Tag Archives: pennsylvania

Pork and Sauerkraut

Background: The informant is a 55 year old mother of three who was born in Pennsylvania. She currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She moved to Chicago when she was 28 years old. She participated in this tradition in her own childhood while she lived in Pennsylvania. Most often, her grandmother would make the meal and serve it at her home.

Context: The context of the piece is sitting at a restaurant and the table next over was eating pork, reminding TC about her own childhood tradition. She appeared nostalgic for her own childhood.

Text: 

TC: It reminds me of when I was younger, my grandmother would always make pork and sauerkraut for New Years Eve. The family would gather in her house in Pennsylvania, where I was born. I think it’s, uh, a German tradition that is supposed to provide the family good luck and wealth  in the coming year. It makes sense as, I believe, my great-grandparents, on that side, are from Germany, which is where my grandma picked it up.

Me: Do you make it for your own family now?

TC: No, no I don’t. Honestly, it’s something I never did after I moved away from Pennsylvania – like to college and work. I think, in a way, it’s more reminiscent of my grandmother and childhood. Usually, my family now will have turkey dinner on New Years Eve, which is like having a bountiful upcoming year.

Analysis: 

Informant: She views it as something rooted in the past, as an integral part of her childhood and her relationship with her grandmother. She doesn’t think about reviving it because there are already new traditions in place with her children.

Mine: Traditions, though they may fade away, can still remain integral to how one views themself. Even though the informant no longer eats/makes pork and sauerkraut, she still considers it to be vital to who they are as a person because of how it affected their relationship with their grandmother. As such, the tradition embedded special memories into the food and always serves as a reminder of childhood. Having a tradition can transform something “ordinary” into a symbol of remembrance – no matter how far away they become from participating in it. Additionally, past folklore can serve as a template for creating new traditions. The idea of having food on New Year’s Eve has the same spirit – providing wealth for the upcoming year – but is in a more modern form. Interestingly, the use of a turkey dinner may showcase the high prevalence of Thanksgiving in how traditional foods from that holiday are spreading to other parts of the year.

Apple Harvesting with the Family

Background: The informant is a 55 year old mother of three who was born in Pennsylvania. She currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She moved to Chicago when she was 28 years old. She lived in Pennsylvania until she was 10 years old, but would go back every year to visit her grandmother. Her grandmother lived in a small Pennsylvania town in a house surrounded by an apple orchard.

Context: The context was the story was shared over the phone, brought up during a discussion about foods. The informant seemed happy to share old stories.

Text:

TC: I’m reminded of, when I was growing up, my grandmother lived in a big house surrounded by a huge amount of apple trees, basically an apple orchard. Whenever the apples came into season, the entire family and some neighbors would come over and pick all the apples. After we were done, my grandmother would make apple cider by herself, that’s why I love apple cider to this day. Oh, also, all of us would help her make plain doughnuts. You know, that’s why I always order plain doughnuts whenever we’re out at a doughnut shop. All together, we would feast on a meal of apple cider and doughnuts. 

Me: So, you did this every single year?

TC: Yes. I remember, even when some of us started moving away, my grandmother would still continue on the harvest. She would make her apple cider and doughnuts and share them with whoever was there with her… I forgot to mention, my grandparents were farmers, which was why they had many many trees on their property. They owned a huge area of land and it was the center, or the focal, point of where my family would gather.

Analysis

Informant: She views the tradition fondly as a time of her childhood. She didn’t think much of the roots but was focused on it being a time of familial gathering and a feast of sweets.

Mine: The family gathering together to pick the apples is reminiscent of old harvest traditions and festivals. It’s an excuse for everyone to gather together and bond through mutual work. Typically, whenever the harvest would be done in the past, apple cider would always be prepared and a feast would be waiting at home for the farmers. Given that the informant’s grandparents were farmers, they were likely aware of this tradition, even if they didn’t explicitly tell their family members. The meaning behind the cider and doughnuts didn’t matter, it was only needed to share time with family – it served as a gathering place. To this day, apple orchards are still used as a prime gathering place, many times field trips used as outings or friends go apple picking as an activity. Typically, sweets and apple cider are still served, emphasizing that while the tradition has changed in terms of farmers gathering the harvest of the year, it still remains to be a community event. 

To see another version, TIM STONESIFER. (2009). Celebrating an apple tradition The National Apple Harvest Festival begins this weekend. 1–.

Squonk

Background: 

Informant is a USC student living in California. 

“The Squonk is a creature that foresters and lumbermen started seeing in the late 20th century in Pennsylvania hemlock forests. So they’d be cutting down trees and in the glade, and they’d see a squonk. And they’ve described them as like ugly dog-like creatures with loose-fitting skin and really huge eyes that are like full of sadness and hatred for themselves and then, um, if a squonk knows that it’s been seen, it will dissolve into a pool of its own tears and, yeah, I’ve never seen a squonk but I like the legend of it, I like to think they’re out there.”

Context:

I asked my informant whether or not he knew of any legendary animals. He told me about the squonk, which he first encountered on the Internet, and then found more information in bestiary texts.

