Tag Archives: soup

MIYEOK GUK

MAIN PIECE:

Informant: So in Korea there’s this soup called Miyeok Guk. It is…  Essentially like a seaweed soup. And um… Seaweed has like iron in it, I believe. And in your blood… Your like hemoglobin has iron in it as well? So Korean reasoning is that, whenever a woman gives birth, she loses a lot of blood with that. So to make up for it, you should have food that can supply your body with iron, such as Miyeok Guk and seaweed. So on birthdays, in addition to like cake and just like normal birthday routines, the traditional side of it is eating Miyeok Guk and seaweed… For the iron that your mom lost. 

INFORMANT’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE PIECE: 

Informant: I do practice this. Cause I like Miyeok Guk.

Interviewer: So you’re really consuming it for the taste? 

Informant: Yeah… I mean… I also think that we all have a desire to keep our culture going. I think when we’re younger it was easy to forget about and not care. Like, “Who cares what they’ve done for a thousand years, Imma do me…” My dad was born in Korea but moved to Guam and later Hawaii and later Anaheim. So he’s very Americanized. My mom didn’t leave Korea until college, so she was always the more traditional Korean side of the family… But my dad and I are more Americanized. Um… But yeah, as time has gone on, I feel like it’s good to keep some things, even if it has zero significance or importance… Even if it’s just soup that reminds me of my mom, it’s nice to continue on with those little traditions. 

REFLECTION:

Korean birthday tradition honors the mother by including food that recognizes the hardship of childbirth. The informant, while also consuming Miyeok Guk for taste, has grown to appreciate this food as a symbol of his mother. This is multifaceted, as Miyeok Guk is both a Korean symbol of the mother in general, but also a reminder of the informant’s mother specifically, who passed this tradition onto him. This demonstrates how food can have a “broad” cultural significance, but also a more intimate, immediate, familial significance. Thus, there are several reasons that food traditions might be upheld. This tradition also seems to hint at an appreciation for the mother within Korean culture. 

Chicken Soup has Healing Properties

Main Piece:

What is so special about chicken soup?

“All Jewish grandmas think that chicken soup will cure most of the things that are wrong with you. It’s called Jewish penicillin. And then I’ve heard that there’s some scientific support for this, in a paper I cannot find… supposedly if the chicken soup contains at least these four ingredients, it has anti-inflammatory properties, so your Bubby [Jewish grandma] might actually be right. The four ingredients are chicken, onions, carrots, and celery.”

Do you have a parent/grandparent that held this belief?

“I have a parent and a grandparent who would make me chicken soup, and now I make chicken soup, and I fed my daughter who got her covid vaccine chicken soup last night because she wasn’t feeling so great. She felt better after the soup (laughs).” 

Background/Context:

My informant is my father. He was raised culturally Jewish, and his career is within the science field. This information was collected during a family Zoom call after my sister got the first dose of her coronavirus vaccine. Chicken soup is considered an iconic Jewish food. Variations include chicken noodle soup and matzoh ball soup.

Analysis: 

I have been eating chicken soup as a cure for illness my entire life, and I had known that it was called “Jewish Penicillin,” but I had never heard that there might be actual scientific proof that it worked! My father’s statements about the ingredients line up with claims in an article by Alan Hopkins titled “Chicken Soup Cure may Not be a Myth.” Instances of folk medicine being investigates scientifically and then incorporated into Western medicine are common, and these instances highlight that just because a group doesn’t have access to “science” and “technology,” it doesn’t mean that their cures and treatments are necessarily less valid. 

Hopkins, Alan B. “Chicken Soup Cure may Not be a Myth.” Nurse Practitioner, vol. 28, no. 6, 2003, pp. 16. ProQuest, http://libproxy.usc.edu/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/chicken-soup-cure-may-not-be-myth/docview/222356779/se-2?accountid=14749.

Seaweed Soup on Birthdays -A Korean Tradition

Main Text:

HK: “On somebody’s birthday it is tradition to have seaweed soup”

Collector: “Can it be any kind of seaweed soup?”

