Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The human food connection: Authentic Puerto Rican food in Connecticut

Date:
April 15, 2014
Source:
American Journal of Botany
Summary:
Tucked away in Hartford, Conn., a Puerto Rican community is creating a tropical home away from home through cuisine that is so authentic it has caught the attention of scientists. Biologists took a close look at the fresh crops in the Puerto Rican markets of Hartford and uncovered evidence that gives new meaning to a phrase that food lovers have been using for years: home is in the kitchen.

The April issue cover of the American Journal of Botany. Plazas de mercado (open-air markets) in Puerto Rico, such as the one shown here in San Juan (Río Piedras), are highly diverse.
Credit: David W. Taylor

Tucked away in Hartford, Connecticut, a Puerto Rican community is creating a tropical home away from home through cuisine that is so authentic it has caught the attention of scientists. David W. Taylor (University of Portland) and Gregory J. Anderson (University of Connecticut) took a close look at the fresh crops in the Puerto Rican markets of Hartford and uncovered evidence that gives new meaning to a phrase that food lovers have been using for years: home is in the kitchen.

Related Articles


"Culinary preferences tell us a good deal about human culture, what is important, and what constitutes a feeling of well-being," explains Taylor. "As biologists, and specifically as botanists, what really struck us was the diversity of fresh plant crops, mostly of subtropical/tropical origin, that were available in ethnic markets in the northern U.S."

Like their ancestors who traveled from Europe, Africa, and Asia with favorite plants in tow, the Puerto Ricans of Hartford have maintained cuisine as an important component of their identity. Such a strong relationship to food has had a profound impact on human health by reshaping environmental biodiversity, influencing the diets of neighbors, and preserving elements of culture.

"The similarities between the market foods in temperate Hartford and tropical Puerto Rico demonstrate the great cultural value that the Puerto Rican community places on its cuisine -- which they have recreated after moving to a climatically, culturally, and agriculturally different environment," Anderson explains. "This shows that everyone has a commitment to cultural foundations, and food is one of the most important."

Over the course of nearly two decades, Taylor and Anderson carefully and patiently measured the diversity of crops in the marketplace, their availability over time, the proportion of market space dedicated to each, and the willingness of consumers to pay for preferred items. The study, published in the April issue of the American Journal of Botany, includes the analysis of nearly 100 tropical crops and offers a new approach to understanding their meaning.

Results showed that consumers were often willing to pay more for culturally significant crops despite the availability of less-expensive nutritional equivalents. Fresh starchy plants, called viandas, were the most essential food group for re-creating a sense of home. Examples include true yams, cassava, breadfruit, and malangas. Their preparation, such as fried, mashed or boiled, was also important.

These observations inspired two new scientific concepts. The first is "Culinary Cultural Conservation," or the preservation of cuisine over time and distance. The second is "Cultural Keystone Food Group," or food groups that prove to be more vital to the cuisine than others, like the viandas in this study. Taylor and Anderson designed these concepts to help scientists analyze the cuisines of different communities and draw important comparisons between them.

According to Taylor, a major challenge in the study was the long wait period. "Our first market survey studies showed what was important. By continuing these studies nearly two decades later, and 'ground truthing' them with markets in Puerto Rico, we were able to see trends and behaviors that could not be perceived with our first study alone."

In between collecting data and analyzing results, they overcame the long waiting periods by being patient, encouraging each other, and savoring the rewards of getting to know a rich culture, including the delicious cuisine.

"One of our favorite dishes was Mofongo, a meal composed of green plantain mashed to form a hollow ball that is then cooked with a filling inside." Taylor shares. "We also had a side-by-side taste-testing of the three, boiled, cultivars of yautía (yellow, white, and pink), a 'root' crop, found in the Puerto Rican markets, and the yellow was definitely the creamiest and most delicious!"

Anderson adds, "We highly recommend diving in and exploring!"

Their strong interest in plants and people is driving an impressive body of work. In addition to continuing their research in Hartford, Taylor and Anderson are investigating the market crops utilized by migrant communities worldwide. They are uncovering the foods that shape our identity and create an essential connection to home.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Journal of Botany. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. D. W. Taylor, G. J. Anderson. Key plants preserve elements of culture: A study over distance and time of fresh crops in Puerto Rican markets in Hartford, Connecticut, "A moveable feast". American Journal of Botany, 2014; 101 (4): 624 DOI: 10.3732/ajb.1300287

Cite This Page:

American Journal of Botany. "The human food connection: Authentic Puerto Rican food in Connecticut." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140415181405.htm>.
American Journal of Botany. (2014, April 15). The human food connection: Authentic Puerto Rican food in Connecticut. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140415181405.htm
American Journal of Botany. "The human food connection: Authentic Puerto Rican food in Connecticut." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140415181405.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) — A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) — The World Health Organization said on Friday that millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines would start being tested in March. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Microsoft Riding High On Strong Surface, Cloud Performance

Microsoft Riding High On Strong Surface, Cloud Performance

Newsy (Oct. 24, 2014) — Microsoft's Q3 earnings showed its tablets and cloud services are really hitting their stride. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) — EU leaders achieve a show of unity by striking a compromise deal on carbon emissions. But David Cameron's bid to push back EU budget contributions gets a slap in the face as the European Commission demands an extra 2bn euros. David Pollard reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins