Tag Archives: traditional food

Capirotada Cultural Dish

Informant Info:

  • Nationality: Mexican
  • Age: 50
  • Residence: Los Angeles 
  • Primary language: Spanish 
  • Relationship: mother 


Capirotada(cultural food) 


EP explained to me the cultural and religious significance of the traditional Mexican capirotada dish. The capirotada dish is made during a specific season, as EP says, “la temporada de cuaresma.” Cuaresma is basically the Lenten period, in which Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter occur. She views this period of time in which she prepares for the death and the resurrection of Jesus by fasting and making this cultural dish. She learned this traditional dish from her mother who would make it during the Lenten period. EP goes into depth on the ingredients of the Capirotada, “La canela, clavo, y piloncillo se cuece, y así se hace la miel que se pone arriba de todos los ingredientes antes de hornear.” She first makes a sort of sweet juice/syrup to put on top of the ingredients. The ingredients consist of: white bolillo bread, tortillas, bananas, apples, queso fresco, raisins, prunes, viznaga, different types of nuts and dried fruits, etc. She said that you put the syrup that was made prior on top of all the ingredients and then you can bake it. 


Capirotada is made in different ways, and it also depends on the preference of the person making the dish. Not everyone will make it the same; each person has their own touch. I have grown up eating capirotada as well, but when I would ask other people if they had tried or heard of it before, they would say no. It is a dish that is not as commonly made or known. When I was younger, I always thought it wasn’t something I wanted to eat, but as I grew older I learned to appreciate and actually love to eat the dish. While the capirotada might not look as physically appealing as other desserts, it is truly delicious and holds a special place in our Mexican culture.

Unwrapping Tamales For Christmas

Background: The informant is a 52 year old man. He was born in Tulare, California. He grew up with his four siblings and two parents, moving from location to location across California. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California. 

Context: The context as that when the informant was eating tamales, he was reminded of Christmas.


MD: “Well typically, uh, mexican families, they make, uh, tamales for Christmas, and, you know, it’s kind of like a seasonal food, and that’s considered traditional to make tamales for Christmas, and uh, the big joke about tamales and mexicans is that the reason why mexicans make tamales is so they can have something to unwrap for christmas. And so uh, I used to help my mom make ‘em, and we would kind of like interchange, like, you know, sometimes I would like, layout the leaves and spread the masa, which is like corn dough, on them, or other times she would do that, and she would allow me to put the meat inside of it. It’s like a meat sauce, and uh, she didn’t like me putting the meat with the sauce in the tamale because I would typically put too much and, uh, she’d kind of strive for balance between the masa and the meat, the problem though too is like when you steam them, if you, if you put too much meat inside them, they kind of overflow, and they, they break apart the tamale, you know? It is what it is.” 


Informant: He is very humorous and recalls both the joke and the tamales in good fun. He reminisces about his time with his mother and looks to it as a great bonding moment between the two of them each year.

Mine: First, the joke’s context is that Mexicans are considered poor in America and will not have the money to buy presents for their family. While on the surface, the joke seems like a laughable jab, it speaks to a much deeper social context, about how Mexican families are treated in the greater societal context of the US. Typically, they do not have higher paying jobs or may be supporting a larger family and much more. However, the joke is prevalent in Mexican communities in order to make light of their hardships. It shows how humor is consistently used to make a situation seem better and it’s a source of hope. Second, making tamales on Christmas is very widespread in Mexican culture. Given how the informant would always complete the task with his mother, it provided a way for the two of them to connect through their culture of making food. 

Easter Capirotada

Background: The informant is a 50 year old man. He was born in Tecate, Mexico, moving to California when he was young. He grew up with his four siblings and two parents, moving from location to location across California. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California. 

Context: The context was a few weeks before Easter, and the informant began sharing stories about what happens before Easter when walking in the mall past Easter decorations.


UI: “Around Easter, when I was a kid, we used to go to my grandmothers, in uh, Delano, which is a small town near Bakersfield, and, and what she used to do is that she would make this, hm, I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like a bread pudding and in Spanish it’s called capirotada. You know, I haven’t had it in so long because it takes like all day to make it. What you do is start off with about a week old bread, and then you put it in a tray with butter. And basically, it’s like traditional Mexican bread. It’s like a bread pudding type bread, and you typically make it before Easter and it’s like day old bread with raisins and butter and nuts, and it’s just like it all melts together with cinnamon and they sprinkle it with cheese on top and it all kind of like blends together into a weird pudding mixture, and that’s basically in preparation for Easter. I used to help my grandmother make it, because she would make trays and trays for everybody. The bread represents the body of Christ, the syrup is his blood, and the cloves are the nails of the cross, and the whole cinnamon sticks are the woods of the cross, and the melted cheese stands for the holy shroud. I guess it’s just like hidden meanings with the crucifixion of Jesus for Easter within the food.” 


