Tag Archives: starving

Scoop the Rice Superstition


PM: Okay. Yeah. Okay. Um, I’m not really sure like what happens if you don’t follow this, but I have never not followed it, so I don’t care to find out. Um, but I think it’s from my Lolo, so my dad’s father,

Interviewer: Um, Lolo, so that’s, um, Philippines?

PM: Mm-hmm.

PM: Like, and I don’t know if it’s like a Filipino thing or if it’s just my Lolo, but, um, whenever you get rice from the rice bin, you always like, usually there’s like either a huge bag somewhere or like a big jar or something. You always have to scoop the rice when you’re done for the next person. And like, if I did not do it, like if you just throw, if I just like, would throw the cup in the, in the rice bin, like, it’d be like, no, you have to scoop it and leave it in there so the next person can get it.

PM: And so like, whenever we’re out of rice, like you and you can’t scoop another one, I like go get the rice, open it up and scoop it even though I’m not using it. And like, I think I’ve talked about it with my dad, and I think it’s possible that it’s like a, something that was, that came from like, uh, like starvation practices. So like, you know that you have more rice if you scoop it. Mm-hmm. And like if you don’t, then you have to acquire more food.


This person’s family originated in the Philippines before moving to the eastern United States, and the interviewee is a third-generation American. The folk group in question is the person’s close family, who all adhere to this superstition. They provided me with this superstition after I specifically asked for superstitions they learned from their family.

As they stated, they do not know what might happen if they did not adhere to this tradition. The practice is simply so rote that it remains unquestioned. However, as the interviewee stated, not following the practice is akin to breaking a rule that might confer some type of bad luck.

As the interviewee also stated, the origins of this practice may have its origins in starvation periods during colonialism in the Philippines. That would certainly make sense; to have the rice scooped for the next time it is needed is to know that you have enough food for the next time you are hungry. However, this person is a third-generation American whose ties to Filipino culture are mediated by their Lolo, or grandfather. It could also easily be that this practice formed as an expression of etiquette, extending courtesy to the next person who scoops rice. It could also be–as the interviewee stated–that the superstition was merely created by their grandfather.

Blason Populaire Joke

The informant heard the following joke from one of her classmates in high school.

“Okay, so this one is horrible. I ask someone, ‘Do you know what Ethiopian food tastes like?’ Say, ‘No.’ And then I say, ‘Well, neither do Ethiopians.’ The joke is, because, Ethiopians don’t know what Ethiopian food tastes like because they are starved.”

The informant claims that she herself is not usually an active bearer of the joke: “You never tell it. Except right now [laughter].”

She finds the joke amusing precisely because it is so terrible: “Yeah, I think it’s a pretty bad joke . . . It’s one of those jokes where you think it’s really funny but you also know that it’s just an awful joke.”

Part of the humor value of this blason populaire joke is that it is taboo. You know that it’s awful that people are starving to death in Ethiopia, but at the same time it’s easier to laugh about it than to do anything about it. And it feels better to be amused than to be guilty for not helping.