Tag Archives: snacks

乖乖 the Taiwanese Snacks

The informant is a 21-year-old woman who lives in Taiwan. When asked about some folk beliefs that she knows, she told the collector about a superstition regarding a brand of Taiwanese snacks and machines.

Collector: Do you know any folk beliefs?

Informant: Oh yeah. This happened couple days ago in the office where I’m interning for. There was this copy machine that was always jammed and apparently the manager tried to fix it many times already. The machine was jammed again and after the manager fixed it, he asked me to grab a bag of 乖乖 (kuai kuai) from convenience store.

Collector: Can you describe what 乖乖 is and why did he ask you to do so?

Informant: 乖乖 is this snack made out of corn i think. It has many different flavors and it’s really popular in Taiwan. As of why he told me to do that, it’s because the brand name 乖乖 means to be obedient. He put the 乖乖 on top of the copy machine to tell the machine to behave. I know a lot of other occupations do the same thing. I’ve seen bus drivers, scientists, and some stores on top of their cash registers.

The Taiwanese folk belief regarding the snack 乖乖 and machines is a form of homeopathic magic. By putting something that literally says “behave” on top of something that is not behaving, the performer of the magic attempts to change the current status of a machine according to his or her want, which is for the machine to stop malfunctioning. Besides magic, reception theory proposed by Stuart Hall can be utilized to further analyze the popular superstition in Taiwan. 乖乖 is a snack that is meant to be eaten; however, the consumers of the snack give a new meaning towards the product that the producer never intended for it to be. For more information and picture reference, please read this BBC article.

Let Snacks Alone

This friend of mine has always been one of the most superstitious people I know. Her childhood was split between two households, each with their own unique beliefs and superstitions. Having been quite close for the past few years, I’ve heard innumerable stories regarding strange folk-beliefs her parents taught her as a little girl.

The following was recorded by hand during a group interview with 4 other of our friends in the common area of a 6-person USC Village apartment.

“I think it’s bad luck to open people’s food and eat it before they do. Like if Nas buys a bag of goldfish, and I take it and open it, and eat it. One time in 7th grade, my best friend, Rocky, and I were sharing a bag of pretzel thins. She took it from me, opened it during a movie, and immediately after the movie she had her period. My mom said it was just us growing up. Later, I did it to someone else, I opened their bag and took a test and then I got an F on a test. This was back in middle school. I believe in signs. If you follow signs religiously, it’ll be good. I don’t think any of my superstitions allow me to have a crutch, religion is a crutch.

It’s interesting to hear first-hand how some superstitions come into being outright. As far as I can tell from online research, no one believes that eating another person’s food before they do is bad luck. My friend came to this conclusion herself after the above anecdotes played themselves out. She strung together two ‘signs’ in order to formulate an original belief. And she’s passed it on to me! Whenever I go out to eat, and someone’s food arrives before mine, I have the urge to steal a fry. Before I do, however, a little voice in the back of my head reminds me of my friend’s experiences and asks, ‘what if?’. And so I leave the fry.

I tried explaining to her how her superstitions sometimes do act as crutches. As in the case of the test, where she believed she failed due to her opening of someone else’s bag of chips. However, she would have none of it. And insisted that her superstitions served only to explain, never to redact the blame.

Snacks and Playing outside with Dad

In the following, my informant details a tradition she and her sister shard with her father growing up:

When I was little we always had to do our homework before we went outside, but before that, my dad would come pick us up from school and he’d always make us snacks like it was, my dad made snacks, and whether it was nachos, or whether he made, like, I don’t know leftovers from the night before that we weren’t going to have for dinner, he’d always make them for us, and then, he never played with us but he’d always, if my mom wasn’t home, he’d let us play outside with our friends before we did our homework, which would make my mom so mad, so we did that.

The following tradition shows the dichotomy between the father and mother parent relationship common in many American households. Whereas the Mom tried to keep order and discipline, by requiring the informant finish her work before playing outside, the father would make the informant snacks and let her play outside earlier, thus, although incurring the mom’s wrath, winning the reputation of the benevolent father, a situation many parents have to deal with, where a mom is trying to be strict and a Dad, who often spends less time with the kids, will come home and release the children from the Mom’s imposed discipline.