Author Archives: Patrick Bjornstad

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie

Piece:

Interviewer: “What about the Thanksgiving tradition with pumpkin pie?”

Informant: “So the ingredients in pumpkin pie are largely consistent. Um, most pumpkin pies contain eggs and cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger and salt and pie crust. What you generally do is whisk it all together and bake it. Our family does not bake it at all, we instead use egg whites and all the same ingredients as well as the most important ingredient which is gelatin, which is used to make jello in many recipes. Also, we do not heat it up and it is served cold.”

Background:

The recipe for this pumpkin pie has been handed down for generations for use during Thanksgiving. It is important because it is the family’s signature Thanksgiving dish and pays homage to the ancestors who originated the tradition.

Context:

The informant (my mother) and I discussed this tradition at our home kitchen table, but the recipe itself is only used during Thanksgiving.

Thoughts:

Although normal pumpkin pie is a very common Thanksgiving tradition, this cold gelatinous variant introduces the family’s personal twist on the traditional recipe. Because of this unique identifier, participation in the tradition brings one closer to the heritage of the family and also provides a family bonding activity in the form of cooking the pies the day before Thanksgiving.

Christmas Eve Fondue

Piece:

Interviewer: “Can you explain the fondue Christmas Eve tradition?”

Informant: “Yep! So, fondue goes way back when to me being a kid… and we did this at Christmas Eve with the Hardy family, and we called it ‘hunkso’ – I’m sure you’ve heard that – ‘hunkso meat’ or a ‘hunkso party’ and… I don’t know, we started the fondue tradition in the 70s and it is something that has carried with us ever since, and now we do cheese and it’s a lot more elaborate.”

Background:

The informant has grown up with this tradition as a part of her family since childhood. The piece is important because it is representative of Christmas Eve and family camaraderie during the holiday season.

Context:

The informant (my mother) and I discussed the tradition at our home kitchen table, but the tradition itself that she is describing is performed only on Christmas Eve with extended family.

Thoughts:

Given that I am an active participant in this tradition, hearing about its origins was very interesting to me because I was able to witness how it has evolved over time. The family no longer calls it ‘hunkso’ for whatever reason (this was actually the first time I had ever heard it referred to by this name, despite what my mother said during the interview) and we have expanded the tradition to include cheese fondue, shrimp, and chicken in addition to the original beef. This is the perfect tradition for a holiday meal because the fondue format forces the meal to progress very slowly since each person can only cook one or two bites of food at a time, meaning the time in between bites is spent enjoying the company of extended family.

If Kentai Can Tie a Tie

Piece:

Interviewer: “Do you know any Kenyan riddles or jokes?”

Informant: “I don’t know about jokes, but there is this one tongue twister my parents learned in Kenya.”

Interviewer: “That’s perfect, let’s hear it.”

Informant: “Okay.. haha. They learned this in primary school in Kenya I think, from their instructors. Here it is: If Kentai can tie a tie, then why can’t I tie a tie as Kentai can tie a tie?”

Background:

The informant learned this tongue twister from his parents, who learned it in school in Kenya. He is unsure that it has any significance beyond the play on words between “can tie” and “Kentai,” which sound especially similar with a Swahili accent.

Context:

This conversation occurred when the informant and I were speaking about the class’ readings on the Maasai tribes since he is from Kenya. He mentioned he might know some Kenyan or Maasai folklore since he grew up under Kenyan parents and has visited the country before. At this point I started recording and asking him probing questions.

Thoughts:

I thought this example was particularly interesting because the informant’s parents learned this tongue twister in primary school. I personally cannot remember being taught a tongue twister during any of my schooling years, except for maybe encountering one from a fellow student during recess. Also interesting is the fact that the informant’s parents learned an English tongue twister in Kenyan school. Perhaps tongue twisters such as these were employed in English classes in Kenya to familiarize students with speaking in English in a potentially fun way. Because there is far less emphasis in US education on learning a new language, especially in elementary school, we are not as familiar with the same strategies.

