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

Ka’ik

“Ok so some of our um, uh traditions at Easter time in the Karam family where I grew up, and the Karam family is of uh, actually Syrian descent, and our family was Marinite Catholic and so we um followed Christian holidays and traditions. Ok so, a holiday tradition is to make a sweet bread called “ka’ik”(pronounced ka-yak) at Easter time, and my mother in law, used to always make it, and its like a dense biscuit, almost like a scone, and it has anise in it, which is sort of like the same flavor that licorice comes from, and she had a mold she would press it in before she baked it and they were kind of circular shape with an imprinted design on top, and then when they came out of the oven, she would pour just like a sugar water over it, I don’t think it had rosewater in it like the baklava, and uh so anyway we always had those at Easter time.”

Informant: The informant is a Catholic mother of five, of Syrian descent. She is from Kinder, Louisiana, where she grew up in a large family.

Analysis:

The context of this traditional food exemplifies the Catholic practices of this family that is of Syrian/Lebanese descent. Because they follow the Catholic Church, they celebrate the traditional Christian holidays. Cooking for these holidays is an important aspect of the performance of folklore, because most of the recipes are passed down from through the women of the households. The informant learned of this recipe through cooking with her mother-in law, demonstrating the close and important familial ties of this culture.

The significance of this dish is that it comes from Syrian/Lebanese styles of cooking, which is exemplified through the use of anise in the recipe. Anise can be found in the Mediterranean region, and is a spice commonly used in dishes that are derived from this region. This exhibits how baking, cooking, and sharing recipes with family members is an integral part of sharing culture. As the informant also stated that she felt it was her duty to teach her children how to cook the family recipes in order to continue the customs of her traditional culture, it is apparent that recipes like this carry a special significance.

I agree that this significance is the importance of passing down traditional practices through the kitchen as a way of extenuating one’s culture. I also think it is interesting how the women are the ones baking and cooking together. I believe that this comes from the Catholic/Christian influence in the family. Because the Abrahamic tradition is patrilineal, it is apparent that the women have traditionally been the ones in the home doing the cooking for many generations. This continues to be the case as recipes are handed down from matriarch to matriarch.

 

 

 

Foodways
general
Material

Squash Fritters

“My mother, my grandmother, no one, any of the Syrian-Lebanese women I know, did not like to waste food, so if you had something extra, you found a way to cook it. So one of our favorite dishes is stuffed squash, it’s called Kusa Mehshe, and you clean out the inside of the yellow squash and you stuff it with a rice and meat mixture. Well, my mother-in-law, did not like to throw away the inside of the squash, so she started mixing the insides with flour and garlic, and a little mint, and I think sometimes she’d put onions, and an egg and make it pasty, and deep-fry it, and I don’t know what they’re called, but I call them squash fritters, and it was a way to eat the inside of the squash without letting it go to waste.”

Informant: The informant is a Catholic mother of five, of Syrian descent. She is from Kinder, Louisiana, where she grew up in a large family.

Analysis:

This traditional Syrian-Lebanese food is very interesting, in that it is very interesting, in that it exemplifies the multiplicity and variation of which folklore is made up. The traditional food in this dish is Kusa Mehshe, the stuffed squash. However, the squash fritters are derived from this dish because of a tradition, within the Syrian-Lebanese culture to not waste food. This desire to not waste any food could come from the culture itself, and where the traditional foods came from. Perhaps in that area, food was scarce, and they learned to value each bit of food. This could have been passed down through generations, with each woman in the family doing the cooking emphasizing to their family members the importance of not wasting any food.

The squash fritters are an excellent manifestation of this emphasis on valuing every part of the food as the practice began with the informant’s mother-in-law, deciding to make something out of the inside of the squash. Because of the Abrahamic tradition that has influenced the Christian tradition as patrilineal, the women have traditionally been the ones in the kitchen, which is why this particular tradition passed from the mother-in-law to her daughter-in-law, as the two of them most likely cooked together often. This also emphasizes the importance of the communal aspect of cooking, as the sharing of recipes and feelings about not wasting food come from the work in the kitchen.

Not only are the squash fritters practical, they are also popular with the family as well. Therefore, they have become their own dish as well, meant to accompany kusa-meshe, but really could be served with any dish as a side. I was luckily able to try these fritters, and they were very delicious, something that would be popular at any table. Overall, this dish is an excellent example of how culture influences food, and how food is a valuable venue through which customs and traditions can be passed down.

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