Tag Archives: health

Japanese New Year Feast

Piece
Every year, the informant cooks a Japanese New Year Feast for their family. It is an all-day affair where hundreds of guests, friends and family, can come and go to eat lunch and/or dinner and socialize with those present. The informant makes the following traditional dishes:
Ozoni (rice cake in vegetable soup) is the first thing eaten on New Year’s day and wishes good health and prosperity to the family
Gomame (dried sardines) to bless attendees with health
Kombu Maki (rolled kelp) to bring happiness and joy
Kuri Kinton (sweet potato or lima bean paste with chestnuts) to bring wealth
Renkon (lotus root) as a symbol for the wheel of life
Daikon (white raddish), carrots, and other root vegetables to promote deep family roots
Ise ebi (lobster) for the festive red color and to symbolize old age and longevity; note: the lobster must be served whole and cannot be broken lest the spine of the old ones break
Context
The informant learned to cook and serve these dishes from their mother and has trained their daughter in how to give the feast. To the informant, The New Year is the most important holiday of the year as it is when the entire extended family comes together. Food preparations begin weeks before the event and there are leftovers for days after as a result of the concern that the table could run out of food.
My Thoughts
Some of the foods look similar to an object such as the lotus root looking like a wheel or the lobster’s spine curving like the spine of an older person while others symbolize good things for their cost or how the word for the food sounds similar to the word for whatever it symbolizes. The feast was a time to celebrate and welcome the New Year and do things that would hopefully ensure prosperity. It was a time where social barriers could be crossed and family meant everything. The extensive amount of time taken to prepare the foods probably shows the care that the family and friends have for one another and the desire to serve each other. The pursuit of good fortune in the food symbolism is an acknowledgement of the lack of control that they have over many aspects of their lives, particularly for the peasants who depended so much on the rulers of their areas.

Arnica and Linaca Mixture for Healing

EA: Arnica is a tea it is like a natural herb, arnica and linaca and it is supposed to be like a a homeopathic remedy you can use for like swelling and just kind of instead of like a Neosporin type thing. It helps to heal a little bit better. Back then when they would make it when you know they did not have modern medicine so they would take it with like leaves or whatever and they would put it on and then they wrap it and then that helps with the cut of whatever you have. 

Interviewer: Did she say how she boiled it?

EA: Yeah she boiled it and lets it simmer for like a while on high heat and then she lowers he heat and lets it simmer. Ten minutes I think she said and it boils it and then you turn it off and then you just let it sit and  then that’s when it gets that vava, which is kind of like a vasiline type texture and then it just like sits there. 

Interviewer: That’s when you know it is done?

EA: Yeah, like a little thick.  

Context: EA is my mother mother who was born in Southern California, but whose parents are both from Mexico. The information taken from a casual conversation I was having with my mother about any folklore she had for me and my sister was also present. She was referring to an ointment that my aunt made for her son when he had a really bad insect bit and gave to us when our dog had a rash. 

Analysis

In Mexico, even know it is difficult in many places to see or either afford a doctor. This has given rise for the necessity of home remedies. Arnica is in many supplements and gels that are sold in pharmacies. Thus, showing the ability for homeopathic remedies to transfer to modern medicine and being legitimizd by being formally sold in stores. However, people would likely still feel that something like Neosporin is inherently more effective than something homemade when this is not inherently the case. Accordingly, when recommending these home remedies it is often accompanied with an anecdotal success story to prove it’s merit. would be It also shows the versatility of the homemade treatments because they are made with natural ingredients and how it can help your family and having advice when another person you care about is having a difficulty. 

La cuarentena

Background: Informant, B.B. is a mother of 3, and was around 20 years old when she had her first child. She personally has abided by “la cuarentena” rules but was told about it by her mother.

Main Piece:

Informant: After I had my first kid, my mom tried to be really strict about my healing process, telling me I need to follow “la cuarentena”.

Interviewer: What is “la cuarentena”?

B.B: Basically giving birth takes a huge toll on the body, so according to my Mexican mother, there are certain rules to follow postpartum. Cuarentena translates to quarantine, which describes how we were suppose to stay home in order to take care of ourselves properly.

Interviewer: What rules were suppose to be followed? Was it hard to follow them?

B.B: I was suppose to stay “in quarantine” for about a month. I was also not suppose to lift anything heavy, cook, or even clean because it could be too much for my body. I was also told not to shower, which was one of the hardest rules to follow and I didn’t. The logic behind not showering was that I could get sick from having wet hair. I wasn’t really able to stick to the rules, I only managed it for about a week or two before I tried my best to get back to normal.

Interviewer: Did you try la cuarentena for each of your kids?

B.B: No, I did not really believe in needing a whole month to myself.

Context: The informant is a relative, and we were discussing another family member who had just given birth and was already back at work. She was not too shocked about her not following la cuarentena because of how strict it is.

Thoughts: Thinking about having to quarantine after giving birth seems a bit extreme. Knowing how life being quarantined is because of the corona virus, I do not see myself going though with the full month either. I think it is easy to listen to our bodies and if we feel like it is okay to get back to doing certain things, then we should do so as long as we do not push our limits.

