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Documenting Maritime Folklife: An Introductory Guide

Part 1: What to Document

What to document:

Foodways

Foodways are the traditions associated with the growing, gathering, preparation, serving, and consumption of food. In maritime communities many food traditions are based on locally available fish and shellfish. For example, residents of Key West, Florida, have developed several unique recipes for the preparation of conch, a shellfish that was extremely abundant in local waters in the past and served as a major food source during the Depression.1 Some recipes are unique to certain areas. For example, in the fishing communities of Newfoundland battered and fried tongues of codfish are considered a delicacy, and in parts of coastal Virginia "planked" shad is a specialty. Much regional variation appears in the names for local fish and shellfish, the types of food served in combination with fish and shellfish, and taboos against eating certain types of fish and shellfish. Foodways also play a role in traditional rituals and celebrations. In fact, food can be the keystone of an entire event. In the New England clambake, frequently held in connection with family reunions, participants gather at the seashore and build a large wood fire that is allowed to burn down to coals. Next, a feast of local clams, lobsters, and corn on the cob is steamed over the coals between layers of seaweed. Other events involving foods include boat-launching ceremonies and seafood festivals. In these contexts, as with the clambake, foodways occur with many other traditional expressions.


Notes

1. In addition to playing an important role in local foodways, conch serves a symbolic function. For most Floridians, the term "conch" denotes a native of the Keys.

 

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   September 30, 2014
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