Tag Archives: cooking

North German Canning Superstition

Context:

HH is a retired former housewife who lives in Westergellersen, a small village in northern Germany.

Main Piece:

“Frauen sollten kein Gemüse einkochen wenn sie ihre Regel haben. Die Gläser werden dann nicht richtig schließen.”

Translation:

Women shouldn’t be canning any vegetables while they’re on their period. If they do, the jars won’t close right.

Analysis:

There are many superstitions about the female menstrual cycle, many delineating the things women should and shouldn’t do while they are actively menstruating. The informant does not recall any further logic behind the superstition, only that the jars won’t seal correctly. Given that canning is largely seen as women’s work, and that having a good seal on the jars is vitally important for the long-term preservation of the food, it does seem reasonable that a superstition around women’s bodies would be connected to this important facet of women’s work.

Given that this is a superstition, and therefore a magical folk belief, this belief would fall under the umbrella of Sympathetic Magic, specifically Homeopathic. My interpretation of the metaphor involved in this magical belief is that if the woman canning is menstruating, her body is momentarily shedding bodily substances and fluids, rather than how she is ‘sealed’ during the rest of her cycle. So, a woman must be ‘sealed’ herself while canning, otherwise the ‘unsealed’ trait of her body would metaphorically translate to the jar, not letting it properly seal.

Peels for The Initials of Your Spouse

Main Content:

M: Me, I: Informant

I:OOOoooo, I don’t know if you want this but there’s a lot of um you know like when you are peeling potatoes, you throw the peel on the floor and it’ll name the initials of who you are going to marry

M: I did not know that

I: There’s a lot of them. That was a thing,  ugh again my grandma, I swear she is a crazy *laughs*. Or or apples if you are peeling anything, you do it in one peel as far as you can get, and if it breaks apart that’s just more letters for you and then you throw it on the floor and it’ll—-

M: Cool, cool!

Context: She learned this growing up cooking with her grandma, who is old fashioned. This was a practice she really enjoyed even if the answer changed from time to time but was also a bit nerve racking. The context brings an added element here as this practice is done in the kitchen, traditionally a place that is deemed for women. Thus this practice is much more used amongst the women.

Analysis: This practice definitely is more geared towards women as I said in the context piece because of where it takes place, but if we dig deeper and see how it reflects the portrayal of women and how while they cook in the kitchen, they wish for their future husbands; it comes across to directly chain domesticity to females and further pushes the age old view that a woman wants to get married and looks forward to finding herself a spouse. Through this way, the older and wiser women encourage the younger and more naive girls to be excited for their domesticity. Especially because of the prevalence of fruits in this practice, which in folklore tends to represent the fertility and virginity of a woman, which is often linked to their marriage.

Oscar Watch Party

To provide context, the ‘awards season’ is a film industry term that refers to the months and awards shows leading up the final, and most historically prestigious show, the Academy Awards (also known as the Oscars). Held at the end of each year to recognize various achievements in filmmaking, the awards given in this show are considered the highest achievement in the entertainment world.

 

Despite being centered on a relatively small industry, the place of movies is highly visible in the eyes of the American public, given that they are seen by millions of people. Therefore, it becomes a popular group activity to try and predict the winners of the Academy Awards, given its competitive nature, the widely familiar subject matter and the ability of anyone to play.

 

The following situation illustrates an ‘Oscar watch party’ with a number of guests at the house of a friend during the airing of the 90th Academy Awards. It should be noted this took place in Los Angeles, the seat of the film industry and the location of nearly all the awards shows, with the hosting friend a prominent producer in said industry:

 

Invited guests arrived at the host’s home in the hours preceding the show, with a dinner of pasta and salad being prepared at the same time. A number of appetizing foods were laid out for the meantime- chips, salsa, queso, guacamole, and bottled beers, with the television switched to the channel that the show would soon air on.

 

The awards show itself is preceded by a ‘red carpet’ program where nominees and their guests, naturally forming a sizable body of famous celebrities and movie stars in a single location. The stars are documented arriving to the venue of the awards show, showcasing elaborate dresses and participating in interviews.

