USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Irish’
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

 

Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Giant’s Causeway

PL was visiting the giant’s causeway in Northern Ireland, and ran into someone there who started telling her about the legends surrounding the place.

“The giant’s causeway, a natural rock formation, was thought to be the giants’ stepping stones out of the water.

The Irish and Scottish giants didn’t get along, but the Scottish giant was way bigger. The Irish giant heard that the Scottish giant was coming to take over Ireland, so the Irish giant built a big baby crib. As soon as he heard the Scottish giant stomping on his way over, he dressed himself up as a baby and got into the crib.

The Scottish giant took one look at him, decided that if that was the baby, he sure as hell didn’t want to meet the parents, and turned around and went home.”

causeway

I love that the natural formations of the area were inspiration for tales such as this. It really does look like giant steps, and is understandable how it plays a large part in the folklore of the area. The tale also very much plays off the idea of the us vs them mentality, with the Irish giant in opposition to the Scottish giant. There’s also cultural pride in that their giant was able to outwit the Scottish one despite the other’s advantage.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Material

Claddagh Ring

“Part of our Irish heritage is the story of the Claddagh ring, and that was originated in a little place near Galway, Ireland and uh the Claddagh ring is generally made of gold or silver, it has a heart in the middle, with a hand on either side holding the heart, and there is a crown on top of the hear, and it symbolizes love, loyalty, and friendship. And uh, many people in Ireland use the Claddagh ring as a wedding ring, both for men and women, and uh its also a lovely gift to give people you love, and so for me, I have given Claddagh rings to my granddaughters, all three o them, and I think they like them very much, and I think its just a wonderful tradition.”

 

Informant: the informant was born in Chicago, and attended high school and college there, graduating with a degree in English. After marrying and having one child, she moved to Dallas, Texas where she raised three children with her husband. She is of Irish descent, her father being from Ireland, and her mother was born in Wisconsin after her parents moved from Ireland, and her heritage and tradition are very important to her. She is a grandmother of five children.

 

Analysis:

Something that is very dear to the informant is her Irish heritage. She feels great pride for her Irish descent, and does her best to demonstrate this by practicing several Irish traditions. I believe that the tradition of passing along the Claddagh ring to her grandchildren exemplifies this wish to preserve Irish traditions while showing how much she cares for her grandchildren. Despite the traditional sense of using Claddagh rings as wedding rings, in using it as a gift to her granddaughters, she is exhibiting her promise of love, loyalty, and friendship to them, as well as passing on a tradition, most likely in the hopes that her granddaughters will pass it on to their daughters or granddaughters.

The time in which the informant gave her granddaughters Claddagh rings is also significant. She gave the rings when each of the granddaughters had been confirmed in the Catholic Church. This is significant because the Irish are historically Catholic, thereby making Confirmation in the Catholic Church an important initiation ceremony. Because the granddaughters were “officially” and “fully” Catholic upon receiving their rings, they were also more Irish, in a sense, due to the emphasis of the Irish on Catholicism. This is because of the tensions between Irish Catholics and British Protestants, tying religion to nationality in this aspect.

Also, this highlights a certain aspect of folk objects. In Ireland, many tourists are attracted to the Claddagh rings. They are sold in many stores, especially those aimed specifically at tourists, which demonstrates how folklore can make quite a bit of money. The popularity of this item comes from the enchanting legend that surrounds its making. The story of the love of a blacksmith for his lover was supposedly prompted him to make this ring while he was working on a pirate ship, for he had been kidnapped and taken from his love. It is a powerful story of love that encourages people everywhere to buy this gift for those they love. This widespread story led the production of the Claddagh ring to expand outside of Ireland itself.

This practice also brings up the question of authenticity. Some may consider buying the Claddagh ring in America inauthentic. The informant also made sure that the rings she gave her granddaughters came from Ireland, which from her perspective was what constituted an authentic Claddagh ring. Despite where the ring was made, however, its meaning is transcendent, because through the action of giving this ring to a loved one in order to demonstrate love, loyalty, and friendship, the legend of the Claddagh ring is commemorated and passed on despite the heritage of the giver or the land in which the ring is made. Overall, this tradition has become very popularized, and it means a great deal to the informant as it passes on Irish tradition in the promises of love, loyalty, and friendship.

Customs
Game
Holidays
Humor
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Fort of Christmas Cheer

Original Script: “When I was younger, after Christmas…probably about two or three days after Christmas, me, my dad, my sister, and my brother, would collect Christmas trees for a Christmas tree fort. We would wait till people started to leave Christmas trees out in their drive ways, and we would go and drive around our neighborhood in our big car, with rope, and tie the Christmas trees to the back of our car, and make a couple rounds, so we were dragging the trees. We would have over 20 trees, sometimes more, and he would create a perimeter in our backyard of rope and lean the trees against the rope and then put them on their sides to make an infrastructure of different rooms and hallways, and he would stack the trees on top of each other so their would be a roof. Me, my brother, and sister and would crawl into the rooms and trim the trees to make the rooms bigger. We would sometimes spy on the neighbors through the fort, with binoculars. And when they came over we would throw berries at them. It was huge, basically we would declare war on neighbors, sometimes we would let other kids play in it. When it was time to throw the trees out, we would put them outside our house—it basically covered up the whole driveway.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Jessica Patrick grew up in a predominantly Irish household. Celebrating Christmas every year with her family. Now that the kids are older–her and her brother in college and her younger sister a junior in high school—they do not do the tradition as much as they use to do it when they were little. While everyone in the household did celebrate Christmas—it was usually the father, Jessica, and her siblings that did the fort building.

