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Food Preferences and Food Choices among the Northern Lacandon Maya, Mexico (working title)

Author Petra PANENKA
Director of thesis Prof. Dr. Bettina Beer
Co-director of thesis
Summary of thesis

Food preferences and food choices among the Northern Lakandon Maya


The aim of the Ph.D. thesis is to show how food preferences and choices are passed on and re-evaluated through cooking and eating habits.

Food preferences and choices are in part shaped or constructed culturally. This construction is seen as a constantly continuing and dynamic social process. The Lakandon Maya household is the central social space, where household members talk about and evaluate foods. ‘Traditional’ food preferences are passed on from on generation to the other through cooking skills and eating habits. ‘Modern’ foods with new tastes are adopted from individuals, shared with other family members and valued in the social space of the household.

First fieldwork methods were participant observation, apprenticeship in Lakandon Maya food preparation. Then free-listings (n=10) helped to find out most available foods and a census was made to get an overview of the existing households and kitchens in Nahá. Rating scales were used to first categorize general food preferences and secondly to find out how often foods were consumed.

In semi-structured interviews informants were asked questions about food related practices, influences on their cooking education (including recipes) and memories about food riddles/phrases. During the whole fieldwork in-depth interviews were carried out with some informants from all generations (n=17) to get more detailed information and link some research results correctly.

The data reveals how individuals influence existing food preferences and choices. It

can show how food preferences are passed on and re-evaluated between household members.


Administrative delay for the defence