Informant: He was very excited when sharing the story and appeared actually nostalgic for his childhood. Evidently, the time making food with his grandmother was a peaceful time of his life, and he loved the food.

Mine: Many of the foods around the holiday have hidden religious meanings behind them, having a dual cultural significance for both being a food to bring together family on holidays and for the religious context. The informant made the food with his grandmother, serving as time for the two of them to bond and for him to be taught the recipe of the Mexican dish. He was in the transition state from passively accepting the tradition when he began cooking with his grandmother. Then, the capirotada holds religious folklore, with each element not being randomly chosen, but rather chosen to represent an element of Christ. Given that the informantant still remembers the information after all these years, it is clear that the message imparted onto him by his grandmother held a deep value for him. It is our elders who are carrying on the traditions and they must be listened to in order to fully absorb it.

Windsor Caroussel of Nations

Background Information: 

The informant is a middle-aged person who grew up in Windsor, a city in Canada. They emigrated to Windsor from Turkey, at a young age. They are describing a festival that they remember from their childhood. 

Main Content: 

ME: Can you tell me about the Windsor Caroussel of Nations? 

ED: So there was this festival called the Caroussel of Nations when I was growing up, and you know Canada prides itself on being a multicultural society and they consider themselves a cultural mosaic, as opposed to a melting pot, like the US. They fund a lot of festivals that, you know, help people stay connected to their cultural backgrounds and stuff. So one of those things was the Caroussel of Nations and it was around Canada Day. It was a festival where all of the cultures that wanted to get involved sign up, and they get a little grant for their space, and people have arts and crafts that they sell or display, there’s some different venues that have people who do shows like cultural dancing and displays. There’s always food, of course, which is probably the biggest thing and my mom would always make Turkish shish kebabs and shish koftes and things like that. People from all the community go around and check out all of the different cultures and enjoy the food and the environment.

ME: Did you ever participate? 

ED: I used to do this Turkish dance as a kid, we used to dress up in old traditional Turkish outfits and do a traditional Turkish line dance called Halay, you know? We would do that as a display, we would be like performing monkeys for the visiting Canadians (laughs). It was a lot of fun, everyone was coming together and the whole Turkish community would come together to put this on, it was fun visiting the other communities too. I think it’s still going on today.


This interview happened at my house.  


The informant is my father and it seems that he really enjoyed it growing up. It seems like the Turkish community in Windsor would rally together to put on a good event and it would bring the community closer together. I have attended this festival once, and it is really amazing to see dozens of different cultures on display. It is also interesting to analyze the approach that Canada takes as a “cultural mosaic” as opposed to the “melting pot” here in the United States. I think that festivals like these are great examples of the difference. This festival is not about assimilating to Canadian culture at all, but it is about celebrating the folk dancing and traditional food from the countries that people immigrated from.

Chamorro “Titiyas”

Context: My informant is a 23 year-old woman who is of Chamorro descent. She grew up in San Francisco and moved to L.A. for college. She described a common practice for her family growing up surrounding food, particularly a snack called “titiyas”. Her Chamorro family passed on this recipe throughout the generations. She loves them because they remind her of her grandma. 



“So I’m really close with my grandma, I’m the favorite and vice versa hahaha. But, growing up we would always make different Chamorro food and one of my favorite snacks to have is called “titiyas” and they’re basically..  like sweeter and a little bit thicker than tortillas. Me and my grandma would have it with cheese or butter usually. Recently, I moved away from home and asked my grandma what the recipe was. She couldn’t give me any measurements or anything and said I just had to watch and taste. I mean that is how she learned and she was the oldest girl of 11 kids so she just learned by watching her mom. Sometimes she still sends me “titiyas” in the mail to eat the next day, I love it.”


I loved this story from my informant! It reminded me a lot of how my Cuban grandmother makes “arroz con pollo” (chicken with rice), a popular dish for Cuban people. My grandma never has the right measurements and just goes off of how it looks and smells. It is so sweet how her grandma is able to send her “titiyas” still. My grandma also packs me the Cuban dish every time I go to her house.

It is interesting how this recipe had been in her family for so long and it had still not been written down. This shows how important oral tradition has been as well as how important sharing in person human experience is. Now with technology, you can talk to more people than ever before, but you lose the opportunity of experiencing all the senses with that person. Cooking together at home with family, there is nothing else like it.