Tag Archives: recipe

Grandma’s Christmas

Date: April 12, 2022 

Source and Relationship: Emily, cousin

Type: Tradition, Recipe, Family

Folklore/Text: Grandma’s Christmas: “My favorite part of every Christmas was spending the morning of Christmas Eve at Grandma’s house, when she’d make all the cousins ebelskivers for breakfast. I’m not even really sure how to describe them other than pancake balls. They were light and doughy and most of the time we’d pipe them with fruit or syrup or something. I think they’re Austrian or something, because I remember her telling us that she got the idea to make them after watching The Sound of Music. After everyone finished eating, we’d all gather around her tiny fake Christmas tree and exchange presents. Most of the time mine would be a scarf or a gift card. I miss her a lot.”

Explanation/Context: Every Christmas since I was born, all 20 of my first cousins on my mom’s side and their partners would squeeze in my grandma’s condo and share a giant breakfast together. By the time I was five or so, there was a clear schedule to our family reunions in December – we’d all arrive around the 22nd, share Christmas Eve morning with Grandma Julie, and then all go to Christmas Mass together at her favorite church the next morning. Since she passed, my aunts and uncles have attempted to make ebelskivers from her recipe book each year, but they simply don’t taste as good as when she made them in masses in her tiny kitchen. 

Annotation: Ebelskivers are actually spherical snacks of Danish descent, not Austrian. The name literally means “apple slices” in Danish, but typically apples are not a central ingredient in present-day recipes. The crust is similar to regular pancakes, but due to its shape, the inside tends to have a texture more like bread pudding, which is why it pairs well with fruit and other toppings. 

Butter Tart Recipe

Context:

This recipe for butter tarts was passed down to the informant, AS, by her mother and is directly transcribed. Butter tarts are common in the area of Ontario where she grew up (Blenheim), though she says that every family has their own variation on the recipe. Other varieties often include nuts along with the raisins. To AS’s knowledge, they are not particularly associated with any holiday or specific tradition.

Main Piece:

Butter Tarts
Pastry  1 1/2 C sifted all purpose flour  1 1/2 C sifted cake and pastry flour
1 tsp. salt
1C shortening  About 8 Tbsp. cold water.
Filling
1/2 C butter
1/2 C corn syrup
1 C washed and dried raisins
2 eggs
1 tsp lemon juice
 1 tsp. vanilla
To make pastry, sift the sifted flours with the salt and cut in the shortening with pastry blender until size of peas. Drizzle in water 1 Tbsp. at a time, tossing with a fork, until you can gather it up into a dampish ball between your palms. Roll out very thinly on floured board. Cut out rounds and line medium sized tart tins with them.  Note I would buy tart shells !!!!
To make filling, mix all filling ingredients. Spoon into prepared tart shells, filling 2/3 full. Bake at 425 13 to 15 min. WATCH CAREFULLY.
Enjoy.

Analysis:

Family recipes are a very tangible way to pass tradition down through generations. For one thing, parents generally cook for their children, so the recipes have already been integrated into the children’s lives, and once the children learn to cook, they often learn from their parents. If the children later move far away from their parents, as AS did, family recipes can be a great way to bring back a taste of home. I find it very interesting that the informant mentioned that many families in this area of Ontario have their own recipes for Butter Tarts, some with nuts in the filling. The multiplicity and variation establishes Ontario Butter Tart recipes firmly within the category of folklore.

The format of the recipe also speaks to the proliferation of folklore on the internet and its transmission through digital means. During our conversation where I collected this piece of folklore, AS told me she would send me her mother’s recipe so that I could have that exact recipe that had been passed down through the generations, since she did not remember all the details. When she did send it to me, it was in the form of the email that her mother used to send her the recipe in April of 2020, then forwarded on to me. The original subject line is “Butter Tart Recipe,” and reads: “Hi [AS first name] and [AS’s son’s name]:” and then the above copy/pasted recipe. Also attached to the forwarded email I received was the reply that AS sent back, reading, “Thanks Mom! We’ll let you know how it goes.” This illustrates how the internet allows folklore to spread down family lines even when different generations of the family are separated by thousands of miles of distance. The intended recipients of the emailed recipe being AS and her son also informs the idea that AS asked for this family recipe in order to make it with the next generation of her family, to pass on the practice just like her mother did to her.

Northern German Cough Remedy

Context:

The informant, AH, grew up in a small village in northern Germany and learned this cough remedy from her mother.

Main Piece:

Mix crushed onions with brown sugar and let it sit until the juice is pulled out. That resulting juice helps with coughing.

Analysis:

This type of cough remedy seems to be pretty common in northern Germany, as I have heard other onion and brown sugar based cough remedies from people who grew up in different villages in the same area. This form of cough syrup is safe for kids and accessible, which makes it very convenient for rural mothers. I do not know how or why this remedy works, but I do recognize a sweet syrup base as a common form for cough remedies, usually paired with something very sour or bitter.

For reference, this piece of folklore collected is a cough remedy that uses lemon and honey, and contains additional insights about similar sweet syrup + sour or bitter ingredient cough remedies: “Folk Medicine, El Salvador,” Iris Park, USC Digital Folklore Archives, September 10, 2020, http://folklore.usc.edu/folk-medicine-el-salvador/.