HK: “I don’t think it really matters, but there are a lot of traditional recipes for seaweed soup out there”

Context: 

HK moved to the Unites States from South Korea when she was in kindergarten. After being raised in different parts of Asia an coming to the United States HK has acquired many traditions, customs and folk beliefs that have been passed down from her family. The ritualistic act of eating seaweed soup at someone’s birthday is just one example of a ritual that HK told me during my collection helps to keep her culture alive. She said that at least for her family specifically, having rituals and customs like these allow for people living in the Unites States to still connect with their family and homeland in Korea. This connection that HK feels to her culture and family is one reason that she says that she will continue to educate and pass down this seaweed-eating ritual. Another reason that she says that she remembers such a ritual is that it has happened on every one of her birthday’s so that if she evert had a birthday without it, it would not actually feel like a special moment anymore to her.

Analysis:

According to HK when asked why the meal of choice for a birthday is seaweed soup she said that it is related to another ritualistic act what they give to the mother after giving birth because it helps to nourish the body. One obvious interpretation of why it is a Korean tradition to eat seaweed soup at the birth of a child and at a child’s birthday party is the nutritional value of seaweed. Seaweed has high quantities of calcium, magnesium, iron and other important nutrients.  It makes sense for a mother to eat this after brith for this reason because magnesium and iron will aid in a quick recovery of the energy and bloodlust that naturally occurs at birth. The second reason for why this tradition may have occurred in the first place and is still being passed down is the accessibility to seaweed. Most of Korea is bordered by Ocean where seaweed is highly accessible. This accessibility could lead one to believe that seaweed has been eaten as this tradition for centuries because it is cheap and easily accessible to even the common folk. This ease in retrieving and eating the seaweed has led to South Korea pressing about 90 percent of the country’s seaweed crop and to cultivate it they just let it grow on ropes that float near the surface of the water by tethered boeys.

To summarize, in addition to the explanation that HK provided of feeling close to one’s family and culture, there are two other explanations that help understand the reasons that it is traditional to eat seaweed at birth and on somebody’s birthday: The first reason is its obvious nutrient values that help growth and recovery of one’s body and the second reason its Korea’s ease in accessing such a food and its large farming industry that has been built around this access.

 

Papa Soup: Colombian Comfort Soup

Recipe:

  1. Long onions scallions
  2. Potatoes sliced in cubes
  3. Eggs
  4. Hot water

Boil potatoes add scallions mix eggs in add salt to taste.

Background:

“I learned this recipe from my grandmother. I was born in Colombia and raised by my grandmother there for the first several years of my life. She would make this for me when I was sick. It is also supposed to be a good hangover cure, but I was never hungover. I make it for my kids now whenever they are sick.”

The informant is 55, from Medellin, Colombia. She now resides in Southern California.

My Analysis:

This is a very simple recipe with nearly no instructions. It is easy to make, so easy that a sick person could probably cook it for themselves. The fact that my informant’s grandmother would make it for her and she now makes it for her family members when they get sick shows that the people who make this recipe value service. Even if it is not a grand gesture, this simple soup makes a meaningful gift to friends and family when they are ill.

Jewish Penicillin

“When I was growing up in a Jewish home near Philadelphia, whenever my sister or brother or I would get sick, our grandmother would make us chicken soup. It was referred to as “Jewish Penicillin,” even though it was just matzah ball soup or chicken noodle soup. My mother was convinced that it cured what ailed you. If you were sick, she probably wouldn’t take you to the doctor right away. She probably wouldn’t take you to the doctor for maybe five days. Only then would she admit that you were really sick and the Jewish penicillin hadn’t cured you because in my family, it was believed that was all you need when you’re sick.”

Context: The informant was raised in Cherry Hill, South New Jersey, which is minutes away from Philadelphia. She was raised in a Conservative/Masorti Jewish household. Both sides of her family are Jewish.

Interpretation: This illustrates the value of folk medicine in certain cultures. Jewish Penicillin was not only seen as a valid cure, but actually a preferable cure to traditional Western methods. It can also be seen as an act of embracing Jewish culture before American culture. The informant and most of her family see their Judaism as one of the foremost facets of their identity.