Tag Archives: Food Traditions

Pre-Thanksgiving Festival/Tradition

“A tradition that my family had is called Pie Day, and it’s not 3-14 but instead the day before thanksgiving. It’s essentially a party where friends and family come together and make pies for thanksgiving, everyone is in the kitchen. Before we moved to Washington my grandma would always have pie day at her house and that is the one time of year that I would see the most extended of extended family. There are lots of wine snacks and cooking. In Washington it was much more my parents’ friends and a couple cousins and such, and the night ends with everyone gathering on the couch and sitting down for a show or movie.”

The informant performs this tradition every year the day before Thanksgiving, typically held at her parents house in Olympia, Washington, USA. Depending on the year, different people may arrive to participate in this tradition. The informant’s immediate family, her parents’ friend group, her dad’s work friends, herself and her siblings, who invite a couple of their friends, and then some extended family are all potential participants, depending who is in town. Every person who comes can bring a dish they would like to make for the next day, but most people just come to socialize and decompress before the busy Thanksgiving day. The informant is not sure when it started, but her family started preparing the pies for Thanksgiving in the days before and as the years went on, more and more people were invited to participate in preparing food prior to the actual holiday.

The tradition demonstrates a culture that values food and socialization, as nearly all cultures do. Cooking together is a common way to build bonds between people, especially family and close friends. It is a sort of unofficial folk festival for just the small group of people involved, taking place the day before a bigger holiday. This is relatively common as people prepare for holidays. There are group cooking days for food-centered holidays, group shopping excursions for the winter holidays that involve gift giving, and group decorating days before decoration-centered holidays like Dia de Los Muertos or Christmas. It is a way to mount the excitement for the holiday as well as extend the celebration.

The Dragon Boat and Zongzi Festival

‘Growing up in China, my family and I always celebrated the Dragon Boat and Zongzi Festival. Basically we would go into town and watch dragon boat races, which involved teams rowing decorated boats to music, while eating sticky rice dumplings which are called zongzi. This is a really big souther Chinese tradition with lots of festivities, praying, and it’s all about good luck. The festival celebrates Qu Yuan who was a prime minister in China centuries and centuries ago. I remember every year we would go to the river and dump the zongzi in to feed Qu yuan as a superstition. We also would hang a type of plant on our door called Chinese Mugwort to avoid mosquitos and bad luck as this is the hottest time of year.” – AS

AS grew up celebrating this holiday with her family each year as long as she can remember. It always signified a very fun time of year for her, even though it was the hottest days ever! AS emphasized that the biggest role it had, and still has, in her life, was not the history of the festival, but rather how delicious the zongzi is. While she no longer celebrates it, as she has moved to the US, she still makes and eats zongzi often, even for breakfast. Additionally, during the summer in the US, she hangs a fake plant on her door, that looks similar to Chinese Mugwort, to commemorate the Dragon Boat festival and keep her tradition as best she can in a new environment.

Zongzi: sticky rice dumplings
Chinese Mugwort hung on a door

The Dragon Boat Festival is a very important festival in the region of China AS grew up in, as it highlights the cultural significance of Qu Yuan, and the traditions that grew because of it. The festival also incorporates multiple superstitions, as much folklore does, as many of the rituals they perform are to avoid bad luck and bring in success for themselves and their family during the hottest time of year. Additionally, the dragon boat races are a tradition of Chinese folklore and mythology, as they correspond to a legend that dragon boats were used to save Qu Yuan from drowning in the river, hence throwing in dumplings to feed him. Also, the zongzi are a form of folk food, as they are many times offered as a tribute and also to ward off any evil spirits and bad luck. Many prayers and traditions are also important to this festival. With the huge celebrations the Dragon Boat festival brings, the Chinese culture and heritage of this southern region of China is shared and spread to all. AS, who recently had a baby, also shares these traditions of zongzi and mugwort with him when they days get hot! There is rich folklore characteristics all throughout this festival that allow the culture and traditions to continue.

Jewish Tradition for Passover

Text: During Passover, which lasts for eight days, there are a couple dietary restrictions observed by Jews. Foods containing leavened grain products such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, and spelt are prohibited, as these items could become chametz if they come into contact with water for longer than 18 minutes. Ashkenazi Jews also abstain from eating kitniyot—foods like rice, beans, legumes, and corn—during this period. Traditional Passover meals include matzah, which is unleavened bread made simply from wheat flour and water and is prepared so that it does not rest for more than 18 minutes to prevent leavening. Other staples of the Passover diet include matzah ball soup, various meat dishes, and fruits. The origin of these practices dates back thousands of years to the biblical Exodus from Egypt. According to the story, after God inflicted the tenth plague on the Egyptians, killing the firstborn sons, the Israelites had to leave in haste. This urgency meant they did not have time to let their bread dough rise, resulting in the creation of matzah. The dietary laws observed during Passover serve to commemorate this pivotal event in Jewish history and the haste with which the Israelites fled their enslavement.

