A dive into Guam's food past. Where did it all come from?
Our food history on Guam is much a reflection of the food history of our planet. What we have today goes way back when to climate changes: events that caused apes to evolve from four-legged to two-legged creatures in search of food; events that allowed apes to cross over continents; and events that gave rise to humans living in communities, or civilizations. Our human evolution is directly related to the evolution of food, and how food was available, gathered, preserved, and cooked. The modern form of humans, or homo sapiens sapiens, is so young at just under 200,000 years compared to about 4 to 10 million years ago when the transition of ape to man is suspected to have started. Moreover, the original inhabitants of Guam, our ancient people, are believed to have reached the island around 4,000 years ago, or 2000 B.C. Before humans came upon her shores, a few indigenous foods grew there. These settlers, along with the birds and the ocean currents, are also suspected of carrying seeds from other lands to Guam. Thereafter, travelers of the seas brought with them foods from their own native land. When we think about Guam food from the time before our time, we could use the available data from scientists and historians like Lawrence J. Cunningham, William E. Safford, and Laura Thompson, in addition to the documentation from visitors and settlers that have passed through Guam.
These foods were on island before man arrived.
- Bamboo shoots or pi'ao palao'an
- Seeded breadfruit or dok dok
- Pandanus or kaffo' and pahong
- Queen sago or fadang
- Freshwater foods like shrimp or uhang, and eels or asuli
- Seafoods like fish or guihan, land crabs or panglao, coconut crab or ayuyu, lobster or mahongang, clams or hima and pahgang, and turtles or haggan
These foods are what have been documented as foods brought to Guam by her first settlers.
- Kelaguen or to cook without fire using lemon juice and salt
- Coconut or niyok
- Breadfruit or lemai
- Apighighi (apigige') lemmai - fermented breadfruit mixed with grated coconut, made into little pellets then baked
- Bittermelon or atmagosu
- Duck weed/water spinach or kangkong
- Mango or mangga
- Yam or dagu
- Sugarcane or tupu
- Rice or fa'i
- Horseradish or maronggai and kutdes
- White ginger or hasngot
- Gruel of rice and grated coconut or alaguan
- Areca/betel nut or mama'on and pugua'
- Bananas or aga' and chotda
- Fruit bats or fanihi
- Rice cakes or poto and potu
- Taro or suni
- Wild ginger or mango'
- Wild yam or gaddo'
- References to baking foods wrapped in banana leaves
- References to broiling food in embers of an open fire pit
- References to cooking in a deep pit or hoyu
- References to carrying water in trunks of bamboo or bongbong
- References to using a mortar and pestle to smash breadfruit, grind rice, and grind herbs or lusong and lommok
- References of having rice cakes blessed to heal the sick -- could this be poto / potu?
- References to grating coconut with a kamyo to make coconut milk and coconut oil
- References to woven pandanus and banana leaves used as plates
- Refereneces to gourds, pottery, and coconut shells used for liquids
The following are foods recorded by visitors and settlers in addition to the indigenous and ancient foods, according to the year of documentation.
The year Guam was claimed for Spain
- Fowl or domesticated bird kept for eggs and flesh
About 100 years after Guam was claimed, Jesuit missionaries arrive on island to spread Christianity. They introduced a lot of food stuff, including how to grow and use corn.
- Cacao or kakao
- Corn or mai'es
- Sweet potatoes or kamuti
- References to use of garden hoe or fusinos
- References to use of stone grinder or manos and metati
- References to use of pickaxe or hachita
- Hogs in salt
- Pickled mangos or inasne mangga
- Pickled fish or inasne guihan
- Potatoes or batatas
- Pumpkins or kalamasa
- Watermelons or chandia
- Bread of fine wheat flour
- Sugar or asukat
- Oranges or kahet
- Cows or guaka
- Betel pepper leaf or pupulu
- Deer or binadu
- Guava or abas
- Capers or atkaparas
- Cajan cajan/pigeon peas or lanta'as
Additional foods introduced to Guam from the Americas by the Spanish:
- Pineapple or pina
- Soursop or laguana
- Sweetsopt/custard apple or atis
- Chili pepper or doni'
- Papaya or papaya
- Tomatoes or tumates
- Tapioca or mendioka
- Avocado or alagetta
- Vanilla bean
The following are what Laura Thompson observed, as noted in her book, Guam and Its People.
- Distilled liquor from fermented fruits or aguayente
- Arrowroot tubers, ground and soaked to use as starch for making bonelos
- Carabao meat
- Dried meat
- Raised open hearths
- Carabao mango
- Pepper or seasoned fina'denni'
- Rice as an import
- Tortillas made of ground corn for the noon meal
Stay tuned as I continue to add to the timeline.