The “Hodge Podge” Dinner

Owen Lord studies Anthropology at the University of Southern California. He is originally from Columbia, South Carolina but currently lives in Los Angeles, California while he attends university. Owen’s southern upbringing led him to adopt a number of southern customs. Once he moved to Los Angeles, he was immediately struck by the differences in the way people speak, how they behave, and the traditions they practice. Many of Owen’s favorite folkloric phrases were lost on his new peers in Los Angeles. Below, Owen describes a Lord family custom that involves dinner preparations:

Owen: “When we [my family and I] were younger, my mom didn’t really like to cook. No one in my family really liked to cook, and so a lot of days, my mom would just say, ‘we’re having a hodge podge!’ which I thought everyone did. It meant you would just go through the fridge and the pantry and wherever, looking for food. But I thought hodge podge was a pretty universal word for that kind of fare. And so I’d go to friends’ houses and suggest a hodge podge, and no one understood what I was talking about.”

Isabella: “Would you consider this family folklore?”

Owen: “Yeah, its an example of family folklore… you think everyone else has it until you realize that it’s a completely made-up word that your mom uses when she’s feeling lazy.”

Here, Owen reflects on a custom that was unique to his family. Though it is likely that other families practices this tradition, they did not call it a “hodge podge” like Owen’s family did. For this reason, the “hodge podge” is a unique Lord-family tradition. The phrase carries its own set of associations for Owen and the rest of his family—it is a uniting factor between them and represents a shared experience.