Saturday, January 15, 2005


black truffle, December 25,2004
Originally uploaded by ajkinik.

In its most typical form as found among the Kwakiutl tribe [of British Columbia] the potlatch is a great solemn feast, during which one of two groups, with much pomp and ceremony, makes gifts on a large scale to the other group for the express purpose of showing its superiority. The only return expected by the donors but incumbent on the recipients lies in the obligation of the latter to reciprocate the feast within a certain period and if possible to surpass it. This curious donative festival dominates the entire communal life of the tribes that know it: their ritual, their law, their art. Any important event will be the occasion for a potlatch—a birth, a death, a marriage, an initiation ceremony, a tattooing, the erection of a tomb, etc. A chieftain will give a potlatch when he builds a house or sets up a totem-pole. At the potlatch the families or clans are at their best, singing their sacred songs and exhibiting their masks, while the medicine-men demonstrate their possession by the clan-spirits. But the main thing is the distribution of goods. The feast-giver squanders the possessions of the whole clan. However, by taking part in the feast the other clan incurs the obligation to give a potlatch on a still grander scale. Should it fail to do so it forfeits its name, its honour, its badge and totems, even its civil and religious rights. The upshot of all this is that the possessions of the tribe circulate among the houses of the “quality” in an adventurous way.
--J. Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture

Many thanks to Kazi for Czech duck, “Saddle of Venison,” and vanilkovi rohlicky (see “Of Czech Ducks and Viennese ‘Venison’” and “St. Nicholas Day”), Benoit for Malpeque oysters (see “Traditions, New and Old”), Tamar for soujuk, basturma, and a host of other Armenian specialties, Anna for Mexican candied fruit and dried chiles (see “A Very Special Fruitcake”), Ira and Shawna for socca and other treats (see "Socca in Ottawa (and Montreal)"), Marie-Odile for macarons and a lovely bottle of something special (see “A (Brief) Trip to Heaven” and “Traditions, New and Old”), Geoff and Sirpa for a veritable cornucopia of delicacies from Bologna, Helsinki, and beyond, and Gabe and Hermine for a wonderful Christmas Day brunch that included that beautiful little black truffle pictured above.


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