Occupation: Mathematics Graduate Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/29/2015
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Turkish
About the Informant(s): Informant A and her husband (Informant B) are both from Turkey. They met in college, got married, and then came to the US for graduate school. They are both currently teaching assistants for math.
Informant A: Before engagement, [to ask] for her hand…the [two] families get together and…
Me: They talk about getting engaged?
Informant A: Yeah. It’s like these two young people have seen each other; they like each other. So what should we do about this?
Me: The parents [meet]?
Informant B: No, the parents and the kids. The future bride makes coffee for the groom’s family.
Informant A: It’s a special kind of coffee. Turkish coffee. It looks like espresso. The bride puts salt in the coffee. The groom’s coffee. If the groom drinks it without any complaints, then the bride’s side says: ‘ooh, our groom is very nice. He didn’t say anything even though the coffee is not the best.’ But I didn’t do it…
Informant B: She was afraid that I would just spit it out.
Informant A (slightly sad): I didn’t do it.
Informant B: I heard a story but I am not sure if it is correct or not. A groom was…
Informant A: Dead! It is rumored that the bride put pepper, salt, eggs, many spices…
Informant B: Many spices, and the groom drank it and like, there was news that he…just died.
Informant A: He died!
Me: From drinking coffee?
Informant B: But they put several things inside the coffee.
Me: Like poison?
Informant A: I think they overdid it extremely. I don’t know. I just heard of it. I think it was food poisoning.
Me: So is it like a legend? No one knows if it’s actually true?
Informant B: It could be. I’m not sure.
Background Information/Context: I asked this couple about some Turkish wedding traditions, and the conversation went to how an engagement happens. Although Informant A didn’t follow tradition and give her current husband salty coffee, they both knew about it. It seems that brides normally put salt in, but they might add a variety of other things like spices in the coffee as well. Soon, the conversation turned to a legend about this fateful cup of coffee (that has to be Turkish coffee). Although the legend is about dead groom, we still laughed about it because of how extreme and ironic it sounded. I got the impression that the couple thought that this tradition was quite unnecessary and laughable, yet Informant A still seemed a bit disappointed that she did not put her husband to the test.
My thoughts: It seems that this tradition came about as a way for the bride’s family to see how fitting the groom is for the bride and how much he loves her. If the groom is willing to go through this kind of pain, then he can endure any kind of hardship in the future as well. This would explain why Informant A might have been disappointed because she did not place that trust in her husband back when they got engaged (even though they are a great couple today). The fact that a legend exists because of this tradition also shows how some people do not approve of this kind of test, since after all, someone could die from it. This legend acts as a cautionary tale for people thinking about getting married (telling the bride to go easy on the groom). It also acts as a way for people to deal with the fear of the engagement meeting not going as well as expected–even if the groom doesn’t spit it out, he could still die. Perhaps, for Informant A, it is a way for her to deal with the regret of not putting salt in Informant B’s coffee.