Tag Archives: health

Gendered Dining Customs In India

Informant’s Background:

My informant, SV, is a recent graduate with a Master’s from the University of Southern California. He is 25, was born in Hyderabad, Telangana, India, and moved to the United States to attend a graduate program at USC. Post-graduation he remains in Los Angeles hunting for a job.

Context:

My informant, SV, is my roommate and a close friend of mine. I asked him if he could share some Indian traditions, customs, or folklore with me.

Performance:

SV: “So… There’s an Indian tradition where during uh festival or if like, if you’re inviting guests over, like at a gathering the… women are expected to, uhm, when people are having to eat, the women are expected to be the ones to serve, and the men and children are expected to eat first. The women are not allowed to eat until the men and children finish eating. Only once the men and children finish eating, they usually eat, and sometimes they may not even eat at like, the table, they may just eat in like the kitchen. So… this is kind of like, mmm, sort of a general kind of important sort of hierarchy and level of importance that’s sort of present that even when you’re like visiting a house, or like you’re invited to a person’s place as a guest you’re sort of expected to greet people based on their age, that’s one of the criteria, like the older they are the more important they’re are as people and you’re to prioritize them. And also the men are more important than the women, so it’s like you greet the oldest man first and then go down to the youngest man, and then you go down to the women if you’re greeting someone.”

Informant’s Thoughts:

SV: “That’s uhm, kind of a very… I guess sexist way of thinking. Which… was quite prevalent like in older times, where I think more urban and more modern a setting this is less and less common. And for the younger generations, it’s getting close to being more and more equal for men and women, and there’s no kind of like, oh women have to serve and the men just have to chill and wait to get served. Like my grandad, cause he’s quite old, and he follows these traditions a little more like strictly, like even though me and my sis would both be in the room, he kind of rather expected like my sister to be the one to serve and I didn’t have to do anything, and I used to find that odd. I was like “what’s the difference?” Like they’re our guests, and we can both like, serve if we have to serve them. So that’s my kind of-my personal experience with that. “

Thoughts:

Separation of women and men is common in many cultures, especially historically, but the ways in which these gender groups are divided are changing as we move into the modern world. The rate at which these changes occur of course differs from culture to culture, in this case this is a tradition that would most likely be seen as near appalling by Western audiences, yet in India it is still being gradually phased out more recently, but was still by the sounds of it surprisingly common up until not that long ago. The health consequences should also be considered alongside the social ones in this case, as this tradition has to do with the consumption of food. Waiting until after the men are finished eating could easily lead to the women only ending up with scraps of the original dinner, leading to malnutrition, both in themselves and potentially in any babies that they might give birth to. So not only is this tradition without a doubt considered sexist by today’s standards, as SV noted in the interview, but it also could easily lead to negative health effects as well.

Iranian Flu Medicine

Main Piece

Heat up one whole lemon and 3 garlic cloves until soft and mash with a fork. Strain the mixture and take one spoonful every morning to prevent sickness. 

Background

My informant was born and raised in Iran. She remembers the flu, and how it ravaged through her elementary school. Her mother, to protect her, made a blended concoction consisting of one whole lemon, including the peel and pulp, and three or four cloves of garlic. Because she did not have any kitchen equipment that could properly blend the ingredients together, she resorted to heating up the lemon and garlic until it was soft enough to mash with a fork. After mashing, she would strain the mixture to get rid of any extra-large pieces, and fed one teaspoon-full to my informant every morning before school. My informant adds that she hated the taste but took this “medicine” every morning nonetheless because her mother insisted it would keep her safe. My informant concludes that the medicine must have worked, as she was the only child in her class that did not fall sick with the flu. 

Context

This medicine is made when someone is sick or in danger of falling sick. The purpose is to prevent or cure illnesses. 

My Thoughts

Being born and raised in America and going through the American school system, I never paid much attention to medicinal practices that were not Westernized. When my informant told me about this medicine, I was skeptical and doubted that it would actually be effective. But further upon further research, I discovered that the ingredients used in this recipe contain many natural antibiotics and vitamin C. Therefore, the workings of this folk medicine are completely logical and valid. In America, Western medicine is the widely accepted practice, and most ethnic home remedies are frowned upon. But there is logic to these home remedies, or they would not be so widely used in other countries. Using ingredients such as garlic in folk medicine is an ancient practice. For further information about garlic’s role in folk medicine, see the cited article under the subheading titled “Medicinal History.”

Sources:

Kilham, Chris. “Garlic.” MEDICINE HUNTER | Medicine Hunter, www.medicinehunter.com/Garlic#:~:text=As%20a%20folk%20remedy%2C%20garlic,gastroenteritis%2C%20and%20to%20expel%20worms.&text=The%20father%20of%20medicine%2C%20Hippocrates,and%20for%20healing%20abdominal%20growths. Accessed 18 Feb. 2021.

