Author Archives: ksjones

Egusi Soup


EI: “So basically, in my family but I feel like Nigerian culture in general, there’s this one dish… It’s a soup, it’s called egusi soup. I don’t know all that goes into it. I know egusi is a melon, but you eat the seeds, so the soup is made by grinding up the seeds and mixing it with vegetables. It kind of smells… It makes the house smell bad. Not necessarily bad, but you know when egusi soup is being made in the house. It’s just a dish for whenever, but there is a process of making it, so you have to plan in advance. Finding the different ingredients is hard because you have to go to a specific Nigerian grocery store, and there aren’t that many of those, so you have to make the trek to go to the grocery store and make it which is a full day kind of thing. It’s more difficult, but it’s not for, like, special occasions.”

CONTEXT: EI is a black freshman at USC studying business. She grew up in the Bay area in California, but her family is Nigerian.

EI: “My family, we don’t make it very much, but it’s basically when my mom or my grandma comes and she and makes it. It makes me feel like oh wow, it’s a part of Nigerian culture, like immersed. I feel like that was always fun because my sister and I would come home and we’d smell the smell and get so excited. We’d be like “oh my gosh, yay! Egusi!” Because before we’d have it once in every like five years. We’ve been having it more recently which is cool, but now, we have it and it’s that same excitement of ‘Oh, I haven’t had this in a while’ even if it was the other day.”

ANALYSIS: I’ve never heard of egusi soup before, but a quick google search reveals that it’s a fairly common dish associated with Nigerian heritage. While the dish is not eaten at a specific time in EI’s family, it definitely has a purpose: for EI, it’s a means to connect her to her culture. She stated that it makes her feel immersed in Nigerian culture. Nigerian culture is not super common in the Bay area, and based on EI’s comments, it takes effort to express that identity. After all, she stated that Nigerian grocery stores are far away—in order to acquire the ingredients to make egusi soup, it takes a lot of effort. The making of egusi soup becomes very deliberate. Not only that, it’s acquired an association with the women in her family as her mother and grandmother are the people who make it. On the topic of ingredients, it’s interesting that the egusi hasn’t been replaced. Often, people replace certain materials if they’re hard to get. However, because the egusi itself is the main part of the soup, it can’t be replaced without losing the egusi-ness that makes it egusi soup. It makes the trek to the Nigerian grocery store is entirely necessary.

Senior Soccer practice


EI: “So basically, on the club soccer team, we have a tradition: when the seniors graduate, we have a “senior practice.” Basically, before we go to the field, we go to someone’s house or apartment and get really drunk, really trashed, and then we go to the field and then just mess around on the field. We play like, small side games. It’s basically the last hurrah in sending them off into life after college. We do it every year for the graduating seniors.”

CONTEXT: EI is a freshman at USC studying business who doesn’t drink. She’s been playing soccer since high school, and she made varsity club soccer in her first year at USC: this is her first year learning about the senior practice tradition.

ANALYSIS: EI hasn’t yet participated in this tradition. She’s learning this as a freshman, and because she doesn’t drink, so she can’t fully participate in the tradition and express her identity as a member of the club team. As for the seniors, the senior practice being one “last hurrah” is necessary from a psychological standpoint: the end of college soccer is genuinely the end of an era. The club soccer team is not professional—this is likely one of the last times that these students will play soccer in this capacity. For that matter, this is the end of their athletic prime in terms of biology. Any league that graduated students participate in from this point forward will take much more effort to play with the same consistency and the same high energy. The senior practice helps provide a bookend, officially marking the beginning of this new era. Even the consumption of alcohol helps solidify their new place as adults. Even though many students illegally drink in college, seniors are finally of age, making the fact that their drinking is legal a mark of seniority.

Point at the Stars and get a Wart


SS: “The first one is one I always got told while growing up. While you’re stargazing at night, if you point at the moon, if you point at the stars, if you point at anything beautiful in the sky, then you’re going to wake up with some sort of wart… on your face, on your finger, somewhere like that. So growing up, I always used my fist if I wanted to point out a star. And it worked for me! That is, until one night. My family was hanging out in the jacuzzi, chatting, having a great night, and then we talked about this beautiful star in the sky, the brightest star in the sky. I said it’s so nice, and my family said they didn’t know which one I was talking about, so obviously the go-to is to assist them. So I get my big old finger and point straight at this bright, beautiful star, and right after I look at my finger and my family and said “NO!” After that, I was like oh no, something’s going to happen, this will really suck, maybe I’ll find out if this is the real deal or not. I was so worried… the rest of the night, I made sure to use my fist so I wouldn’t get like, double the trouble or something. The next day I wake up and go to the mirror, and I’ve got a fat pimple on my nose. I was so annoyed! I was like this is real, I screwed it up, I should have pointed with my fist… that’s why I believe that superstition to be true. Moral of the story: don’t point at the stars.”

CONTEXT: SS is my roommate and close friend, a recent graduate of USC who was born in Brazil but moved to the United States soon after. She frequently flies back with her parents and brother to visit her family in Brazil.

SS: “All the Brazilian superstitions I have I learned from my family. I have multiple.”

