Tag Archives: food


 MR is a student at Carleton University but currently lives in Texas with her family. Her parents are both Mexican immigrants and she was born in Canada, but they have all lived in the United States for over a decade. She is a linguist who speaks multiple languages. 

TEXT: ‘cafecito’

MR- It’s used when, like, you’re done with a meal and now it’s time for talking at the table. Maybe you have a cookie or like a little dessert or like a little cup of coffee or tea and you just table talk. You have cafecito to have table talk. Cafecito is commonly used by Spanish-speaking people because it’s just a diminutive of cafe (coffee), but me and my family and friends use it a lot more frequently and more versatile. My non-Spanish speaking friends know what it means when I ask for them to come over for a quick cafecito. 

ANALYSIS: The progression of cafecito as a phrase represents the values of MR and her bilingual family. Dinner time is an important time for many families, eating all together and not leaving the table until everyone is done. Sharing time together around a meal is crucial to MR’s lifestyle, and the evolution of the use of the word cafecito captures that. While the direct translation of the word just means coffee, when asking for some cafecito there is a desire for communal gathering and conversation, not just a drink. In a world where having a screen in front of your face throughout the whole day is becoming ever more pertinent, it’s important to have moments of true connection and honest conversations, without any added social pressures. Having cafecito after a meal allows for a calm and open area for people to commune and relax, with just good company and treats to keep one occupied. Using the word Cafecito in this way is also very reflexive of the bilingual experience. In many multilingual families, words and phrases quickly take on new or double meanings. The abundance of communication routes does not always mean that there are words that can capture what one means, and often there is a word in one language that better captures the feeling you are trying to convey in another. Cafecito evolved into a multilingual term, having various meanings depending on the sentence in which it is included and able to be used in multiple languages. The varying uses of the word Cafecito all represent the importance of community and communication in our modern world and the ways that language can evolve to fit our needs.

Mangia, y’all


A ritualistic saying that acts as performative speech to signal that people may start eating (similar to “bon appetit”).


The informant comes from an Italian family that currently lives in Dallas, TX. Her family emigrated from Sicily 6 generations ago through Louisiana and settled in South Texas; they have lived in the same city ever since. Her generation is actually the first generation that is not fully Sicilian Italian, because her father is from Nebraska. Members of the family will commonly say this phrase before meals.


Given the family’s deep connections to both Italy and Texas, both places are fundamentally intrinsic to their family identity. This saying is not only a form of performative speech that instructs people to begin eating, but an indicator of a deeply loyal family history as a source of pride. Saying this phrase ritualistically before eating contextualizes mealtimes as a ritual through which to connect with the family through food, in both the past and present.

Traditional Korean Soups

Text: “On Korean New Year, people eat rice cake soup and on birthdays people eat seaweed soup.”

Context: The informant is Korean-American. Her parents immigrated from Korea but the informant grew up in the United States and moved around different states as a child. The informant is 21 years old and she currently attends the University of Southern California. The informant grew up with these Korean traditions. The rice cake soup is called tteokguk and is made with sliced rice cakes, beef or chicken broth, and multiple garnishes such as egg and seaweed. The soup is said to bring good luck and fortune at the start of the year. The seaweed soup is called miyeok-guk. This traditional soup is made with seaweed, beef, and various seasonings. This soup is regarded as a means of celebrating a person’s life and health for another year. This is a tradition because it’s a reminder of the value of nutrition and good health in preserving a long and happy life.

Analysis: I was very interested to learn about these traditional soups from the informant because I don’t have many food traditions like this in my culture. The closest traditional food I eat is a birthday cake. I’ve never heard of traditional soups for birthdays and New Year. I’m fascinated by the Korean traditions that are dedicated to good luck and life preservation. These seem to be common themes in Korean culture. 

Injeolmi Tteok

“It’s somewhat of a tradition in Korea, I’m not sure if they do it anymore, but my mom told me when there’s a wedding, the bride and groom eat a certain kind of Tteok called Injeolmi, which is supposed to be extra sticky. They eat extra sticky Tteok so that the pair ends up sticking to each other, resembling a long and happy marriage.”

My informant learned about this tradition from his mom. He hasn’t witnessed it in person, but has only gone to one Korean wedding. It makes sense he said, since there is a saying of ‘you are what you eat’, hence if you eat something sticky, you might get stuck to your partner, which is a good thing.

I think this is a good example of a ritual. No one truly has control over how long the couple lasts, and by consuming this sticky tteok, it gives the couple control over their marriage. Tteok is also relatively cheap, allowing for this ritual to become common. Tteok is also traditionally very important in Korean culture, and by consuming it on an important day,

Miso Seaweed Soup

In our family, we usually eat seaweed miso soup on New Year’s Day. I remember my mom would wake up early before everyone and would make us breakfast, no matter how tired we were from the night before. Whatever food she would make us, seaweed miso soup would always be a staple part of our breakfast on New Year’s Day. She used to tell us that drinking the soup on the first day of the year would ensure good health for all of us throughout the year and thus, would lead to prosperity. That is a recurring theme in Japanese culture, you know..actually int any Asian cultures….to link prosperity to health. Anyway, now that I am away from home, I try to keep these traditions closer to me than ever before. Last New Years, I was not able to go back home but I made sure to make the miso soup for myself. Reminded me of home.

CL is a college student studying journalism. Originally from Japan, she moved to the United States with her family when she was ten years old. She tells me that even though they don’t live in Japan anymore, her family tries their hardest to not forget their culture roots. CL told me the above piece of information in a conversation about New Year traditions that we observe at our homes.

The above is an example of a folk food that is used to bridge cultural gaps and to feel closer to a family’s cultural roots. Despite leaving the country they were born, through certain cultural motifs such as food, it can be observed that people can feel closer to their cultures and communities. It is not the miso soup that holds meaning, but the act of consuming it on a New Years day that bears cultural significance. Thus, this shows that meaning is usually generated when an individual usually links an act to a widespread significant event (here, New Years Day) and integrates it into society.