

Background: My informant here was my grandma who’s staying with us during COVID-19. She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico but lives in the U.S. with us for the most part. She has been helping us make tamales every year for Christmas. She says that when she was younger, her family would circle around a table and each person a specific task in making the tamales. 

Context: I sat down with my grandma and asked her about this myth. I didn’t tell her it was for a project but I just brought it up and then recorded the interview above. The setting was first in the kitchen and then proceeded to the living room. 

Thoughts: I’ve heard of this myth in Mexico before from other family but my mom and grandma tell it to us all the time around christmas time. Getting mad is very bad so I usually just go to my room to avoid anything of the fuss. I don’t think it’s true. Maybe if you get mad, you don’t have the same desire or mood to cook and it’s easier to mess up. But I don’t think it has a direct relationship but I find it cool that it’s a very common myth in Mexico. 

Avocado Pit in your Guacamole

EA: Put the pit of one of the avocados form the guacamole into it after you are finished making you guacamole to keep it from browning. 

Context

EA is my mother who was born in Southern California, but whose parents are both from Mexico. She and her whole family are Catholic. However, she is not as religious as the rest of her family. She is a Human Resources manager at a small manufacturing company in the San Fernando Valley. The information was from when I was making guacamole for lunch and she was telling me what I could do to keep it fresh to eat it later.

Analysis: After I told her I wanted to collect that as folklore she told me it was not folklore because it was true. She said it very matter of fact as if it something that everyone does. Specifically, related to food and medicine the value is placed on whether or not it works. That folklore is something outdated that people believe, but does not actually work. This is obviously not the case given that many recipes and standard cooking practices originated as folklore. It also shows the negative connotation that arises when using the word folklore to describe people’s practices and how they might not like having their culture being referred to as folklore. 

Buddhist Belief About Food Leftovers

Main Piece:

Subject: When I was little my grandma would always tell me and my cousins that if we had any leftover food in our plate that we’d be forced to eat those when we died in Hell. And it’s not even like you eat these leftover items one by one… No that’s hell. Folks would mix everything and you have to eat it all. The thing is in buddhist belief (which my family is) and especially the Korean and East Asian branch, they say that everyone goes through multiple layers of Hell when you die. No exceptions. Everyone goes through different Hells where you’re judged for different punishments, and that’s why the concept of Hell isn’t that scary to elderly Koreans because like everyone be going. And on top of that my grandma lived through the Korean war she was very little but you ask anyone who lived through that era when food was so scarce, having leftover really is a crime. There is also a very common phrase that’s like “밥그릇 싹싹비우다” which translates to airing out  your rice bowl clean, and it’s used to describe like a delicious meal so in result you would eat all of that food with no leftovers. Older Koreans can be really strict about finishing everything given to you and it’s part of like the general culture to try to finish everything in you plate. In schools and military and people are taught to empty their plates clean, or you’re being wasteful and rude to the cook.

Context: The subject is a 20-year-old Freshman screenwriting major at USC who was born in South Korea, and currently resides in Los Angeles, California. They are a close friend of mine, and we are currently quarantined on opposite coasts of the country. They are in LA, and I am in Charleston, South Carolina. I called them up one afternoon and asked if they had any folklore they would willing to share with me, and this is what they told me.

Interpretation: This folk belief sounded pretty personal to the subject and their family. There are apparently 18 layers of Hell according to Buddhist beliefs. They all seem quite torturous and uncomfortable. I found it interesting that everyone must go through these layers of Hell once they die. As the subject mentioned, there is a sort of comfort to that, and it does take some of the fear away to know that it is a collective experience. One of the major beliefs of Buddhism is that suffering is caused by greed, so it makes sense that it would be encouraged not waste any food, or get more food than is absolutely needed.

The Ritual of Miyeok-guk (미역국)

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between me (LT) and my informant (GK). 

GK: Every year on your birthday, you eat the same thing, and it’s Seaweed Soup. The Korean name is Miyeok-guk (미역국), which literally translates to “seaweed soup.” 

LT: I’m assuming there’s something symbolic there, right?

