Learning island foodways: tasting ethnographic methods

  • Michael R. McDonald Florida Gulf Coast University
Keywords: ethnographic field-school, foodways, Bay Islands, Honduras


Roatán, largest of the Bay Islands off the northern coast of Honduras has in recent years, been faced with broad-based social, environmental and cultural change. Various ethnographic studies assert that in-migration of Spanish speakers from the mainland and the growing class of tourists and expatriates have amplified existing differences among island residents, and influenced change in cultural characteristics including foodways. Using data from systematic elicitation in three ethnic and linguistically distinct communities, collected by students from Florida Gulf Coast University’s Ethnographic Research Expedition Roatán 05, this article abstracts and interprets variation in cultural domains surrounding common foods. A greater goal of the project is to immerse students in the entire ethnographic experience. The project was highly successful as the location, topic and iterative methodology brought students into the ethnographic research enterprise in an effective and rewarding manner. The implications of this learning-centered approach and subsequent findings are discussed and indicate further direction for research on this topic.