Culinary Practices in Shared Kitchens
a Collaborative Ethnobotanical Film Project

Overview | Questions | Perspectives ≺ Methods ≻ Participation | Plan | Site

This project is to a large degree driven by its methodology. Not only is one of the goals to build participants’ skills in using digital filmmaking technology, but another is to critically examine how this technology itself re-enacts the subject of the study, the production of discourse about food. Hence throughout the project attention to methodology will remain one of our concerns.

Recording performance and narrative

The primary method employed for this project will be videorecording of culinary practices and of interviews with participants. Field notes will be made during these recordings as well as other parts of the project (organizing, editing). Producing these recordings will organize the main data-gathering portion of the project. Recodings will be of four general types:

  1. Culinary performances

    These are the central events around which the project is organized. Groups of EWC residents will be asked to present and discuss a food event. While it is expected that this will usually take the form of a meal prepared in the kitchen, it is worth leaving open to participants, who may suggest another form (e.g. a picnic assembled somewhere else). We will document as much of the process of this event as we can, and ask for comments from all participants.

  2. Resource Practices — i.e. trips to markets, gardens, &c.

    In addition to documenting food preparation, this project will collect material on the ways in which participants acquire foods. Of particular interest are participants' interactions with food plants, whether in gardens or in local markets or gathered from common land.

  3. Individual Interviews

    Each participant in the project (including participant-filmmakers) will be expected to do a 1-2 hour interview, telling their life-history with an emphasis on the development of their culinary practices.

  4. Reflexive Interviews

    During the process of analysis/editing, participants will be asked to review and comment on earlier material. This may be done individually or collectively, and repeatedly.

In each of these types of interviews, partipants will be asked to speak once in English and again in any other language(s) of their homeplace. If any of the collaborators share another language with the culinary practitioner, they may help lead the interview. Since one of the goals of the project is to build a body of material which can be drawn on later, we may collect information that none of the current collaborators can use. Where appropriate, this material may be shared with other researchers such as those of the Language Documentation Project. As a side benefit for participants, we may also film and produce an audiovisual "letter home" for any pariticpants who wish to send a DVD describing their studies in Hawai‘i back to a home community.

Analysis and Skill Sharing

Although usually separated from methodology, analysis should be mentioned here because the evaluation of the filmed material is one of the methods that can be used to address the question of how meaning is made in discourse. This discursive process continues in the analytic/editing stage, and reflexive attention may be useful in discovering some of ways in which it is done. The different ways in which diverse participants select meaningful material in this process may reveal the cultural particularity of discursive expectations. Hence analysis is itself a method.

Similarly, the training of coinvestigators in the use of camera equipment and editing software can be considered one of the methods of this project — not only because it accomplishes the project goal of skillsharing, but also because learning these techniques of selecting and constructing visual narrative brings attention to bear on discursive practices and creates the opportunity to collectively engage them.


Transcripts of edited presentations will be prepared and used for sub-titling and translation. These transcripts will form a textual base for analysis, which can be augmented by more detailed transcripts of interesting strips of discourse, particularly in looking at how edited presentations are produced from a body of material.


Basic filming of food events will be done with two cameras, one set further back getting a wide frame, and one used for collecting details. This approach has several advantages. First, this captures two aspects of the visual story that needs to be told. Later the ability to cut between the two kinds of footage also allows for gaffes or intervening material to be edited out. The ability to edit material out of the sequences later supports the approach of having participants repeat key explanations in more than one language; footage in each language can then be assembled into separate sequences later.

While this can be done with one camera by shooting a master shot first, and then shooting details (b-roll), it requires repeating actions, which can feel awkward to participants, and sometimes while shooting b-roll one misses something noteworthy going on in the larger picture. The increase of equipment can be mitigated by having the larger camera, where sound can be adjusted, more or less fixed in the background where it is less imposing, while a smaller, less intrusive camera can be used for b-roll. Overall, using two cameras captures what is needed while minimizing the artificiality of the process.

David Strauch | P.O. Box 62223 | Honolulu, HI 96839
Revised 21 Nov 2006

Overview | Questions | Perspectives | Methods | Participation | Plan | Site