List of Tables
Coconuts and Sauerkraut
Pirate, Fisherman, Tour Guide
Tourists and the Placencia Foodscape
“Foreigners” and “Aliens”: Immigration and the Placencia Foodscape
Cosmopolitanism, Cultural Capital and Code-Switching
Who Is a “Real” Belizean? The Cultural Politics of Gastronationalism
Building a Belizean Cuisine
The Quest for Cuisine
Afterword by Chef Sean Kuylen
A Short Culinary Glossary
IT SEEMED MOMENTOUS THAT AS I WAS COMPLETING final edits on this book, news arrived of Anthony Bourdain’s passing. Academia and popular media increasingly overlap in the arena of food, which, like death, is integral to life. Many of my fellow food researchers considered Tony to have matured into a sort of honorary culinary anthropologist as he used his fame to tackle big social and political questions through the lens of food. This is the great power of our daily bread. Through the material substance of our meals we can discover and explore so much about our individual and collective lives on this little planet. This was news a few decades ago, but no longer. Now scores of researchers and culinary professionals from all walks of life embrace the power of food to guide us to a deeper understanding of humanity.
I was incredibly fortunate to grow up on a farm, where not only can you see, touch and taste the food-supply chain right in front of you, but you might even take it in your own hands and wring its neck for supper. No wonder so many cultures ask that we thank the animals and plants that give us our sustenance. There is something inherently sacred about food, the mana without which our bodies fall apart and return to the earth, transformed into nourishment for someone else. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, food to food. When I die, I want a mango tree planted over my grave. I am sure those mangoes will taste sweet!
The world of food exploration (of which scientific research forms only a small part) is vast, chaotic and as complexly intertwined as the neural pathways of Albert Einstein. I owe a great debt to everyone who has cooked with me, talked food with me, shared a drink or meal, discussed ideas, given suggestions and lent their time to the process that led to this book. I have been inspired by many fellow researchers, friends and family, cooks and chefs, authors and food enthusiasts. To my fellow participants in culinary madness, this book is not big enough to include everyone who is contributing to the project of Belizean and global culinary innovation, but I thank you and invite future conversations, meals and collaborations. Please get in touch!
It was suggested that I call my work an ethnography, not a tale. But this book is not just a collection of intensively gathered and analysed data but also a story, a story of food and its symbolic significance. In the Caribbean and Central America, where this culinary narrative unfolds, food is magical, incredibly powerful and laden with great meaning that goes far beyond calorie count, probiotic levels and micronutrient content. I discovered this as a young child, when my grandmother Laura wrote letters to my brother and me about missing our morning ritual of pouring honey over our cereal.
Food is love. Food is power. Food is identity. Food can heal or harm. Food can feed the soul even more than the body. As you read this book about tourism and cosmopolitanism, globalization and cultural politics, innovation and tradition, identity and cuisine, think about your own culinary narrative. What do you eat? What does it say about who you are? Does your food feed your soul as well as your body? We all have a food tale to tell. I hope you will find this one intriguing.