Context of the Performance: Past Christmas traditions celebrated in Dallas, Texas with all the children in Jessica’s family.

Thoughts about the piece: After interviewing Jessica, I found it interesting how I have never heard/seen anything from this tradition before. While it is not necessarily a representation of heritage, it is a mode of activity that represents the past and has interesting motifs about the past—which is also considered tradition. For example, the building of a fort (a house) made out of entirely logs, the kids helping the father build the house, even the kids acting that the fort was their home—even though they had a perfectly acceptable house—with a heater—was all representations of the past. It also represents that of a celebration in a narrative format: the tree hunting being the ritual, the playing in the house being the main event, and the taking apart of the fort and putting the trees in the front yard would be the closing ceremony. Furthermore, I believe this event represents a classic “American Dream”(commonly known as the Horatio Alger myth) building a home for oneself, a dream, out of nothing. This tradition can also be correlated to group identity, especially with the practicing of the ritual and the exclusion to other groups: “sometimes we would let other kids play in it.”

folk metaphor
Folk speech
general

A Soft Rain

Original Script: “My Grandmother would say when it would rain, like a soft rain, my grandmother would tell me it’s a soft rain, she learned that when she went to Ireland…it doesn’t apply to thunderstorms. Only lightly rainy days…”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Jessica grew up in a catholic Irish home. Her family is very connected with their Irish heritage. Her grandmother had went to Ireland a couple of decades ago and learned the term “soft rain,” which only applies to the equivalent of a “sprinkle.” Her grandmother now always uses the term.

Context of the Performance: Light Rainy Days

Thoughts about the piece: When Jessica had mentioned the term to me before; I was thoroughly confused, what exactly what “soft rain” was. Was it rain that did not hurt, like some of the pelting rain that happens in the Arizona Valley (where I am from)? However, after she explained it to me, it did make sense why light rain was called “soft rain.” After researching about the term, I found that many articles published in Ireland, used the term soft rain. For example, there is an article called Detailed Annul Report of the Registrar General for Ireland published in 1892.1 In this report, it tells of what the weather was like the past year in the country of Ireland. I found that usually “soft rain” came up when it was springtime. I also found that because Ireland weather is often rainy, they have many terms for rain: soft rain, hard rain, spitting, and bucketing, were the mot terms that came up through the documented source.

Furthermore, upon more research, I found a book that documents Irish literature named Irish Literature: Irish Authors and Their Writings in Ten Volumes by Justin McCarthy published in 1904.2 While reading this book, I found that many authors, all ranging from poets to writers, used the term “soft rain,” notably, when talking about beauty or spring. It is interesting that the Irish say, “báisteach bog” (which is a rough translation for soft rain) because other adjectives in Irish relating to soft, such as lách, are related to the English words of soft, delicate, and lovely.3 This could explain why many of the Irish authors used the term “soft rain” when speaking about beauty.

Additionally, when bringing beauty into the term, it is interesting that the Irish use the term “soft rain” because it is applicable to the equivalent of “beautiful rain” or “pleasant rain.” Perhaps because of the frequent rainfall and thunderstorms in Ireland, it is literally “beautiful” and “pleasant” when there is a light rain. This light rain can also be correlated with springtime and it literally bringing beauty into nature because it waters the vegetation in Ireland. (This also correlates with the first source mentioned in the “soft rain” bringing upon vegetation).

Thus, the Irish speak for “soft rain” is a correlation to rain bringing in a pleasant atmosphere to Ireland due to the frequent rainfall Ireland’s weather is usually composed of.

1 Unkown. Detailed Annual Report of the Registrar General for Ireland. Vol. 28-32. N.p.: Ireland, 1892. Google Books. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.

2 McCarthy, Justin, Maurice Francis Egan, and Charles Welsh. Irish Authors and Their Writings in Ten Volumes. New York: P.F. Collier, 1904. Google Books. Web. 01 Apr. 20.

3 “Google Translate: English to Irish.” Google Translate. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.

Folk speech

Desprit Idjit

L is a 53-year-old homemaker living in Winnetka, IL. L grew up mainly in the northern suburbs of Illinois, but she also lived in Germany and England for a while when she was younger. L speaks English primarily but she is learning French. L attended both the University of Southern California and the University of Wisconsin Madison for her undergraduate college education. L considers herself to be American. She does not really identify with her Welsh ancestry.

Me: Where did the term come from?

L: A crazy woman named Shawna that was leading a tour around Ireland through the ring of Kerry on a huge coach bus. Every time the coach would get stuck, by some car not making room for the coach, or some person walking in front of the coach, in the middle of a sentence explaining what we were seeing at the time, she would blurt out, “Desprit ijit!”

