My informant was my 94 year old grandfather. He is a very wise man that has gone through a lot in his life from having polio to creating a multi million dollar company. However, he did not tell me about his life. He discussed one of the motto’s that his father, my great grandfather, held very dear to him which is “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure”.
Collector: “Do you know of any proverbs that hold any significance to you?”
Informant: “Yes, my father would always say ‘one man’s junk is another man’s treasure’.
Collector: “Why was this important to him?
Informant: “Throughout his life, particularly in his old age, he would always collect trash from the junk yard or from other places that had what looked like useless junk. But, he somehow found a way to sell these things to people and people liked it. He was a man that hated waste and to see all that stuff being thrown away just killed him. So he made use out of it and collected it and sold it to people that might need it. He made pretty good money doing it too.”
This was awesome to find out because I got to learn more about my great grandfather, his personality and the things he did. I never had the opportunity to meet him so this was very beneficial for me. After doing some research on the origins of this proverb, I found that it originated during the late 17th century. It was first seen in a bound publication of The Athenian Mercury, as “one man’s pleasure is, another’s pain”. This proverb, clearly having the same meaning, was noted again just a few years later, except this time it was “one’s man’s meat is another man’s poison”. Both proverbs communicate the same message as the modern use.
My informant was my 52 year old mom. She has always told me to eat chicken noodle soup when I have a cold. Every time I would even be remotely sick, chicken noodle soup would be fuming around the house. My intention behind this interview was to gather information about where she heard that and why that is true.
Collector: “Why have you always given me chicken noodle soup when I was sick? Does it actually work?”
Informant: “Well as I was growing up my mom would always give me chicken noodle soup when I was sick, and I know that my grandmother would always give my mom chicken noodle soup when she was sick. I think it does work, when all those fumes go up your nose and the hot liquid goes down your throat it must help something. At least it tastes good and that alone can just make you happy.”
I decided to do more research to see where this started and if it was truly good for your health. It was nearly impossible to find out where it originated from because practically every country and culture has their own recipe and way of making the soup. From Poland to Pakistan to the Unites States, the recipe changes but most cultures do drink it when ill. Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha took blood samples from volunteers and showed that the soup inhibited the movement of neutrophils, which are the most common types of white blood cells that protects the body from infection. This inability to move, makes them stronger and allows the body to fight off viruses more easily. This was very interesting to learn because I will now know why chicken soup affects me in such a positive way when I get sick.
My informant was my 90 year old great aunt. She is a wonderful woman that has been a staple in the family forever, providing food, kindness, and wisdom to everyone in the family. I decided to talk to her about my great grandfather because she was very close to him and knew him as well as any body.
Collector: “Was there anything that Harry (my great grandfather) did on a regular basis in particular throughout his life?”
Informant: “Oh yes, he was a beautiful man. Always in such high spirits and had such great health. Well, something that he would do every single day was enjoy a glass of whiskey after dinner and before sleep. He would always just sit in his chair watch the television and drink his whiskey. We were all wondering how he was living so long drinking whiskey like that, but since he did live so long we figured that the whiskey must have been good for him.”
Collector: “He lived until he was 103 years old right?”
Informant: “Yes, he was the longest living person I have every known. And the whiskey couldn’t have hurt. In fact, drinking whiskey every night has been a type of tradition for the boys in the family and they have lived long lives.”
This was a great piece of information to know. That every day my he would drink a glass of whiskey and he lived until he was 103 years old. He must have been doing something right. I decided to do a bit of research on what health benefits Whiskey has for a person. It turns out that Whiskey is probably the healthiest alcohol that you can drink. It helps with weight loss, dementia, heart health, blood clots, cancer prevention, immune steno boost, and even diabetes control. Although it can only help in these areas to a certain extent, drinking it in rational amounts could potentially make one live a little longer.
My informant was a 64 year old Japanese chef that used to work for my family. I talked to her about her heritage and different important aspects of Japanese culture that I would not know.
Collector: “Are there any Japanese traditions that you take part in?”
Informant: “Yes there are many, which would you like to hear about?”
Collector: “Which one means the most to you?”
Informant: “Hmmm.. well, there is one that my family has always done on New Years. Every year my father would always bake mochi, which are chewy rice balls. When he was pounding the race with a wooden mallet, our entire family would gather around to watch. Many families did this. Because the mochi balls would turn out so sweet, we would always eat them on New Years to lead in to a sweet new year. It is called kagami mochi.”
This was very interesting to know because I love Japanese culture and spend a great deal of time there with my dad. I found it intriguing to learn more about the Japanese new year and I would love to take part in this tradition in the upcoming year.
I decided to do some research on kagami mochi and actually found out a lot of useful information. It was found that the kagami mochi first appeared during the Muromachi period which was between the 14th and 16th centuries. Rather than provide for a sweet year, mochi was thought to give one strength. However, it could mean different things for different families.
My informant was my 59 year old father. He grew up in a Jewish household with many Jewish traditions that have been passed down through generations. My father’s grandmother was originally Russian. My entire family lived there until my great grandfather and great grandmother came to the United States through Ellis Island sometime around 1900. During this exchange between two countries, my ancestors brought many traditions to the United States as did many of the Russian Jews that came to the United States at that time. One of those was knishes.
Collector: “I know we have been eating knishes my entire life. Who was the first to make them?”
Informant: “Well, my mom had always grown up making them and I would also have them during my childhood. She learned from her mom, and her mom learned from her mom and so on. It went back for a long long time. It is a huge tradition in our family.”
Collector: “Is her recipe unique or are all knishes the same?”
Informant: “Usually a knish is supposed to be filled with some sort of stuffing whether it be meat, cheese, or maybe even fruit or something. Ours however, are just made out of the dough without all of the filling. This way you really get the flavor of the actual potato.”
Collector: “Do you still use the same exact recipe that was passed down through generations?”
Informant: “The same exact one.”
This was a very interesting interview. I did not know that the knishes that I have been eating my entire life stemmed back so far. After researching the origins of the knish and their presence in the United States, I found out that during about 1900, which is when my great grandmother came to the United States, knishes made an appearance. They became a popular snack food and special shops began to open up.