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

Christmas Eve Soup

I asked my friend if she had any holiday traditions. She told me that on Christmas Eve, her mom prepares soup:

Me: Why soup?

Lindsey: My mom’s side of the family is Irish, so I think it’s tradition in Irish culture to have soup on Christmas. Maybe the warmth of the soup is comforting in wintertime? Also, I think soup is an easy meal to have on Christmas when people would rather be focused on their family than on cooking.

Me: What type of soup does she traditionally make?

Lindsey: It’s just a stew of different vegetables and beef. Really light. Really simple.

 

Analysis: Having soup on Christmas Eve is not a tradition I had ever heard of. I think the idea of spending time with one’s loved ones instead of cooking in the kitchen makes sense. It is more important to have Christmas with family and invest in quality time, than having an extravagant meal.

Customs
Festival
Foodways
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Coming Together of Matzo Ball Soup

Original Script: “Every year…even to this day, we made Matzo Ball Soup for high holidays. It is basically, the chicken soup of the Jewish people. It is my favorite traditional Jewish dish and the recipe has been passed down for generations…Every year, I go to the grocery store and get everything I need: the chicken—the whole thing cut up—, the celery, carrots, onions, fresh dill—none of that pre-packaged crap—celery salt…Then I go home and take out a huge soup pot that can hold 12 gallons. I put everything in the pot…have my kids, and husband help…it is a long process that can take up to seven hours. After it is cooked I let it cool and I make the matzo balls and add it to the soup. The next day, when it is time celebrate, I heat them both up together and it is delicious! It is usually always eaten to the bottom of the pot, but if there is a left overs I freeze the soup to heat up for later. My family, my kids, my nephews and nieces, love it. It is something everyone looks forward to when we get together. I don’t only make it for high holidays, there is always an excuse to make it…when I am sick, when my kids are sick, when my husband is sick, hell, when I just want to eat it, I make it.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Cheryl grew up in a predominately Jewish household in Skokie, Illinois. Her stepfather’s, Obbie, mother had witness the holocaust and he had also lost a sister to a concentration camp, which concentration camp is unknown. Very proud of his Jewish heritage, Obbie, Cheryl’s mother—Riki—, Cheryl’s siblings—Victor and Hope—and Cheryl grew up a very conservative Jewish family—celebrating all of the Jewish high holidays such as: Yom Kippur, Shabbat, and Passover—as well as attending Synagogue every Sunday.Cheryl had learned the recipe from her mother, and has been something that has been passed down through the generations of their family. To Cheryl, she not only loves the Matzo Ball Soup because of its taste, but she also enjoys the fact that it is something from her whole family enjoys and is something the family can do together.

Context of the Performance: High Holiday food—a food usually made in correlation with Jewish holidays.

Thoughts about the piece: After interviewing Cheryl, and having a Jewish heritage as well as tasting her Matzo Ball Soup myself, I can understand her fondness for the soup. However, I believe the soup is also associated with the coming together of a group of people with the same religious background and is associated with a group identity. The preparation of the soup has become a family tradition as it is performed over many years—thus it became a tradition that celebrates the heritage of the Jewish people. It is also interesting to note that those performing and the audience are the same people—the family, albeit that more of the extended family is associated with the audience as well. The cooking of the Matzo Ball Soup can also be associated to that of a ritual that is in the beginning of a sequence of events for a festival. (It can also be observed that the freezing of the Matzo Ball soup can be considered the closing ceremony. What is interesting is the fact that is traditional meal is something the family makes when someone is sick, or they just want to eat it. Perhaps, performing the cooking of the soup after the time and place of festivals make the family reminisce on being surrounded by family—which in turn makes them feel better. Thus, Matzo Ball Soup becomes a folk material object.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Foodways
Material

Red bean soup (红豆汤/糖水)

INFO:
Dried dates
Red bean
Longan – a fruit like lychee
Rock sugar
Water

Slow cook everything together in a pot on the stove so the beans would turn mushy. Serve either cold or hot.

BACKGROUND:
The informant’s mother used to make red bean soup (in Chinese: 红豆汤 [hong duo tang] or 糖水 [tang shui]) with dates in it — it was supposed to help with period pains and overall health. Her mother make the soup from scratch in huge quantities.

In general, it was served cold in the summer and hot in the winter. The informant actually didn’t really like the soup that much, but her mother made it with such care that she couldn’t refuse.

CONTEXT:
The informant, one of my housemates, shared this recipe and background with me in conversation.

ANALYSIS:
Many traditional foodways also doubled as remedies, and are often paired with other “practical” advice such as “don’t talk a lot in cold weather after eating a meal or your stomach will get upset.”

I was also raised by Chinese parents, and find that much of this kind of upbringing information could be corroborated with my own childhood. I think it’s super interesting that even though our parents came from different regions in China, they still carried much of the same cultural information over the Pacific and passed it on to their children in America.

