Informant: So whenever like there’s like an exam or like something big that we have to do. You take a like, a teaspoon or a spoon of sugar. Put it in your-right hand? Yeah, right hand and then you… Sorry. And then you just you take it like you….
Me: You ingest the sugar straight?
Informant: Yeah, just sugar straight up. It just supposed to be for good luck. You do it every single time I’ve done it. Ever since I was in like high school. And my mom was just like, hey, do this. And it’s like, good luck for like to be prosperous. That’s all you learn. Like I think Hindus do it a lot. My mom again taught to me and I think it’s like something big.
My informant is a 21-year-old Indian American gerontology major at USC, this folklore was told to both me and his girlfriend (my roommate) in my living room.
My informant learned this from his mother and he still does it before every test or interview for good luck.
When he was telling me this, I kept thinking of the saying “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. I think sugar because for such a long time it was so hard to get, it becomes something that is saved for special occasions, so using it for important exams it a way to use some of that luck. I know in kitchen magic you’re supposed to add sugar to sweeten the spell, so it’s cool to see how sugar represents luck and good in multiple cultures.
Informant: So in Korean culture… Before like a test or an exam you’re recommended not to drink or eat something that’s like soupy or runny. So, like, don’t have soup on the day of. And you should rather have something sticky like sticky rice or taffy or something like that, that has that like “oomph” to it… ‘Cause the correlation there is like, you drink something runny or you eat something that moves, then that information will leave with it. But if you have something sticky, that’ll help your brain stick that information into your head.
INFORMANT’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE PIECE:
Interviewer: Do you practice this?
Informant: No, I don’t. It’s just something my mom told me about… I haven’t really thought about it before like now.
Interviewer: But have you ever tried or tested it?
Informant: No, I haven’t.
According to James George Frazer, homeopathic magic is magic in which like produces like. We see that manifested here, as soupy foods are believed to wash away information, whereas sticky foods encourage information to stick. The idea that what you consume can directly impact your performance in daily life is not unique to Korean culture; it is widely accepted that food is tied to health. Science shows that eating certain foods leads to different physical outcomes (ex. eating carbohydrates versus eating protein before working out). What is unique about this Korean belief is that it is not based on the nutritional value of a food, but on how soupy or how sticky it is––on texture or consistency. This is why it is more likely to be considered a form of magic, than a science-based belief.