Informant is a half-white, half-Korean student studying at USC who has lived in America their whole life.
“I feel like it’s not a tradition, just a holiday, on 추석 (Chuseok), which is like the Korean Thanksgiving, you eat like, rice cake also. You eat this like little, there’s like little colorful ones, I think they’re called 송편 (songpyeon, lit. “pine cake”), and they have little things in it, they go bad really fast.”
This conversation was recorded in-person. We were discussing holidays that we celebrated that had traditional foods usually eaten on said holiday.
Food is a major component of ethnic identity. As Elliot Oring notes in his book, Folk Groups and Folklore Genres, “it is unlikely that anyone who feels some stirrings of identification with an ethnic group cannot think of some dish recipe, or kind of meal that they particularly associate with their group” (35). Songpyeon is seen as quintessential to Chuseok, as it also carries symbolic belief, to show gratitude to the year’s harvest. Songpyeon is a type of dish made from rice, which is a staple crop in Korean food (there are also many other dishes that involve rice—tteok is a whole classification of various rice cakes). Making songpyeon invariably leads to a large quantity made, it is reasonable for it to be served on a holiday like Chuseok, traditionally celebrated with the entire family. As folklore, food serves as a symbol of in-group identification, creating a sense of community. Especially with members of a diaspora, food is also a way to stay connected with their culture that they otherwise would not be exposed to.