 

The presence of this program allows a pleasant occupation of time before the actual show begins, alongside the appetizers and friendly conversation. During this time, the host additionally distributed ballots with a complete list of nominees in each category for guests to fill out and make their respective predictions.

 

As the show began, dinner was served alongside more alcohol-heavy tequila margaritas, ballots were handed in, and guests took their seats before the television.

 

Loud cheers, boos, praises, and surprises filled the room as each winner was announced over the course of the three hours making up the show. All the while, guests checked off their ballots to see whether they were correct or not in their predictions.

 

By the show’s end, the person with the greatest amount of correct marks earned a moment of pride, along with a physical prize of the last margarita.

 

On a further explanatory note regarding the Academy Awards and the fervor that comes to surround its airing, the months preceding the Academy Awards are peppered with smaller, less prominent awards shows (Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globes, BAFTAs) most of whose voting members have great amounts of crossover with the voting body of the Academy. Altogether, the nominees and winners of these preceding awards illustrate candidates of favorability to eventually be nominated for an Academy Award. Once the nominees have actually been announced, the winners and nominees of the awards leading up to the final show helpfully contribute to an overall historical record of statistics that allow one to pinpoint the likely ultimate winners.

 

With so many factors and events that present an increasingly clearer picture of who might win an Oscar, competition can become understandably heated as to making accurate predictions. The most interesting contentions arise when viewers are attached to certain films, directors, actors, or other nominees and insist their likelihood to win despite statistics suggesting otherwise. Given that there have been plenty of surprises and snubs throughout its 90-year history, upsets are not out of the question.

 

Although bets are frequently placed on the winners, this was not the case in the matter of this watch party’s ballot. The non-necessity of betting likely suggests the reason why so many people participate in the guessing-game conversation regarding the Academy Awards, being that the only thing at stake for most participants is the pride lost from having made an incorrect prediction.

Christmas Cinnamon Rolls

BACKGROUND:

In Tucson, Arizona, a family passes down the tradition of making a very specific recipe on Christmas. This recipe has been passed down for so many generations, the actual author of the recipe is unknown. The source has said that it traces back to their Mennonite and Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors. The recipe was given to the daughters and daughters-in-law of each generation as a rite of passage for becoming the official “woman of the household”. Every Christmas morning, those with the recipe would cook these cinnamon rolls for the entire family and those celebrating the holiday with them.

RECIPE:

Unfortunately, when asked to record the recipe for documentation, my source refused to even let me see it. The secrecy behind this recipe is extremely important to the family and is viewed as a way of creating a bond between the women of the family and a true acceptance into the family. Me seeing this would be devaluing its importance.

MY THOUGHTS:

I think this is a really unique coming of age tradition. Not only is it a way of cementing blood relatives as officially women, but it’s also a creative way of welcoming those who have married into the family. Because of this, I completely understand my source’s hesitance in letting me see the actual recipe.

Matzo Ball Soup Recipe

Informant is grandmother, currently living in Florida having lived most of her life in New Jersey. The following is a family recipe for Matzo Ball Soup which is a traditionally jewish dish served at Passover.

 

Ingredients (taken down from a handwritten note in the recipe book):

4 large eggs

•¼ cup “schmaltz” rendered chicken fat or coconut oil

•¼ cup chicken stock

•1 cup matzo meal

•¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

•1 to 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger

•2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

•1 teaspoon Allspice

 

Directions (spoken to me in the kitchen as she prepares to make the soup):

“In a big bowl, put the eggs, schmaltz, chicken stock, matzo, nutmeg, ginger and parsley. Put in 1 teaspoon salt and Allspice. Mix a little with a spoon, and cover. And refrigerate until chilled. I do it overnight.”

“Put the matzo balls in a pan like this (she holds up a medium sized, deep pan) with salted water and boil. With wet hands— they have to be wet— take some of the mix and mold it into the size of a golfball. Put them in boiling water and leave it for about 40 minutes. Then you put them in the soup, that’s it!”