Tag Archives: food

Bunny Chow

Main Text

KK: “So there’s this dish in South Africa called bunny chow like colloquially, we just call it a bunny. It’s big enough that you would, it’s a big deal. There are restaurants that like specialize in bunnies, and essentially the the recipe is just you take a loaf of bread and you cut out the inside, and then you fill it with a curry of your choice. So like mutton curry, chicken curry, potato curry, beans, whatever. And the origin of it was, you know, Indian people from, like their homeland India, were taken by the British to South Africa to cut the sugar cane. They would be eating their lunch and would be eating curry, but they didn’t have anywhere to like put it or store it, and they didn’t have rice like easily accessible to them. So what they would do is just take the loaf of bread, like the British style bread, and fill it up with the curry. And then like nowadays, it’s just a really popular meal among the Indian South African community.”


KK is a 21 year old USC student studying psychology on a pre-med track. Of Indian descent, he was originally born in South Africa but has lived in England, the UAE and now in New York, Ny. Bunny Chow is obviously a fusion dish borne out of necessity, made by these displaced Indian sugar cane workers. It has since become so popular, according to KK, that he eats it at his home in America and restaurants specialize in serving it back in South Africa.


KK eats this meal regularly with his family at home in New York and says that the context this meal is served in is certainly a family style sit down dinner. Because of the size of a full loaf of bread, Bunny Chow is usually shared with multiple people which makes it a staple meal for Indian families with ties to South Africa.

Interviewer Analysis

Food traditions are very easy to share and that is why so many people have family recipes or dinner traditions that mean so much to them. I find it so interesting that this dish is a cultural fusion however, Indian style curry served inside British baked bread and served in Africa. This dish is obviously not something that came from a fancy written cookbook, but from the needs and innovation of everyday people. Bread bowls and Chalupas spring to mind as similar recipe variations on bread bowl with meat and vegetables inside, but it is obvious they do not share a common origin.

Hot Foods vs Cold Foods

Background: My informant, CL, grew up in Taiwan, and speaks Mandarin, Hakka, English, Japanese, and Cantonese. Interview conducted in English over FaceTime.

Me: “Aren’t hot foods and cold foods a thing in Taiwan?”

CL: “Yes. Chinese people don’t like cold foods or cold water, because we believe hot things give you more energy. Deep-fried things make you feel more energy. We drink hot water because we drink tea. During old time, there were lots of bacteria inside water, made you sick. So you had to brew water, make it hot, to not get sick.”

Me: “Is that why you don’t like iced water?”

CL: “Yes, ice water is too cold, make your throat hurt. Hot water is better.”

Me: “Are there any exceptions to mostly eating hot foods? Like what about during the summer?”

CL: “We have ice cream and cold foods too. Taiwan is a hot place. Appetizers are usually cold because it’s a light thing before the hot food. But hot food gives more energy–during the winter my grandma always made spicy food so we would sweat, warm up when it was cold.”

Analysis: I find the concept of energy transfer here to be lingeringly medicinal while also practical. Eating hot foods would naturally lower the risk of disease, if it was cooked, and I doubt that ice-cold drinks were particularly easy to come by in olden times either. But reinforcing a logical practice like that with the added belief that energy and healing (implicitly) could also go alongside that practice adds layers to the intentionality and history of practices like this and diet more broadly. It quite literally denotes an in-group of people who experience less illness because they eat hot foods, compared to those who don’t and run a greater risk of potential disease with uncooked foods.

Waffle House Index

Background: My informant, BT, lived in Birmingham, Alabama, for 8 years. Interview conducted over FaceTime.

Me: “Tell me about any Alabama folklore you know. Unofficial things, stuff you wouldn’t find in a textbook.”

BT: “Well, there’s the Waffle House Index. I first heard about it from a friend while I was at Bama [the University of Alabama]. So Waffle Houses are open 24/7, they never close–“

Me: “Oh wait, can you explain what Waffle House is for people who may be unfamiliar with it?”

BT: “Yes. Waffle House is a restaurant chain in the South that’s like I-HOP but better, in my personal opinion. It’s like your typical diner, fast food chain.”

Me: “Perfect, continue.”

BT: “Right. So Waffle Houses never close, ever, except when a storm is really bad. So meteorologists started realizing that there was a correlation between the severity of a storm and Waffle House closures in the area, and realized they could track storms by Waffle House. If a Waffle House is closed in an area with a storm, then it’s all over. So if a storm is coming and people are thinking about sheltering in place, someone will usually ask, ‘well, is Waffle House closed?’ If it’s not, then the storm’s not severe enough, and you can continue on with your daily life.”

Analysis: I find the cultural significance of Waffle House to be interesting in this folk belief. Rather than trusting an institution like the National Weather Service, there’s a greater priority and belief in the knowledge of a local chain like Waffle House. Although Waffle House is a regional chain restaurant, the individual management and function of individual restaurants likely contributes to their reputation as feeling more “local” compared to a nationalized weather service. As a gathering place that is consistent and dependable in hours, the ironic trust in Waffle House over any other means to informally gauge weather is humorous of course, but also says a lot about regionalized trust and identity.

Nashville Hot Chicken Origin Story

Background: My informant, HT, is currently a student at Vanderbilt University. Interview conducted over FaceTime.

Me: “Tell me about the story behind Nashville hot chicken.”

HT: “Okay. So the story of Nashville hot chicken is that there was like a guy, a husband, who was asking his wife to make him fried chicken. But she found out that he was cheating on her, so she was super pissed. She was like, I’m gonna make his fried chicken but spike it with spicy shit, hot peppers. He eats it and is like yo that’s like straight fire. Nashville has a lot of local hot chicken chains like Hattie B’s. But the real hot chicken is not in the chains.”

Me: “Who did you hear this story from?”

HT: “I heard it from my supervisor at the library who’s a Nashville native.”

Me: Do you think the story is real?

HT: Yeah, I mean it makes sense. Plus I trust my supervisor, especially because they’re a Nashville native. That’s like finding a unicorn here.

Analysis: I think the Nashville Hot Chicken story is the perfect example of a legend with room for multiplicity and variation. It’s an entirely logical and plausible story, but I can also see how it could easily be re-told with infinitely small twists and tweaks that would cater to whichever audience it was being told to. As far as food goes, the scenario is extremely common, similar to the creation of fries (I believe potatoes were unintentionally deep fried to the unexpected delight of the customer), which echoes many of the same themes as this story. The way it was also passed through word of mouth to my informant very much makes it a performance, and not institutionalized, particularly through the prevalence of hot chicken outside of chain restaurants as well.

North German Canning Superstition


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.”


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


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.