Customs Regarding Roasted Lamps

Genre: customary lore

Category: Custom

Collection date: Apr.27th, 2022

Main piece:  

“Roasted lamb is one of the traditional cuisines for Chinese Mongols. Usually, the entire roasted lamb will be brought to the dining table including the goat’s head. The most revered person in the room will use the knife to cut first horizontally and then vertically on the head of the roasted lamb. The person will then slice a small piece of meat from the back of the goat and eat it first. The rest of the roasted lamb will then be broken down by the chef and brought back to the dining place for everyone to eat.”

Contextual data:

Social context:

The roasted lamb was quite a luxurious cuisine in the past and was usually eaten during important festivals or celebrations. The most revered person in the family will be granted the right to have the first bite to honor their contribution to the family. The horizontal and vertical cuts on the forehead of the roasted lamb are a way to show respect to nature, praying that nature will keep helping them bring food to the table.

Cultural context:

The informant is a Mongol Chinese. She grew up in Beijing, China and came to the U.S. for post-secondary education. She has a mixed cultural background of Mongols and Northeastern Chinese. 

Informant’s comment:

“It is an interesting tradition that Chinese Mongols have and I think it reflects the cultures back in the nomadic times.”

My comment: 

There is a similar tradition of eating roasted ducks in Beijing, China as well. It represents respect for the elderly in Chinese culture.