Traditional Arabic Dish – Koosa and Ejeh

Text/Context

EM – Koosa is a traditional Arabic dish. First, squash is hollowed out using a special scoop. My grandmother uses a scoop that belonged to her mom and grandmother. The squash is stuffed with a seasoned ground lamb meat and rice mixture and cooked in a tomato soup seasoned with spearmint.
And of course the squash seeds can’t go to waste, so they are salted to draw the water out and squeezed to drain as much as possible. They are then mixed with eggs, parsley, onions, and Syrian pepper to make an omelette-like batter. They are then deep fried into little cakes called ejeh. Fun to make and heavenly to eat.
Interviewer – Any special occasions to eat these recipes?
EM – We usually make koosa and ejeh in the summer when we can get fresh squash from the farm.
Interviewer – Are they always made side-by-side? Do you eat them at the same time in the same meal or do you eat them separately?
EM – Sitto (Arabic word for grandmother) doesn’t always make ejeh, but when she does, its always with koosa. We don’t usually eat them together, though. I like ejeh as a snack or breakfast, and koosa is always lunch or dinner.
Interviewer – If your grandmother has the special scoop, can no one but her make them “properly” or do you use whatever scoop you have? Is the scoop actually made specifically for koosa, and what does it look like?
EM – There are other scoops out there. I have my own, but Sitto’s is special because it’s been passed down. I don’t actually know if anyone uses the scoops for anything else but we call it a koosa scoop. It’s a long metal half-tube basically.
Interviewer – Does someone make them better than anyone else?
EM – Sitto makes them the best.
Interviewer – Have you learned both of the recipes?
EM – I know the recipe fo koosa, but not ejeh yet.
Interviewer – Do these recipes feel culturally significant to you personally, or are they just food you are glad you get to eat? Do you feel connected to your family through these recipes?
EM -The recipes are culturally significant to me because I feel close to my family when we make and eat them.
EM – All of my family’s recipes are either in our heads, or in the case of ka’ak and other desserts, the recipe is written down but no directions are given, so the only way to learn to make them is to observe and learn from our elders making special bonds and memories

Analysis

The dishes are usually made in the summer for maximum freshness. Because I collected the story during the winter, the story was not performed with the actual food but rather in a context of discussing favorite foods.
Koosa and Ejeh are examples of food connecting a person to their family and their heritage. The informant has never traveled to Lebanon, and knows only a few words in Arabic, but is proud of their heritage and feels connected when they learn the recipes that are passed down through family, learned by memory, and made with and for their family.

Traditional Arabic Dessert – Ka’ak

Text/Context

EM – Ka’ak is a traditional Arabic pastry that is usually a cookie. However there is a version that is more like a sweet bread that is traditionally made for Easter. This is the version that’s been baked in my family for generations. My mom would watch her grandmother make it (she wasn’t allowed to touch it until it was done). It’s always a special time of year and a special day when it’s made. It takes most of the day and the whole house smells delightful.
Also in my family, we usually make a quadruple batch.
First, the heat in the house is turned up to at least 70°F (this is the one day a year the heat is turned up above 64° in my house). The dough, using specifically King Arthur flour (no other brand is allowed) whole milk, sugar, and a bunch of spices including anise and mahlab (crushed cherry seeds) is made early in the morning. Then it’s covered in every extra blanket, quilt, and wool coat in the house, because if the dough catches cold, it’s ruined.
After the first rise, it’s rolled into balls, and set on baking sheets for the second rise. After that, the balls are padded onto a special homemade ka’ak press made of chicken wire, then set to rise again. They’re baked and cooled, and then they’re glazed in a milk, sugar, and rose water mixture, dried, and enjoyed. We distribute it to everyone in our family and community.
Interviewer – You said the sweet bread version is usually just for Easter. Does your family make it just for easter? Or is there some other cause for celebration with ka’ak? Is “special time of year and a special day” a particular day each year, or an arbitrary day and it is just the recipe that makes the time special?
EM – The ka’ak we make is traditionally the Easter version but we usually make it at Christmas because mom had more time. We don’t make it on a specific day but because we really only make it once a year that day becomes special.
Interviewer – Why a quadruple batch?
EM – We make a quadruple batch because we give it to a lot of people. We even ship some out to family in California (From Massachusetts).
Interviewer – Since even the kind of flour is so strict, and your mother was not allowed to touch the dough as a child, does that mean there is no change allowed to the recipe?
EM – The only change to the recipe is that my great grandmother always used ghee but we use regular unsalted butter.
Interviewer – Have you learned the recipe, or done it on your own?
EM – I’ve learned the recipe, though I don’t know it by heart yet, and have made it with my mom and then with my aunt in California, when I visited and brought the spices with me from home.I got pulled aside at the airport because of them. They didn’t believe me when I said they were spices.
Interviewer – Who counts as community, when it comes to distributing the ka’ak?
EM – We give ka’ak to neighbors, some people at our church, and like I said, family, including those in California.
Interviewer – Do you feel that the recipe is part of your Arab heritage?
EM – Yes this recipe and experience is absolutely part of my heritage. All of my family’s recipes are either in our heads, or in the case of ka’ak and other desserts, the recipe is written down but no directions are given, so the only way to learn to make them is to observe and learn from our elders, making special bonds and memories.

Analysis

This dessert is made only once a year and I did not collect this story during that time. The story was not performed with the actual food but rather in a context of discussing favorite foods.
Ka’ak is an example of food connecting a person to their family and their heritage. The informant has never travelled to Lebanon, and knows only a few words in Arabic, but is proud of their heritage and feels connected when they learn the recipes that are passed down through family, learned by memory, and made with and for their family. The informant is also excited to share the dessert—and part of their heritage—with people outside of their family.
It is also an interesting case when the food itself becomes cause for celebration, because it is very labor-intensive and time-consuming, so the dessert becomes very, very special.