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Group-labor foods as social activity


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Growing up in China we often had social gatherings where everyone -- even the men who don't usually cook -- got together and made dumplings or zhongzi. They were then cooked and everyone ate together. A few years ago I was invited to a tamale-making gathering which struck me as a Mexican version of the wonton-making events.

What other cultures have a similar kind of activity?

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My family does something similar to that when we pickle, can, or freeze the bounty of our garden and surrounding wilds. We also used to do the same thing when we grew chickens that we butchered on our own.

It is always enjoyable, and a good way to catch up with distant members of the family, or those with significant experiences that you haven't been fully apprised of (new babies, marriages, divorces, graduations, etc.)

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Must be a dumpling thing, because we used to do it with pierogi, I do it with home made ravioli, and I ALWAYS drag the family in the kitchen to help me fold wontons.

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A bunch of neighbors gather to make mass quantities of povitica for the holidays, a labor-intensive Croatian loaf rolled with nuts, cheese or fruit. By forming an assembly line we can crank out dozens of loaves in the time it would take to do 2 at home alone and it generally gets a little slap-happy after a time. Our particular group isn't ethnically bound, but there is a significant Croation population around here, concentrated in the Strawberry Hill area historically, so the food traditions have spread to many honorary Croats. :wink:

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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definitely dumplings...my mom and her three sisters (the joy luck club) and whoever else was around...that means me, becuase i am the oldest cousin. if you didn't help, you didn't eat. the only exception to that rule was my dad because he can't cook, much less pleat jiao-zi, to save his life. those were the best guo-tie (pot stickers) in the world!

after stuffing ourselves, the crazy sisters would play mah-jong until the wee hours with me serving them tea and little snacks like watermelon seeds and stuff.

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I dont know if lumpia rolling is a social activity or not, but it ought to be. Its a heck of a lot of work!

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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My foodie roommate/buddy from back in my early 20s in Boston has a tradition of doing a participatory potato latke brunch on (secular) New Year's Day. How the latkes got postponed from Hanukkah to New Year's I no longer remember, but these brunches would turn into a group cooking extravaganza, with people lining up to take turns at frying things in oil in our tiny galley kitchen. People's latke-frying skills tended to vary widely--we always wound up having to unplug the smoke detector at some point during the proceedings :laugh: -- but the friendly competitiveness and kidding the results would engender was part of the fun. Regardless of their looks, though, each new batch of the product was vacuumed up almost as soon as presented. Lots of fun (until it was time to clean up the disaster in the kitchen, that is!).

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I've had a soft pretzel rolling party. The dough for the pretzels is rather stiff, and I found that doing one batch by myself was way too much of an upper body workout!

So the next time I was in the mood to make them, I invited some people over, made several batches, and we played board games and snacked while the dough was rising, then took a break and all rolled out long ropes and had fun tying the knots.

When we were done, we all had a few to eat, and some to take home.

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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Not QUITE the same thing, but when my daughter was little I'd have a big dinner party the night before Easter and everyone would bring their most innovative Easter Egg dying kits........(purchased or homemade) I'd have dozens of hardboiled eggs, etc.

After dinner and (much) wine, after the kids were sleeping (oh yeah---it was a 'bring your kids sleep-over', too.......we'd hire a babysitter) we'd dye eggs. From the ridiculous to the sublime..........

Everyone got to take home eggs to hide and we had good food and much laughter being silly adults.

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When I was in Hebrew School, around Hanukkah time, my class made latkes (potato pancakes) together. That was fun, and they tasted good when we were done with them. :smile:

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I dont know if lumpia rolling is a social activity or not, but it ought to be. Its a heck of a lot of work!

Oh yeah. I've been to a few lumpia rolling parties in my day but am, admittedly, out of practice.

Last November, half-a-dozen Vancouver eGulleters got together for a Tortellini-making Party. We made over 300 tortellini/tortelloni with three different fillings and three different sauces to accompany them. I think we ate and drank until about 2:00 a.m.!

Joie Alvaro Kent

"I like rice. Rice is great if you're hungry and want 2,000 of something." ~ Mitch Hedberg

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We, swedes roll meatballs. Not such a big deal as making dumplings. Peeling potatoes can be a big social activity, since there is ussually lots to be peeled, we even make our dumplings with potato dough.

Edited by Hector (log)
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One of my fondest memories is my first wonton-making experience. We were visiting with old family friends, when I was a young teenager. These were people we saw about once a year, but my parents had met them when all four were newlyweds so the family friendship went way back before then. All nine of us stood around the kitchen counters, filling and folding wontons. Even my dad made some.