Context: The informant is half Jewish and has been doing this ever since he is a kid. He doesn’t keep up with some Jewish traditions but he does do this one since, in his words, “it is only once a year”. He believes in god but does not believe traditions like this holds relevance in gods eyes and he does it just to maintain his culture.

Analysis: The Jewish people are a small group of people throughout history but they have also maintained much of their culture over a great many centuries. The informant participating in the tradition and seeing the importance of carrying it shows the cultural value in judaism of preservation and survival. The jewish people have undergone suffering throughout much of their history and it is very important to remember these time periods and honoring it like in the story of exodus. this can also be seen in Hanukkah which was persecution under the greek Seleucid empire.

Pastillas de Leche


Pastillas de Leche is a type of food that originated in the Philippines.  Described as a milky, powder-like food, the meal is usually served as a sweet side dish or desert for people to finish their meals with.  Typically, a single batch of pastillas de leche will consist of about thirty small rolls.  To make pastillas de leche, one will need: five cups of whole milk; three quarters of a cup of powdered milk; one cup of sugar; and two tablespoons of butter.

To make pastillas de leche, one must first pour milk and two-thirds of a cup of sugar into a saucepan or a pot, and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Then, one must bring the saucepan to a simmer until the mixture is reduced to a paste-like consistency.  While doing this, one should also scrape the bottom and sides of the saucepan to prevent sticking, and keep it at a low boil to prevent burning.  This process can take around half an hour to an hour to complete.  Once the texture is thick and paste-like, add butter and milk powder.  Stir until the mixture is homogeneous.

The mixture should be cooked for a couple more minutes, or until the mixture becomes thick, soft, and doughy.  Once it reaches this consistency, transfer the mixture to a slightly-oiled or buttered bowl, and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.  Once the mixture has cooled, roll it into thirty rolls that are each around an inch long.  Use the leftover sugar to coat the pastillas; roll each one into the sugar.  Traditionally, the pastillas are rolled into food-wrapping paper for serving, but there’s no consequence if one decides to not wrap the pastillas de leche into these wrapping papers.


The subject, L.D., first learned of this recipe from their aunt, who lives in the Philippines.  According to the subject, pastillas de leche is a traditional food to serve in the Philippines, and was historically served as either a desert or a side dish for people to finish their meal with.  Pastillas de leche were also often brought to parties and shared with family and close friends.


Pastillas de leche are most likely meant to be a communal food, due in large part to the huge batches that are made at a time and the way they are meant to be shared and eaten amongst friends and family.  Pastillas de leche is meant to be a food that encourages feelings of communal understanding amongst its consumers, and is also meant to be a food that is made with the intention of making sure that everyone going to a social event or function is able to have at least one, and share in the sweetness of the food with everyone else there.  Likely, pastillas de leche are also meant to be something that is not particularly filling, given its small size, adding to the sense of everyone being able to share in it, regardless of how full or hungry they are.



Quesadillas are a traditional Hispanic food that can be found in most Latin American countries and Latin American communities.  They are a flat-like food, wrapped in either flour or corn tortilla bread, and cooked with an abundance of extra ingredients, such as tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream, and cheese.  While meat is almost always used in the dish, the kind of meat used often varies.  Most often, either chicken or pork is used.

To make a quesadilla, first cook a slice of tortilla bread on a frying pan at low heat.  Only cook the tortilla bread until it’s warm to the touch and slightly golden.  After this, take the tortilla bread, and leave it to rest on a cutting board.  While it rests, take the frying pan, and use it to cook the meat that one plans on putting in their quesadilla.  It is important that one avoid shredding the meat used in the quesadilla until after it cooks.  While the meat cooks, dice up the food that one plans on using in their tortilla.  While the food varies, traditionally, sour cream, cheese, and salsa or guacamole are used in a quesadilla.  Spicy foods can be used as well, such as peppers, but are not used as often for quesadillas.  Once all the ingredients are properly diced up, place them into the tortilla bread, and wait for the meat to finish cooking.  Once it does finish cooking, place it in the tortilla bread as well.  Then, roll the tortilla into a flat, rectangular shape, and place it back into the frying pan.  Cook the quesadilla until both sides of the tortilla bread are brown, by which time it will be ready to be served.


The subject, N.S., grew up in a Hispanic family, and had a number of Hispanic recipes and foods as a result, including quesadillas.  The subject explained that quesadillas were always an excellent and versatile food for his family to make, as they were simple in instructions, didn’t take long to cook, and had a number of food items and nutrients to be a part of the meal.  The subject also explained that they could be made for any meal, and were especially good for a quick lunch in case the subject and his family were in a rush to be someplace fast.


Quesadillas likely are such an important stable in the Latin American culinary culture because of their ease of access and general nutritional value that each quesadilla has.  Quesadillas in general do not take long to make, and can be feasibly made quickly enough to create a full meal without spending too much time or worrying about how long each quesadilla will take.  Additionally, quesadillas contain a number of food stuffs that are generally valuable and nutritional, and are able to fill a number of food pyramid requirements through their consumption.