Customs

Table Settings: Rice and Soup

Text:

“This is another custom… you’re supposed to have rice on the left side of you, and soup on the right side when you serve it. Don’t know the reason, but maybe because you eat with your right hand.”

Background:

The informant learned this from his mom. He doesn’t really know the meaning of it, but he doesn’t like it because he think it’s annoying.

Context:

This is a custom that is normally taught to kids at a young age regarding table manners.

Personal Thoughts:

I think this is part of table manners that are taught in Korean culture, similar to the ways that we have rules about where the bread plate, drinks, or utensils are placed on a table. This creates more organization on a table, and since rice and soups are a common part of Korean meals, they have rules about where they go within a table setting.

Customs
Foodways
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Mochi Soup

Informant’s self-description: “I am a large melting pot of everyone that I have ever met. Even if I did not really know who they were. And that makes me me! And different from everyone, ‘cause we all have different experiences. I am a video game person that loves a video game, and I love things that aren’t actually real life. But I also like real life! But sometimes fiction more so because the boundaries of what can be done are expanded. And that’s really cool to me. I like food – a lot. And I am a person that just wants to do a lot of things all the time. Forever.”

 

 

Are there any traditional food dishes that you consume or make on particular occasions?

Um, yes. Every New Year’s – well, Christmas and New Year’s, but because they’re so close together they just kinda happen in that sort of time slot. Christmas, my mom always makes this certain rice cake soup, it has – or mochi soup – and she prepares it all day, and then she makes the soup, and we have to eat it for dinner. And she adds eggs, and green onions, and seaweed, and we all sit down and we get special silverware and bowls out, and eat that for dinner, and then on New Year’s day, you have to eat the same thing, or you have to eat the mochi soup. It doesn’t have to be the exact same one from before because that would be nasty. But it would be like a new batch – the same recipe, obviously. And then you have to eat it for good luck in the New Year. And if you don’t you’ll have bad luck. But I haven’t experienced that yet because I’ve never turned down a bowl of my mother’s soup. Because why would you. Yeah- that’s the only sort of traditional thing that we have in my family.

You’ve always had mochi soup -

Since I can remember, yeah.

Do you like it?

I like it a lot. I kind of want it now.

Have you ever helped make it?

Uh, yes. Actually, I forgot a part of it- Once we were old enough, my mom made me and my two younger sisters – we made little dumplings, or I guess gyoza in Japanese. Little dumplings with pork and spices and meats and vegetables. We make the dumplings, and that’s a thing we always have to do on Chistmas and New Year’s Eve. Then my mom puts them in the soup and you can see all the little dumplings that you’ve made and usually we make really weird shapes. So sometimes you’ll get a nice little round moon shape and then you’ll get, like, a rectangle, and then they fall apart and you just have to have dumplings in your soup everywhere.

Do you try to make them into particular shapes?

Sometimes yeah, sometimes yeah. I tried to make a snowman dumpling once, and he kinda looked like a malformed sugar snap pea after. I was sad.

Was there a reason for the snowman?

I mean, it was Christmasy, sort of, and I was like “Oh, if we can shape dumplings, that’s sort of like shaping cookies when we make them for Santa. So I can just like form this with my fingers,” and then it fell apart, because she had to deep fry it and he was just kind of sad. And ripped apart. But it was ok, because it tasted delicious.

You helped make the dumplings – your mom makes the rest of it?

Mostly. It’s a pretty basic process, just making the broth, and then she throws in the little dumplings and the rice cakes. But she’s a very excellent cook so I wouldn’t want to disrupt anything in her kitchen – she’s a gale force wind when we step in and she’s not expecting us. It’s a danger zone.

Is it just your family? OR a tradition that many other people take part of?

I think it’s a Korean – well, Korean / Japanese tradition. My mother’s side of the family is Korean and it’s what she does, it’s what her side of the family does, but my baa-chan, or my grandma on my dad’s side who is Japanese – she always comes over and it seems like it’s something that she does too. She lives alone, and right next door to us, so she always comes over for all family celebrations. So I assume that it’s maybe just like a Far Eastern – Asian sort of deal. Maybe. I mean, it seems that way. I met a couple other families who do the same thing, Japanese or Korean.

Is there any symbolism to the food? Like the rice cake part of it?

I don’t really know. I feel like rice cakes in general are just kind of important to – maybe not the Korean culture so much as the Japanese culture because my grandma, my baa-chan, she sometimes throughout the year – she’ll just be making large things of rice cakes. Just in the kitchen. And there’s no reason for it, she’s just doing it. And I’m like “Ok…!” And there’s just like a lot of rice, and a little machine going around that like smashes it and whirls it around and stuff. But I think specifically would be for Japanese holidays and New Year’s and Christmas. But I mean she kind of just does them whenever.

Do you speak fluent Japanese?

I don’t, I unfortunately speak neither of my family languages. I know how to say very basic things.

 

 

Informant gives lots of background to the mochi soup. Informant sounds fond in description, and it makes them think of the family they love.

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