Analysis:

Legendary creatures can be somewhat associated with spirits—they generally don’t appear without a particular reason or are tied to a specific place (depending on how popular the creature is). Spirits are also usually reminders from the past that appear to uphold culture, enforce the status quo, and/or remind people of traditions. In the case of the squonk, it seems to be related to issues regarding deforestation and/hunting, warning humans (as it appears to foresters and lumberjacks) against the dangers of doing so, given how it seems to be a creature filled with sadness. Spirits come and go, some evade human contact while others don’t, so their existence is guaranteed more by the texts and performances that contain them rather than their actual presence. In the case of the squonk, as it is a relatively recent creature, its presence on the web is a textual space it exists in, providing meaning for its existence.

Stinging Nettle Plant Remedy

Background: The informant is a man in his late 50s. he grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania before moving to upstate New York for college. In his mid 20s, he moved to Southern California and has lived there ever since.

Context: Growing up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the 70s, the informant recalls that the suburbs were relatively remote with forests on either side, where children would often play unsupervised. Because the neighborhood was relatively new, most of the adults living there had not grown up in the neighborhood and were not familiar with the local flora and fauna.

Main Text:

“Along the creek, you could just walk along and there would be, yknow, bushes and things like that. So one of them was stinging nettles, but we called it “Burn Hazel” when I was a kid. So when you brushed against it, it felt like you got poison ivy—you’d get bumps, all of a sudden it was incredibly itchy, but the older kids taught the younger kids…there was another plant called the “Elephant Ear” plant, and I have no idea what this plant was in reality, but it had big leaves. If you took that plant and rubbed it on it, it would cure it. And the parents never knew this, it was passed on from kid to kid, generation to generation.

Thoughts: Perhaps the most interesting part of this remedy is that the informant can identify the irritant plant “Burn Hazel” by its more commonly known name of Stinging Nettle but has had no luck finding out what “Elephant’s Ear” actually is. The other fascinating element about this herbal remedy is that only children seemed to know about it, since most of their parents did not grow up in the neighborhood where this herbal remedy was located. I wonder if children in the neighborhood nowadays know these tips and tricks—the informant says that much of the forest has been destroyed to build more homes, and his family who remained in town and are raising their children there don’t let them go around unsupervised.

“Shoobies”

  • Context: The informant (T) is a 56 yr. old woman originally from Philadelphia, PA. She owns a shore house in South Jersey where she and her extended family spend the summer. She explains to me the term Shoobie and the negative connotation it holds among the inhabitants of Philadelphia and South Jersey. The conversation took place when I asked the informant of a previous encounter she had had in which she used the insult “shoobie” against someone. 
  • Text:

T: “A Shoobie is somebody that would come down from the… Philly… Philadelphia.. to the… the shore… and they would bring their… all their stuff; their lunch, their suntan lotion in a shoe box. And that’s what… they would walk onto the beach with their shoe box for the day and that’s how they got their nickname Shoobie.”

Me: “So whose a Shoobie now? Who says that? Like who do you call a Shoobie?”

T: “A Shoobie now is basically somebody who… still comes down for the day…”

Me: “Comes down where?”

T: “Comes down to the shore for the day… comes down to the beach… or Shoobies are also people who just rent a house for a week.”

Me: “And what’s the shore?”

T: “The shore is the beach… in New Jersey?”

Me: “Like anywhere in New Jersey?

T: “I don’t know if Shoobie goes past, like, Atlantic City, like north of Atlantic City… I don’t know… because I don’t live there.”

Me: “Is it like a good thing to be called a Shoobie?”

T: “Uh-uh. No. You don’t wanna be called a Shoobie.”

Me: “Have you ever called someone a Shoobie?”

T: “Yes.”

Me: “Who’d you call a Shoobie?”

T: “This girl that was on the beach one day who was using really foul language around my parents.”

Me: “Have you ever been called a Shoobie?”

T: “No, I actually haven’t.”

Me: “Are you a Shoobie?”

T: “No. I’m the least amount of a Shoobie!”

  • Analysis: Growing up going to the Jersey Shore, I had always known the term shoobie, and I had always known I never wanted to be one. To be called a shoobie is to say you don’t really belong on the island – you’re not a local. In my town, there is even a restaurant called “Shoobies” in reference to the colloquial term. I think the reason such a term was created was in order to create an in-group and an out-group. It separates those who own houses at the shore and those who rent a house at the shore or just drive down to the beach for the day. It is looked down upon to have outsiders on the beaches, because most of the beach towns are small and everyone in the town knows each other. Different shore towns also have different reputations. For example, you are more likely to find a shoobie in Wildwood or Atlantic City than you are in Stone Harbor or Avalon, so the term is more commonly used as an insult in the towns with less shoobies. As the informant explained, the history of the word comes from day travelers coming to the beach for the day with their lunch in a shoe box, which interrupts the local life. To be considered a shoobie is to be considered lower class, and ultimately unwelcome.

For more about Shoobies, visit…

Ravo, Nick. “FOR EARLY TOURISTS, A TEPID WELCOME AT JERSEY RESORT.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Feb. 1987, www.nytimes.com/1987/02/16/nyregion/talk-long-beach-island-for-early-tourists-tepid-welcome-jersey-resort.html.