Spitting in China

Main Piece

WY: “Let me think…so it’s like superstition. Whenever my mom hears something terrible or scary she will always spit on the ground. Kind of like a ways to spit out the horrible things so she won’t be hurt by those things.”

Collector: “Where I am from (San Francisco), I know a lot of Chinese people who spit deliberately like that, too, but none of them have ever mentioned that to me. Guess I know now!”

WY: “Yeah. A lot of places in China they probably have the same tradition. Chinese people also do it for general health. They call mucus and other stuff in the system ‘toxins.’ I think the air quality has a lot to do with it, so they just try to make their lungs feel as empty and breathable as possible.”

Collector: “Do you do it?”

WY: “Generally not, but every once in a while when I hear something really terrible, I end up doing it.”

Analysis

I found the informant’s insight on this tradition enlightening because she grew up in an environment where she understood the meaning of it and had had time to process it. She did not hold a strong belief in it, but in desperate times fell back on the practice that she had learned from her mother. It was also interesting to hear how a scientific idea was also put forward in order to justify it for those who would question it. The two beliefs could work hand-in-hand, and do not contradict each other.

Eating While Laying Down

Background Info/Context:

As a child, I liked to eat snacks or meals while laying down, whether it be my parents’ bed or on the floor in front of the TV. My dad used to scold me, saying that it was bad for my digestion, but I never felt sick or nauseous. I had seen him do it a lot, so why would it be bad if I did it too? So he told me this Korean saying to try to prevent me from further eating while laying down.

 

 

Piece:

누어서 밥먹으면 소된다

 

Transcription:

Noo uh suh bap mug uhmyun soh doen dah.

 

Transliteration:

Lay down while eating cow become.

 

Translation:

“If you eat while laying down you’re gonna turn into a cow!”

 

 

Thoughts:

My dad probably said this to scare me into doing as he asked, and to prevent me from developing bad habits. Even though I never truly believed it, I did stop eating while laying down, just in case. I think this saying functions in a similar way to the belief of “If you eat the seeds of a watermelon, a watermelon will start growing inside you!” Although it’s not true, and there isn’t a real punishment for eating while laying down or eating watermelon seeds, they both seem to be things that people tell children to see if they are gullible or not.

 

The Whiter the Bread, the Quicker You’re Dead — Health Proverb

Text

The following piece was collected from a young woman from Denver, Colorado. She will hereafter be referred to as the “Informant” and I the “Collector”.

Informant: “Before I went vegan, my dad would say to us whenever he thought we were being unhealthy. He would say we weren’t allowed to have white bread, only wheat.”

Collector: “What did he say?”

Informant: “He would say, ‘The whiter the bread, the quicker you’re dead.’”

Collector: “Haha…that’s good. What do you think he meant?”

Informant: “Oh, obviously he was just trying to scare us into believing that if we ate unhealthily, we would die…haha… kind of mean but pretty effective, as far as I can remember.”

Context

            The Informant learned the piece from her father when she was a child. She believes its meaning is pretty clear – if you eat unhealthy food, like white bread, then you are more likely to reap the consequences. The Informant believes that it was simply a saying used to frighten children into eating more healthily. She has always remembered the saying because of its catchiness, but also because when she made the decision to become vegan, she also gave up white bread. She laughs now at the fact that her father can no longer remind her that if she eats white bread, she may die sooner.

Interpretation

            I believe this saying to be very interesting but not uncommon within a parent-child relationship. It is easy to understand the many ways parents try to persuade their children to act correctly and do the right thing. This is just one of the many examples of that form of parenting. “White the bread, the quicker you’re dead” is reminiscent of the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. In both cases, these sayings serve as a warning to a child – to be healthy and safe. But looking deeper, the saying can serve as a reminder that you reap what you sow – if you do something that will negatively affect you, there is no one to blame but yourself.

Rubor, Dolor, and Calor — Signs of Infection

Text

The following piece was collected from a seventy-three year-old woman from Vail, Colorado. She will hereafter be referred to as the “Informant” and I the “Collector”.

Informant: My mother had a very specific way of checking her children for infections. She would always say to us: Rubor, dolor, and calor. Signs of inflammation.”

Collector: “What do they mean?”

Informant: “They translate to mean redness, pain, and heat. Basically you would check a cut or some injury to see if it was was, if it was giving off heat, and if it was tender. If it did, you would know it was infected.”

Context

            The Informant learned this phrase from her Irish mother, she claims it is just something her mother always said to the children. The Informant believes it to be a simple procedure of people to check for infection and inflammation for people who are not well equipped to handle any ailments. She remembers it because of the frequency of which her mother would mutter it when looking over the Informant’s injuries when she was young.

Interpretation

I loved this new piece. I had never heard of this before, but I was familiar enough with the signs of infection. I was intrigued so I looked up the origin of the phrase. The original definition of inflammation, set forward by Roman encyclopedist Celus in the 1st century A.D. The original definition also included the fourth sign, tumor, meaning swelling. I found it interesting that even though the signs are taken as canon for inflammation, when they are repeated, they are still said in their original Latin. Keeping the phrase in Latin might preserve its credibility in the eyes of some, everything sounds more official when said in Latin.

