Tag Archives: chicken


RITUAL DESCRIPTION: This ritual is called Kapparot. The ritual is done on the Eve of Yom Kippur. The ritual consisted of waving a chicken over everyone’s heads on the eve and the chicken was to be slaughtered. 

INFORMANT DESCRIPTION: Male, 83, Polish, Jewish

CONTEXT: His mother used to do this ritual up until they immigrated from Poland to Mexico in the 1940s. Then his family stopped. It was supposed to be a sort of charity or sacrifice in order for future prosperity. The ritual could also be done with money and then the money donated but his mother believed the blood of the chicken was more powerful. To him this ritual was dated, and he recalled being young and slightly uncomfortable by it. He also felt sad his mother had to give it up when they immigrated because he saw how important it was to her. 

THOUGHTS: I think this ritual is definitely a very specific one in its cultural significance. I think it is slightly extreme to me but that is because I am not close to it culturally but if I were it would not be so surprising. I think all different cultures have rituals that can all sound strange but are significant in their own way. I also felt bad to hear his mother had to give it up in order to assimilate to her new country.

Russian Folk Tale about a Chicken with Golden Eggs

Main Piece: Russian Folk Tale


Однажды жили-били дед и бабушка, и у них была курица по имени Ряба. Курочка Ряба однажды снесла золотое яйцо. Бабушка попыталась сломать его кастрюлькой, но потерпела неудачу. Дедушка пытался сломать его молотком, но не смог. Затем пробежала мышь, ударила яйцо хвостом, и яйцо упало на пол и разбилось. Бабушка и дедушка плакали и плакали, а затем сказала Курочка Pяба. «Не волнуйся, я снесу столько золотых яиц, сколько захотите». И жили они долго и счастливо.



Odnazhdy zhili-bili ded i babushka, i u nikh byla kuritsa po imeni Ryaba. Kurochka Ryaba odnazhdy snesla zolotoye yaytso. Babushka popytalas’ slomat’ yego kastryul’koy, no poterpela neudachu. Dedushka pytalsya slomat’ yego molotkom, no ne smog. Zatem probezhala mysh’, udarila yaytso khvostom, i yaytso upalo na pol i razbilos’. Babushka i dedushka plakali i plakali, a zatem skazala Kurochka Pyaba. «Ne volnuysya, ya snesu stol’ko zolotykh yaits, skol’ko zakhotite». I zhili oni dolgo i schastlivo.


Once there lived a grandfather and grandmother, and they had a chicken named Ryaba. Ryaba the Chicken once laid a golden egg. Grandmother tried to break it with a saucepan, but failed. Grandfather tried to break it with a hammer, but could not. Then the mouse ran, hit the egg with its tail, and the egg fell to the floor and broke. Grandmother and grandfather cried and cried, and then Ryaba the Chicken said: “Do not worry, I’ll lay as many golden eggs as you want.” And they lived happily ever after.


Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This was told to her by her mother.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

The Soviet Union

  • What does it mean to them?

It’s a simple children’s tale that doesn’t make much sense but is fun to tell because it is short.



This is usually performed for children in order to distract them or get them to go to sleep.


Personal Thoughts:

This is a very simple and common Russian folktale. It is also makes no logical sense that the grandparents would cry if the egg was broken since they were trying to break it in the first place. It seems that after a lot of retellings of this folk tale some of the information got lost.

Chicken mafe


The informant has a lot of different parts of her background which influence her. Her family is Haitian and Comorian (an island off the coast of Africa) and she is still close with family who live in those places and visits often. She grew up for the first 10 years of her life in the U.S., but then spent the rest of her life living in Paris, France until she decided to come to school in the U.S. She likes to say that she’s a hodge-podge of different identities.


The informant made this dish for the eight people she is living in a dorm with at college for a special “finals study break with a little bit of [her] culture.” She then described how to make the dish to me. She said that she originally learned how to make the dish from her sister.

Text (J is the informant, M is the collector)

J: So, chicken mafé is a Senegalese dish and the best American translation for it would kinda be like “peanut butter chicken.” So, you start obviously by, like, cleaning your chicken. My mom taught me that the best way to do it is, like, after you’ve cleaned it — you know like, rinsed it off, and taken off the skin, and you’ve put in the vinegar and everything– you put it also in coffee, because it really gets rid of the smell. So, hot coffee. And, then, um… you.. cook the chicken a bit before. At least, I do. Um… with like, you know, just generally salt, pepper.. Barely.. Just, maybe a tiny bit of olive oil, onions, garlic. Really get all that in there. And then.. Um… once you’ve got it a tiny bit browned, you add in, uh, one tomato, a BUNCH of peanut butter.

M: (Laughing) Very scientific amount

J: I mean, African… when you — African dishes don’t ever.. Like, I’ve never heard of an African dish that has actual measures. Like, my Grandmother’s tried to teach me a bunch of stuff. She’d just like “just, add these in. And.. YES.” Um.. and so, yeah.You cook that. Um.. you wanna, maybe — it depends how thick you want the sauce, you might wanna add a bit of water to it. Or don’t. I like having the sauce really.. slightly… like pretty thick. My mom likes it a bit less thick, so she always tells me to add some water to it. Um, and, yeah, let’s see: garlic, onions, tomatoes, peanut butter, salt, pepper.. chicken, obviously. And, I mean, some basic spices, i guess. Like, you could add cayenne pepper, if you wanted to, or stuff like that, but..

M: Yeah, so, did you learn this recipe from your mom or grandma or who did you learn it from?

