Background: Stella is a 55-year-old woman living in Cerritos, CA. She was born in Seoul and has lived in South Korea for the majority of her life until she moved here for college. She stays at home. Before that, she worked at a hair salon as a beautician. She is married and has two grown children.
So what do you usually do when you or your children are sick?
Stella: “I always always say eat some pears… Asian pears!.. with a little bit honey. It is cool… and feels good in mouth. It is soothing to throat and the best for when you have cold.”
Where did you learn this from?
Stella: “My mother, so your grandmother, tell me this all the time. It is old, old tradition.”
Does it work?
Stella: “Yeah! Always feels good. It has worked for generations and generations.”
Performance Context: I interviewed the informant over the phone, as she was in the Orange County area and I’m in Los Angeles. This folk remedy seems to originate from back when my mother was a child. She learned this from her mother and has passed it down to me.
My Thoughts: I love this home remedy – it reminds me of my childhood and maybe it’s also psychological, but this remedy always seems to work for me. I plan to pass this down to my children as well.
“In this family, there’s a mother, a father, a grandma, and an older brother, and a daughter. And they’re eating pears. And what you’re supposed to do, like you can never split a pear. You can only eat a full pear. And I actually remember, fairly recently, I asked my mom if she wanted to split a pear, and she wouldn’t. The story started off with the littlest child gets the smallest pear. It’s about filial piety. The elders get the best pears. And you also can’t split pears. Because that splits your relationships with people. Keeping the pear together keeps the family together.”
There are two different stories going on here: a tale about a family who gets differently sized pears depending on age, and a folk belief that it is bad luck to split a pear. My informant told them so that they were interconnected. The story of the family eating pears is related to filial piety – the head of the house gets the biggest pear because he deserves the most respect, and the size of the fruit diminishes until the youngest child has the smallest pear.
When viewed in this light, the belief that splitting pears with someone is bad luck makes perfect sense. If a pear represents filial piety and the relationships between family members, splitting it would be terrible for the family.