Folk Medicine — Face is red, raise the head

Text

The following piece was collected from a fifty-two year old Caucasian man from Chicago, Illinois. The man will hereafter be referred to as the “Informant”, and I the “Collector”.

Informant: “My father was a doctor, he was always bring home doctorly advice for us kids.”

Collector: “What did he say?”

Informant: (laughing) “I remember, probably his most common medical phrase, a simple solution to seemingly every ailment, went like this: ‘Face is red, raise the head. Face is pale, raise the tail.’”

Collector: “What does that mean?”

Informant: “Just what it sounds like. If you’re face is red, stand up so some of the blood leaves your head. If your face is pale, you need more blood to flow to it, so you raise the bottom half of your body. But sometimes, he’d say it when no one was sick. Sometimes, I think he meant it in a whole other way completely.”

Collector: “What other way did he mean it?”

Informant: “He never said, but I always thought he meant that sometimes there was an easy…a simple solution to something. Like I was overthinking something, and he would tell me to ‘raise the head’ and I would go with my gut. The easiest solution.”

Context

The Informant learned this saying from his father, an orthopedic surgeon. He informed me that his father was constantly weaving his career into his everyday life, and one of his most common ways of doing this was by informing his children of his many medical insights. The Informant remembers this phrase, tells it to his own children, for its simple effectiveness and its complete ability to be applied to countless scenarios.

Interpretation

I agree with my Informant: the simple solution within the phrase is an easy way to fix a small ailment. Similarly, I really enjoy the thought that it can be applied to other situations, ones that do not involve a physical ailment. Meaning behind simple phrases or sayings always seems to me to reveal so much more.

Planting a Tree: Russian Birth Tradition

“After a child is born, both the parents and the grandparents on both sides, specifically the men in each relationship, plant a tree on the day of the birth. They do this mainly to promote the growth and strength of the child, but they also name the tree in accordance to the characteristics they want the child to grow up with and adopt. As the tree grows, it marks the health and growth of the child as well.”


 

The interlocutor has visited Russia multiple times, and due to her frequent visits, she has become close friends with a particular native Russian. The folklore that she has shared with me is derived from her native Russian friend. Her account of this familial tradition was a sort of after thought as it was not something that she had experienced first-hand, but rather through casual conversation with a local Russian. Along with the usual plans that go along with child birth, various family members prepare young trees that are ready to plant well in advance, acting as a sort of exciting avenue in which one can channel their impatient anticipation. The type of tree may also vary, depending on what the family wants to impart on their child. For instance, one may plant a lemon tree if they wish to impart a bright disposition on their child.

Trees are a widespread symbol of new life and growth, so it seems fitting to associate arboreal traits with newborn children. The roots of the tree are planted as life is just beginning, and the fact that family members are the ones who ground these roots also symbolizes the safety and reliance that one can find in familial relationships. Tree trunks are weak and willowy during their first years, as children are, yet they are expected to grow to bear the weight of the various limbs and leaves that are to eventually grow. They grow in strength, and their health is measured by their sturdiness. Much like the growth of the trunk, children are expected to grow and develop their own health and sturdiness to bear the weight of life’s various whims and tribulations. Both the tree and the child are able to reach towards the sun, a brighter tomorrow that promises vitality and health, and their eventual ascension upwards signifies a greater purpose.

Eternal Youth Face Mask

Context

I was interested in finding an example of a folk remedy or natural beauty regimen that had been taught to my mother from someone else in her family. While she could not think of any folk medicine examples, she did find a copy of her mother’s face mask recipe, which she read aloud.

Main Piece

Okay, this is the Silver Eternal Youth Mask, “Silver” meaning — that was her maiden name, and um… Grandma, and um, what she did was, she used to make this mask and put it on her face so she would look younger, and it was something that was passed on through her family — she learned it from her mom. When she turned 40, she decided that she was gonna create a business called 40 Plus, it was a line of products, and, so, this was one of the products that she was gonna try to sell. And so she tried it out on me, but it turned my face beet read. Anyway, so I’m gonna just read you the recipe:

Silver Eternal Youth Mask

3 egg whites, beaten until frothy.

One tablespoon honey.

  1. Mix together. 
  2. Place mixture all over face and neck. Feel how the mask tightens face and neck.
  3. Lie down with feet elevated. Place moistened cool cotton balls over eyes.
  4. Rest for 15 minutes. Think sweet thoughts.
  5. Remove mask with whole milk.

Notes

This piece gives insight into 20th century beauty standards (particularly the fact that it was passed from mother to daughter) and the association of beauty with “eternal youth.” I also was intrigued that my grandmother had planned on selling this product. As we have learned in class, many supposed Western medicine innovations are adaptations of indigenous methods; essentially, commodified and mass-marketed versions of things for which no one person can truly take credit. It would be interesting to know if commercial beauty products have similar folk origins.