GK: You’re supposed to eat it because apparently your mother eats it during pregnancy, and it fortifies her blood. I’m not sure what that means, or if my parents just made it up, but apparently all Koreans do it because I watched a docuseries where this Korean dude does it. But I guess it’s supposed to connect you to your mom somehow. 

Background:

Although GK was born and raised in Los Angeles, her parents are originally from South Korea, and they kept Korean culture very alive throughout her upbringing. She has been eating Seaweed Soup for as long as she can remember, whether it be for her birthday or a relative’s. During the interview, she points out that they eat this soup regularly, not just on birthdays. It’s actually one of her favorite meals that her parents make when she’s home from college. To her, this soup symbolizes love. In our conversation, GK says “My parents… they don’t show love externally often, but they do by cooking.” 

Context:

GK is one of my best friends from high school, and she’s the only one who left California to go to college (where she’s currently quarantined). This piece was collected during one of our routine catch-up FaceTime calls. 

Thoughts:

I believe this ritual reflects the nature of Korean familial relationships. While GK’s parents don’t fit the stereotypical “tiger mom” image we often see of Asian American parents, they still hold her to a high standard and expect her to be respectful. There is a sense of formality and strength in Korean home lives. The exception to this is food. Cooking is a labor of love where a parent shows they care about their child by devoting time, money, and energy into something they can enjoy. It’s what connects them. In regards to this specific meal, pregnancy is a time where a child and their mother are the most connected they’ll ever be. By a child eating the same thing their mother ate during that time, it symbolically recreates that bond, showing it’s still there. Even the tone of GK’s voice when describing this ritual was much softer and more loving than how she normally speaks about her parents. 

For further reading on the role food plays in Korean households:

Cho, Grace M. “Kimchi Blues.” Gastronomica, vol. 12, no. 2, 2012, pp. 53–58.

So-Maek

Main Piece:

Original script: 소맥

Phonetic (Roman) script: somaek

Transliteration: (Acronym) Soju and Maekju

Full Translation: Soju and Beer

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the interviewer and the informant.

Informant: Koreans love drinking and there are a bunch of drinking games and traditions, but I think the most commonly known one is So-Maek. It’s basically a cocktail, and you make it by mixing soju and beer. Koreans love drinking so-maek because it’s more delicious than drinking either of them by itself, and it gets you drunk quicker for some reason.

Interviewer: Can you describe how you make this cocktail?

Informant: So basically the ratio of soju to beer is 3:7, that’s kinda the golden ratio. Since soju is much stronger than beer, the more you want to get wasted, the more soju you put and so on. A popular way of mixing this drink is you make a row of beer glasses, and place a row of soju shots on top of these beer glasses. You tap on the soju shot, then it has this domino effect and al the soju shots fall right into the beer glasses.

Interviewer: Are there any other variations of this so-maek recipe?

Informant: Another famous one is mixing called so-maek-col, which is basically so-maek with Coca Cola. Or, mixing soju with Yakult (yogurt beverage) is good too.

Background:

My informant is a college student (21 years old) living in Seoul, Korea. Seoul is famous for its nightlife, and with her age, my informant is particularly well versed in drinking culture, as well as being an active participant in it. Another important part of Korean drinking culture is that it’s something you learn from the elders, whether that be your parents or older friends. My informant told me that she learned how to make so-maek from a classmate who was older than her.

Context:

The conversation took place over the phone, while it was 12:30 am (PST) for myself and 4:30 pm (KST). The informant was at her dorm room, no other person was present in her room during the talk.

My thoughts:

Soju has become quite popular in the United States over the past decade, it’s not hard to find this alcoholic beverage at bars or restaurants. Like any ethnic culinary traditions, soju and soju cocktails are becoming a trend for a lot of non-Koreans, with more non-Korean establishments selling these recipes. While I think globalization of a culture is beautiful – the fact that everyone around the world can share this great cocktail recipe is exciting- but at the same time I can’t help myself but to think about the dangers of cultural appropriation- price influx and lack of credit to original owners.