After we made them, we cooked them and ate them. I don't even remember now what was in the filling, or much else about that day, but I do remember how delicious they were and how much friends we had.

This memory is especially precious now, because both parents of that family have now passed away.

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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My husband's mother used to gather her friends in Hardin, Montana to make egg noodles. This was before my time but apparently the menfolk were kicked out and all the women would hang noodles all over the place to dry, employing broomsticks as drying racks.

In my family, there was often a big cookie bakeoff right before Christmas. We would get together and bake millions of cookies and everyone would take some home. Some years it was gingerbread houses, too. This past year my mom decided it would be easier for everyone to bring a few dozen cookies and trade, which was fun, too. Unfortunately, I live too far from my family to participate in any of these events, but I hear about them.

When I was a kid, it was canning that we did as a family activity.

Sadly, all of my cooking is done by myself now. I can't coax my husband into the kitchen to even talk to me--it's all too foreign to him.

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  • 1 year later...

Pasteles are a Puerto Rican version of a tamale, typically made with banana leaves, roast pork (pernil) seasoned with annatto, adobo, olives and other seasonings, and a "masa" (dough) made with green bananas and yautia (a root vegetable).

Pasteles are popular during the Christmas season and are a very labor intensive item to make. In many families, they set aside a day where scores, if not a few hundred of them are made to be frozen and given away/sold - assembly line with numerous members of the family contributing to the activity.

My mom and I love pasteles and I always buy a dozen or two from a Puerto Rican co-worker (whose family engages in the pasteles making marathon every year). My mom had a Puerto Rican father, but she never learned or participated in this tradition. It's something I wish we had a connection to though.

Edited by Kris (log)
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Ooh- I love pasteles. My aunt used to bring them around, but only when her church group would make a gigantic batch of 'em. Somehow they seemed all the more special because they weren't something you could all the time.

This past summer I finally started getting my kids involved in making fresh pasta, and it definitely brought back memories of the 1970's with the broomsticks all over the place with pasta hanging from them. It's just a natural family project, especially with a hand-cranked machine, and the little guys just love participating. With them around there's absolutely no way that any adult is getting a shot at turning the crank; we really just become 'observers' at that point. I just hope that the novelty doesn't wear off too soon...

aka Michael

Chi mangia bene, vive bene!

"...And bring us the finest food you've got, stuffed with the second finest."

"Excellent, sir. Lobster stuffed with tacos."

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For us it was weddings. You got married in the church and the reception was in the church hall. The ladies cooked for days together to get ready. I still have grandma's big serving bowl that she marked on the bottom with her initials in fire engine red nail polish so she would get it back

My own wedding was at my father's house and the extended relatives all pitched in to cook. It is one of my fondest memories. The men mostly stuck to potato peeling for the potato salad. The chatter, the jockeying for position and control of the recipe to be used, were hilarious. They even indulged me when I wanted to make BBQ sauce for the spit roasted lamb and beef with no recipe- just a concept. We left the spit roasting to Dad the butcher and his Croatian experts who had provided the set-up. Picture father of the bride running around in his white butcher's coat and sharpening his knives as he raced to keep up with the food demand. My sister had her reception at Dad's a few years later but it was catered. Totally different vibe.

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It is my soon-to-be daughter-in-law who is a Chinese/Malaysian (not me) but we sort of observe the 15-day Chinese New Year. This year, I had invited some neighbours for an afternoon of wonton-making. It was fun and we'd love to do it again during the summer....

austramerica

Life is short: Break the rules...Forgive quickly...Kiss slowly...Love truly...Laugh uncontrollably...And never regret anything that made you smile. Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we're here we should dance...
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Ooh- I love pasteles. My aunt used to bring them around, but only when her church group would make a gigantic batch of 'em. Somehow they seemed all the more special because they weren't something you could all the time.

...

This is what makes it special for me too - the fact that you can't get them all the time, only during the holiday season.

Although I have to admit that I usually save two pasteles in my freezer for summertime eating. Then after those two are gone, I only have a few more months left until it's pasteles time again. :smile:

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Interesting thread; I'm glad to see it bumped back up.

I can't speak to this one first-hand, but Victoria Abbott Riccardi's depiction of mochi-making in her book Untangling My Chopsticks seems to fit the pattern. Maybe someone with more direct experience of Japanese food culture could confirm this.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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