ANALYSIS: SS described the practice as a superstition when she described it: she was self-conscious of its magical nature. The belief itself is an example of a jinx. She didn’t have to physically contact the star, so contagious magic appears to be out. On the topic of SS’s experience with the superstition, Her story about it becomes a memorate because of the way that she inserted herself into the narrative. Her experience with the superstition is built into the way that she describes it. Her testing of the superstition is significant because it was a one-time event: she followed the superstition at all other times in her life, making the one time where she didn’t dramatic in comparison. Her test could have been an outlier, but because her test confirmed her belief, she’s not going to try again. She built her own debate into the way she told the story, making sure to mention the fact that she herself was doubting it, but she makes it clear that in the end, her belief was confirmed, almost as though she was trying to convince her audience.

Brazilian Sandals Superstition


SS: So basically, something I grew up with… in the home… There’s a really big tradition in Brazilian culture to never walk around barefoot. We always walk around with flip flops, some kind of sandals. Something I used to do is if I was walking around outside, the bottoms would get really dirty, and I’d be afraid of my mom telling me to not walk around in my dirty sandals. So what I’d do is I would walk in and I’d set the sandals upside down, so the straps would be facing the ground. But every time I’d do that, my mom would tell me don’t put those upside down, or something will happen to a close relative of yours if you do that. I forget if it’s they’ll die, but it definitely wasn’t positive: they’d get harmed in some way. So every single time I put it upside down, I’d get a comment like that and get scared. My mom would always say “You want me to die?” and things like that intense sometimes. And finally, after a long time of thinking it was legit superstition, apparently it’s a joke among Brazilian parents. Like “I don’t want you to get my floor dirty.” “I don’t want the feet of your sandal to touch the dirty cold floor.” So it’s a way for parents to scare their kids. It’s always something I got scared of.

CONTEXT: SS is my roommate and close friend, a recent graduate of USC who was born in Brazil but moved to the United States soon after. She frequently flies back with her parents and brother to visit her family in Brazil.

ANALYSIS: For most of her life as a child, SS saw this rule as a superstition and treated it as such. The contrast between her and her mother’s beliefs is interesting: for the mother, the superstition was never real, but her insistence on the rule made it reality for her daughter. The text itself reminds me of the rhyme “Step on a crack, you’ll break your mother’s back.” It’s similar in structure: the stepping on and contact with the ground—either the floor or a crack on the ground—results in injury to a part of the family, specifically the mother. That being said, the “superstition” detailed here has two key differences. First, the rhyme is often repeated between children and peers, whereas the superstition SS recounted was told to her by an authority figure—her mother. Second, the superstition has a legitimate motive to be told by parents. SS’s mother had a very clear purpose in telling her daughter not to step on the floor: so that she didn’t dirty them.



  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 Tbls sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 Tbls vegetable oil
  • Butter
  • Powdered sugar

Mix flour, sugar, and salt. Add water, eggs, and oil. Stir until lumps are gone. Fry on a poffertjies pan or fry silver-dollar sized pancakes in a frying pan. To serve, spread with butter and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

CONTEXT: EC is a white graduate student at USC studying linguistics. Up until attending USC, she lived in Pasadena, California. That being said, her dad is from Iowa, and her mom is from Indiana.

The recipe itself was typed and printed on a piece of printer paper.

EC: I learned it from my dad. He makes poffertjies for us. We make it for Easter and Christmas brunch. It’s very much a brunch, a breakfast. It’s a Dutch recipe, you need a special pan to make it in: a round pan. All the ones I’ve seen are cast-iron, although I would imagine that you can make them in a non cast-iron, but it has little divots in them that are less than an inch in diameter, and there are about 15-20 of them. It’s like pouring batter into  a mold, and then you use a special two-tined fork to flip them and get them out, so it’s kind of a process. My dad probably learned it from… There’s a town in Iowa where he met my mom and he got married called Orange City Iowa, and it’s one of the most Dutch towns in America. They had a saying. I don’t know if this was a Dutch saying or the non-Dutch people that said it, my dad was mostly Swedish and Irish, and it’s: “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.” So I’m sure he learned it from living in that town. My dad typed out the recipe for Christmas: he gave my brother and I poffertjie pans for Christmas, and then he also gave us the recipe.

ANALYSIS: Wikipedia shows that the dish is frequently made with yeast and buckwheat, but this is not shown in EC’s recipe. Instead, it uses accessible ingredients: a nonspecific type of flour, vegetable oil, etc. It may simply be because yeast and buckwheat aren’t pantry staples in many American households—since the recipe was a gift to his children, EC’s father may have also wanted to ensure that they could actually make it. The gift of the recipe was almost a rite of passage, given to continue the poffertjie legacy in their family but only once they were old enough and living on their own. There are many nonspecific parts of the recipe. The amount of butter and powdered sugar, for instance, are completely vague. These are the portions of the recipe that don’t concern the actual making of the recipe: they’re additions at the end. That being said, EC would know the general amount that’s required from watching her dad make them over the years, taking down that potential barrier. Any people outside of their family who attempted to make them may struggle with that particular step, but the written recipe becomes more of a reminder than a guide for those who are already familiar.