J: Um.. so, I learned this one, actually, from my big sister. Because, uh, chicken mafé is one of her favorite African dishes, but it’s not a dish from where we’re actually from. But.. So, she learned it from one of my aunts — or, like, well, the African version of aunt, so really one of our close friends– who is senegalese. Um, so, the aunt taught her how to do it and she taught me how to make it, and.. Yeah.

M: And would you make it with your sister?

J: Uh, I think I made it once with my sister. The few other times I made it, I made it when I actually got.. well, since, like, I’ve been in the U.S. Either, like, for other people or friends, or, yeah. I always make a  ridiculous amount, too, because I’m so used to making it in African portions that I’ve forgotten. Which is ridiculous, because you’d never think that African portions are bigger than American portions, but, hey.


I thought it was interesting how the informant identified with this dish as a part of her culture, even though it is from a completely different part of Africa than where she’s from. I think, in the context of serving this dish to a group of Americans, this foodway was used to assert her general African-ness, rather than demonstrate a specific part of her Comorian culture.

For another version of this recipe, see:

Lam, Francis. “Chicken Mafe Recipe.” NYT Cooking. The New York Times Company, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

The Girl and Her Creepy Chicken Sandwich

The informant describes themselves, “I’m a queer cis-gendered female, I’m part Mexican-American, part Persian-Israeli. I’m a student at USC. I’m Jewish. I’m about to hopefully be an EMT, if all works out.” Also – “I’m a really big cat lady.”




Do you know any legends?

I know an urban legend that used to gross me out. ACTUALLY? I have this aunt. She used to work for a – she was a medical assistant for a hand surgeon. He did reconstruction surgery. And as you can imagine, reconstructive hand surgery is usually because something really bad happened to your hand, like a bad accident. So she would always have – she had this like polaroid picture of some guy’s pinky, just out and about, and she would use to it be like “Don’t do bad things, ‘cause your pinky will fall off and you’ll be like this too.” Actually? She used to tell – I’m pretty sure this is a popular urban legend that probably still rolls around today – that’s actually not really related to her as a medical assistant, just her telling us gross things. And, um – she told us about how this guy went to Jack-in-the-Box, and ordered the spicy chicken sandwich – also, even when I did eat meat, before I was vegetarian, after I heard this story I never wanted to eat another spicy chicken sandwich ever again. Because she was like “Yeah, I had this friend. Who went to Jack-in-the-Box. And he was like “Yo. I want a spicy chicken sandwich. And he asked the guy for a spicy chicken sandwich without mayo. So he gets the spicy chicken sandwich, and he looks in it, and he’s like “Ok, why does my spicy chicken sandwich have mayo? I asked for it without mayo.” And the guy is like “No, we didn’t put any mayo in there.” Apparently after they looked at it, he realized that the chicken had some weird tumor thing, and it was just really nasty. And I know that that’s not really even a thing, but it still grosses me out. So that’s kind of a grody urban legend that’s forever turned me off of spicy chicken sandwiches.

How old were you when this was told to you?

Uhhm, I was probably about 10 or 11.

Did it influence your decision to be vegetarian?

I would sometimes think about it – actually, I – one of the main reason I stopped eating meat is it just creeped me out to begin with. And then one of the solidifying reasons, after I was already creeped out, was that – I’m ashamed to say – I watched this PETA video. I don’t like PETA now, but at the time I was like “This is terrible,” – I mean animals are still treated terribly, but PETA’s just a terrible organization. And I was like “Yo, I can’t eat animals because people are not treating them in the – in an ethical way. And – but, before that happened, I was already grossed out and I didn’t like the idea of cooking meat. Because I would watch my mom prepare chicken, and I remember watching her cut pieces of chicken on the cutting board in the kitchen, and I was just like “HOW DOES THAT NOT GROSS YOU OUT?” and she was like “No, its ok!’ and I would just think about that STUPID CHICKEN SANDWICH and I would be like “That is nasty, how are you eating that?” So yeah, actually – it actually did. Ohh. I never thought about that. Eww. Euughh. So I guess that stupid urban legend has impacted my life.

Do you know where your aunt heard it from?

I don’t know where she heard it from, um, but I do know that a few years later I brought it up – no, a friend of mine brought it up in a class in middle school. And I was like “Oh, I’ve heard the same story too!” And then the teacher was like “That’s totally fake ‘cause I’ve heard it too, and it’s fake,” and blah blah blah. One part of me was like “Dang, I was lied to.” And I felt kinda disappointed. And then the other part was like “All right, wait. That’s not real. So. That’s good. Because that would be super scary.” Heheheheheh.

How often have you talked about this to people?

Actually never after that one time in middle school. I’ve literally never talked about it after that.



This was the best retelling of a story I’ve collected yet. It’s hard to notate inflection in the transcription.
Typical fast-food horror story, reflects collective fear about methods of food production and distribution.

I Don’t Wanna Be a Chicken


“I don’t wanna be a chicken, I don’t wanna be a duck, so shake my butt”


My informant learned it from a couple girls in second grade who made fun of him and shook their butts at them. He said that it feels like it means an insult because you’re calling the other person a chicken/duck. He remembers being very offended.


This was a song that was sung from time to time among young kids.

Personal Thoughts:

This seems to be the start of young children learning about gender differences, and a way to cope with them. One could even argue that this was a way that girls started learning about their own sexuality since the butt is a fairly sexualized part on a female’s body. Perhaps this was just a way that kids could bond within their own gender.