Me: What does it mean?

L: It means a person that is so clueless and is not paying attention, so in English it would be a desperate idiot. Someone who is painfully stupid. It was really more of a pronunciation thing because she had a thick Irish accent. She repeated it throughout our entire trip probably six or seven times a day. So, there were a lot of idiots.

Me: Do you still use the phrase?

L: Desprit ijit? Yeah. All the time. It’s the funniest thing, it cracks everyone up. I use it when I’m driving a lot. But you have to say it with the accent because otherwise it just isn’t as funny.

L talks about how a random phrase that some people in the U.S. likely use, though it sounds different due to the accent, has become so funny to her. The accent of the tour guide and the phrase she said constantly, “desprit ijit,” was so funny to L, and she liked it so much that she has started to use it on a daily basis. She exudes Shawna, the tour guide’s, personality when she get behind the wheel because she has to deal with “deprit ijits” who just don’t know how to drive.

Childhood
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Myths
Tales /märchen

Searching for the pot of potatoes at the end of the rainbow

The informant and I were talking about superstition, tradition, and Irish heritage, so he told me the following anecdote.

“In the Irish superstition, if you see a rainbow and you follow it, you’ll find a pot of gold. I remember as a kid, literally going and walking after a rainbow trying to find it. But I think because it’s Irish… I heard somebody say that one time it came from… basically saying you have to search for like, gold, and like search really far, but in Ireland gold is like potatoes, because they grow a lot of potatoes and they make money with that, but I heard somebody say that’s where it came from, like searching for a bunch of potatoes to sell, something like that. They call it gold just like they say ‘black gold’ for oil… I remember hearing that as a kid, so that was like a fun story”

This was a twist, at least to my knowledge, to the well-known myth of finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I hadn’t heard this version before, although I’m sure there are many variations to the myth.

 

Folk speech
Proverbs

“May Your Giving Hand Never Fail”

(in an Irish accent, imitating her Papa’s voice) “May your giving hand never fail.”

My Papa said this all the time and people didn’t really know what to do with it. I think he just said it to anyone who was generous, but like waitresses especially. So, they weren’t really being generous, they were just…doing their job.

I guess there was this one waitress, I wasn’t there this time, but she was like, “What’d you say?” and uh, my dad had to explain and she was like “I like that, I’m gonna start using it!”

I don’t know where he got it from, but he said it whenever he told me this story about this woman, and he describes her as a woman with a “good giving hand”.

So Papa, he was a Pace bus driver, so you know how they kind of have to stick to a schedule? Well this one day, it was the dead of winter, he saw this nun running after the bus and he just decided to wait for her. And she was flabbergasted he waited for her. And (in Irish accent again) he said, “Aw yeah, it’s too cold to be waitin’ for another bus” and she was so so thankful for him doing that that she ended up telling the hospital she worked at to let him have breakfast there everyday. He dropped her off and she said wait right here and ran in and I guess asked them and came out and told him to come for breakfast before his shift…  and so he did. For years, he just started his morning there everyday with free breakfast (laughs). She probably didn’t think he would actually take her up on it.

And every time he told it to me he would say “oh yes, she had a good giving hand”.

context of the performance:

The informant described this proverb and the following story in a one on one conversation, when asked if she had any family proverbs. She always does a very good Irish accent impression for her grandfather, who came to the United States from Ireland as an adult. He passed away a few months before this collection, so it was definitely a little nostalgic, as well.

thoughts on the performance:

It is always interesting how strangers respond to older people and their sayings, especially those with accents. It was hard to capture in writing, but when the informant described the waitresses reaction, she was sort of wary of her grandpa and almost rude in her response, until her dad clarified it for him. Especially the way the informant says it, in the vernacular of her grandfather, this proverb definitely sounds like a number of similar Irish blessings I have heard before.

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.

Folk speech
Proverbs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Irish Proverb

Context:

The informant and I were having a conversation in my apartment, and the topic of our families was brought up. I asked him if his parents or relatives had shared any interesting stories or sayings with him, and he shared this proverb with me.

Interview Transcript:

Informant: I mean, this is just… uh, like a saying, so it’s quite short. Um, but one Irish uh… okay, one Irish saying that I really like is: “The mouth often is what breaks the nose.” Should I maybe explain some of it?

Collector: Yes.

Informant: The idea is that, uh, the reason why someone might get into a fight and then have their nose broken is because of running their mouth. Um, actually, it’s kind of interesting that a lot of Irish proverbs have to do with this kind of loose speaking, like, maybe from drinking. Uh… being careful about that.

Me: So who did you hear this from?

Informant: I think from my… Well… My mother is less aware of these things than my grandmother. Yeah, um… She often… Um… We’d see her during different holidays. Things like that. She would also have like, you know, writing cards for us and write some poetry, and she would have like a little thing that she would say. And it would be just a little funny thing.

Analysis:

This proverb espouses the idea that one should think carefully before speaking, so as to avoid saying something regrettable or angering somebody. The informant’s explanation of the proverb’s meaning plays off of the stereotype that Irish people drink a lot of alcohol and therefore need to be cautioned against behaving recklessly while drunk.

[geolocation]