Getting to Guam

by Danielle Ceribo and Lucia Austria

It’s a given that incoming gastronomy students have a passion for food, but how do students about to finish the program take their experiences and change their food passion into a food movement? Students who finish the program with a thesis paper write about something close to their heart, but go through weeks of frustrations and personal reflections to get to a finished, well-researched piece of work. Graduating student Danielle Ceribo can tell you that developing a thesis is hardly easy, but her driving passion for food culture in Guam helped her navigate through her last semester at BU.

Guamanian food culture is a significant part of Danielle’s identity. She was born and raised in Guam, and left after high school to live in Hawaii and eventually, California. Danielle began to try dishes from different cultures, like Mexican and Philippine, and noticed how similar some dishes were to the ones she grew up with:

“There’s a lot…like ceviche. It’s pretty much the same as kelaguan, any protein–chicken, shrimp, fish, spam, octopus, beef…there’s an acid, usually lemon or vinegar, Hot pepper, onion, and then usually, depending on which kind, there’s grated coconut. There are all these similarities to different foods that I thought was unique to Guam. I remember visiting family in the bay area in California and my uncle would always beg my mom to make it. I thought it was this special thing that nobody else outside of Guam ever got. That was the starting point…”

From that point, Danielle began to question the role of colonization and globalization on Guam’s food culture. Guam is a U.S. territory located in the Pacific Ocean and a part of the Mariana Islands of Micronesia. Native Chamorro, colonial Spanish, and American influences shape Guam’s rich history. Danielle developed many questions concerning the Guamanian and Chamorro cuisine, and focused some of her class papers on answering those questions. She wrote a history paper on changes in diet of indigenous people pre and post European contact, comparing contemporary and colonial Spanish cookbooks. She acquired research skills through her ethnography and anthropology classes and spent three weeks in Guam developing an ethnographic report. Danielle’s personal experiences, classes, and directed study helped her get to her final argument:

“…the local diet of Guam has evolved to incorporate foods from cultures it has come into contact with through colonization, immigration, and tourism, yet still maintains Chamorro/Guamanian identity as a result of Guam’s geographic location and tradition of conviviality, suggesting that there are limits on the homogenizing effects of colonization on local culture.”

According to Danielle, much of her historic research on Guam and Micronesia is written in the view of Western-centric historians. “The voice of indigenous populations isn’t there. Micronesian studies are lumped together in one topic. There’s a lot of pride in Guam for being Guamanian or Chamorro.” For Danielle, writing about Guam foodways is “giving voice to a population that people don’t understand.”

Danielle is a gastronomy student with an undergraduate degree in Food & Nutrition from San Diego State University. She will be presenting her paper, “Soy Sauce and Coconut Milk: The Effects of Colonialism, Globalization and Diaspora on Guamanian Foodways,” at this summer’s ASFS conference at NYU.

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