The Haunted Hotel del Coronado

Piece:

Interviewer: “Can you try and explain the story of the haunted Hotel del Coronado?”

Informant: “To be honest I’m not sure how much I remember, but Hotel del Coronado is a uhh… historic hotel on Coronado island near San Diego. I’ve been there once as a kid but I mainly remember people around my elementary school saying that it was haunted and that there was some connection to Bloody Mary or something. Maybe there was a girl who went to the hotel and didn’t come back? Anyways, I don’t believe the stories but whenever I hear the song ‘Hotel California’ I think of that hotel in Coronado. There are definitely some lyrics in that song that deal with being haunted, so I’ve always wondered if there is a connection there… Probably not, but it is interesting to think about.”

Background:

The informant knew about the haunted hotel from his peers in elementary school and his visit to the location. He does not personally believe the stories that it is truly haunted.

Context:

This description came in a phone conversation I had with the informant while we were discussing childhood stories and songs.

Thoughts:

I found the informants connection to the popular Eagles song ‘Hotel California’ very interesting, so I went ahead and researched some of the lyrics of that song, where there were indeed references to not being able to leave the hotel, which is eerily similar to the informants description of the girl never returning from the hotel. While it is unlikely the two are explicitly connected, I think the similarities showcase the archetypal nature of legends like ghost stories and haunted hotels; even if the buildings being discussed are not the same, the stories behind their haunted nature probably stem from a common archetype. Furthermore, I did some research into the legend of the haunted Hotel del Coronado, and found that the hotel itself is even advertising its haunted nature, showcasing how this urban legend has been commercialized in the name of tourism by the hotel itself.

Annotation:

For the “canon” version of the story behind the haunted hotel provided by the hotel’s website, see the hotel’s website:

“Ghostly Goings-On at the Hotel del Coronado.” Hotel del Coronado, Hilton, hoteldel.com/press/ghostly-goings-hotel-del-coronado/. Accessed 23 Apr. 2019.

Animal Senior Pranks

Piece:

Informant: “When I was in high school, ah…. friends of mine, a year ahead of me, they were getting ready to graduate and there was kind of a tradition of doing some sort of prank, senior pranks. Well that group of guys went out and stole a bunch of turkeys off a turkey farm (laughs) and broke into the high school and put the turkeys in there on like Friday night. So the turkeys are in there wild, poopin’… and turkeys are crazy, they’re out of their surroundings, they just go nuts (laughs). So they are running all over. Of course they got caught and expelled. They finally let them get their degree but they couldn’t attend graduation or something like that. So, you know, they were kind of bragging about their stunt. And I said, ‘you know I hate to tell you but this has been going on for a while.’ When my dad graduated he and his buddies put a cow in the high school (laughs). And it was a four story building and they took the cow up to the top floor because cows will go up stairs but they won’t go down. So the same thing: they left the cow in the school for the whole weekend, cow poop all over… and the top floor was where the offices were, the principal’s office and all that stuff. So cow poop all over the fourth floor they had to get a crane to get it out cause it wouldn’t go down the stairs! (laughs)”

Background:

The informant witnessed the first practical joke mentioned in person, and was told the story of the cow variant by his father. Although he did not engage in the same pranks himself, it was clear from body language and speech that the informant found this highly humorous.

Context:

This excerpt was recorded during a scheduled meeting at my home in San Diego, CA.

Thoughts:

Although I have heard of and witnessed many senior pranks, few of them compare to this one. Pranks at my school were much more tame, such as flipping every piece of artwork on display upside down, whereas these required significant cleanup and even a crane in one case. It was very interesting that both of the pranks were very similar in that they involved animals at school, although it was implied in the story that the kid’s who used the chickens were unaware of the informant’s father’s previous exploits. If I had to guess, either the usage of animals in senior pranks was commonplace in rural schools during that time period, or the kids caught wind of the informant’s dad’s idea and acted as if it were original.