Japanese New Year Feast

Piece
Every year, the informant cooks a Japanese New Year Feast for their family. It is an all-day affair where hundreds of guests, friends and family, can come and go to eat lunch and/or dinner and socialize with those present. The informant makes the following traditional dishes:
Ozoni (rice cake in vegetable soup) is the first thing eaten on New Year’s day and wishes good health and prosperity to the family
Gomame (dried sardines) to bless attendees with health
Kombu Maki (rolled kelp) to bring happiness and joy
Kuri Kinton (sweet potato or lima bean paste with chestnuts) to bring wealth
Renkon (lotus root) as a symbol for the wheel of life
Daikon (white raddish), carrots, and other root vegetables to promote deep family roots
Ise ebi (lobster) for the festive red color and to symbolize old age and longevity; note: the lobster must be served whole and cannot be broken lest the spine of the old ones break
Context
The informant learned to cook and serve these dishes from their mother and has trained their daughter in how to give the feast. To the informant, The New Year is the most important holiday of the year as it is when the entire extended family comes together. Food preparations begin weeks before the event and there are leftovers for days after as a result of the concern that the table could run out of food.
My Thoughts
Some of the foods look similar to an object such as the lotus root looking like a wheel or the lobster’s spine curving like the spine of an older person while others symbolize good things for their cost or how the word for the food sounds similar to the word for whatever it symbolizes. The feast was a time to celebrate and welcome the New Year and do things that would hopefully ensure prosperity. It was a time where social barriers could be crossed and family meant everything. The extensive amount of time taken to prepare the foods probably shows the care that the family and friends have for one another and the desire to serve each other. The pursuit of good fortune in the food symbolism is an acknowledgement of the lack of control that they have over many aspects of their lives, particularly for the peasants who depended so much on the rulers of their areas.

Arnica and Linaca Mixture for Healing

EA: Arnica is a tea it is like a natural herb, arnica and linaca and it is supposed to be like a a homeopathic remedy you can use for like swelling and just kind of instead of like a Neosporin type thing. It helps to heal a little bit better. Back then when they would make it when you know they did not have modern medicine so they would take it with like leaves or whatever and they would put it on and then they wrap it and then that helps with the cut of whatever you have. 

Interviewer: Did she say how she boiled it?

EA: Yeah she boiled it and lets it simmer for like a while on high heat and then she lowers he heat and lets it simmer. Ten minutes I think she said and it boils it and then you turn it off and then you just let it sit and  then that’s when it gets that vava, which is kind of like a vasiline type texture and then it just like sits there. 

Interviewer: That’s when you know it is done?

EA: Yeah, like a little thick.  

Context: EA is my mother mother who was born in Southern California, but whose parents are both from Mexico. The information taken from a casual conversation I was having with my mother about any folklore she had for me and my sister was also present. She was referring to an ointment that my aunt made for her son when he had a really bad insect bit and gave to us when our dog had a rash. 

Analysis

In Mexico, even know it is difficult in many places to see or either afford a doctor. This has given rise for the necessity of home remedies. Arnica is in many supplements and gels that are sold in pharmacies. Thus, showing the ability for homeopathic remedies to transfer to modern medicine and being legitimizd by being formally sold in stores. However, people would likely still feel that something like Neosporin is inherently more effective than something homemade when this is not inherently the case. Accordingly, when recommending these home remedies it is often accompanied with an anecdotal success story to prove it’s merit. would be It also shows the versatility of the homemade treatments because they are made with natural ingredients and how it can help your family and having advice when another person you care about is having a difficulty. 

La cuarentena

Background: Informant, B.B. is a mother of 3, and was around 20 years old when she had her first child. She personally has abided by “la cuarentena” rules but was told about it by her mother.

Main Piece:

Informant: After I had my first kid, my mom tried to be really strict about my healing process, telling me I need to follow “la cuarentena”.

Interviewer: What is “la cuarentena”?

B.B: Basically giving birth takes a huge toll on the body, so according to my Mexican mother, there are certain rules to follow postpartum. Cuarentena translates to quarantine, which describes how we were suppose to stay home in order to take care of ourselves properly.

Interviewer: What rules were suppose to be followed? Was it hard to follow them?

B.B: I was suppose to stay “in quarantine” for about a month. I was also not suppose to lift anything heavy, cook, or even clean because it could be too much for my body. I was also told not to shower, which was one of the hardest rules to follow and I didn’t. The logic behind not showering was that I could get sick from having wet hair. I wasn’t really able to stick to the rules, I only managed it for about a week or two before I tried my best to get back to normal.

Interviewer: Did you try la cuarentena for each of your kids?

B.B: No, I did not really believe in needing a whole month to myself.

Context: The informant is a relative, and we were discussing another family member who had just given birth and was already back at work. She was not too shocked about her not following la cuarentena because of how strict it is.

Thoughts: Thinking about having to quarantine after giving birth seems a bit extreme. Knowing how life being quarantined is because of the corona virus, I do not see myself going though with the full month either. I think it is easy to listen to our bodies and if we feel like it is okay to get back to doing certain things, then we should do so as long as we do not push our limits.