Culinary Cultural Conservation and Cultural Keystone Food Groups: Concepts in Ethnobotany

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We propose Culinary Cultural Conservation (CCC) and Cultural Keystone Food Groups (CKFG) as ethnobotanical concepts. Our two-decade study of fresh food markets showed impressive crop-consistency across space (Puerto Rico to Connecticut, Vietnam to Australia and to the USA) and time (1993–2015). Notably, fresh, mostly tropical and imported, starchy crops (‘viandas’) are preferentially selected by the migrant Puerto Rican community in Connecticut, despite higher costs. We term this phenomenon Culinary Cultural Conservation (CCC), and argue that it may apply more generally across immigrant/migrant cultural groups and also extend to dry commodities (like rice). We suggest the dietary focus on viandas among fresh crops in immigrant/migrant Puerto Rican communities might represent a “keystone” analogous to keystone species in ecology, and the Cultural Keystone Species in ethnoecology. The new concept applies to a group of foods, and we therefore propose the term Cultural Keystone Food Group. We suggest that identification of CKFGs allows ethnobotanical comparisons of fresh commodity choices among cultures to be made efficiently and facilitates rapid assessments and analysis of ethnonutritional preferences and dietary conservation.




Taylor, D. W., & Anderson, G. J. (2020). Culinary Cultural Conservation and Cultural Keystone Food Groups: Concepts in Ethnobotany. Human Ecology, 48(2), 189–198.

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