Documenting Maritime Folklife: An Introductory Guide
Part 1: What to Document
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
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
as with the clambake, foodways occur with many other traditional expressions.
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.