"Our Roots": Isabela Island gastronomy, culture, and tradition

09 Jun 21 /
Cover of the cookbook "Nuestras raíces" (Our Roots)

Author: Ernesto Bustamante

Isabela's recipe book "Our Roots" will be officially launched on 20 August 2021. The cookbook features twelve typical dishes of the island. It is divided into three sections: four entrances, four main dishes and four desserts. The authors, high school students from Isabela with the support of their mothers and grandmothers, teach us the ingredients and their preparation. In addition, through stories, they describe how these dishes are related to the history of their families in Isabela.

The idea of compiling these recipes and stories is to recognize some of the culture through its culinary tradition and promote sustainable agriculture on the island.

Recognizing culture through the recipe

One of the recurring themes in the various meetings we have with local institutions and community members, is the absence of historical and cultural documents of the island. This recipe book, through its typical dishes and stories, seeks to make visible a part of Isabela's culture and identity. Through each recipe we can recognize the cultural origins of its inhabitants and how these various roots have played a primary role in feeding their families who came to the island.

In addition, they detail how food, family relationships, arrival stories and memories of people, who may no longer accompany them but are an integral part of their stories and present are obtained.

El asadero de “Papito Jorge”.
The "Daddy George" sawmill. Photo by: Jessica Martinez

Promoting sustainable agriculture on the island

According to mag (2020), less than 60% of agricultural areas are effectively produced in the Galapagos, which generate 600 of the 1,300 tons of food per month needed to meet the demand of the islands. The importation of agricultural products from Mainland Ecuador is used to cover the rest of the food needed for domestic consumption.

Invernaderos de producción orgánica en la finca “La Elvira”. Parta alta de Isabela, sector “El Cura”.
Organic production greenhouses at "La Elvira" farm. Highlands of Isabela, "El Cura" sector. Photo by: Ernesto Bustamante Velarde.

The process of preparing the recipe

In 2019, for the second consecutive year, the "Sustainable Community" environmental education project was implemented in Isabela. This initiative aims to motivate new generations to be agents of change for the conservation and sustainability of the Galapagos Islands. For this purpose, participants engage in various activities grouped into sports, social, scientific and cultural modules.

One of these modules is Sustainable Agriculture, which provides activities to understand the importance of sustainable food production and balanced food. One of the tasks that participants performed was the documentation of three typical dishes served in their families (an entrance, a main course and a dessert). Each dish had to be accompanied by a story of how it was related to family history.

Participantes del Proyecto Comunidad Sostenible II. Módulo de Agricultura Sostenible.
Participants of the Sustainable Community II Project. Sustainable Agriculture Module. Photo by: Martina Roggiery

A total of fifty-two recipes and stories were collected from the fourteen project participants. Of these, 12 dishes (four entries, four main courses and four desserts) were selected according to the best stories and the use of more local ingredients. After the completion of the project, in early 2020, we contacted the families of the students who proposed the selected dishes to know their interest in being part of the recipe book. All the families involved confirmed their involvement.

The pandemic delayed our plans to interview families to learn more about dishes and stories and photograph the process of their elaboration. To avoid indefinitely postponing these activities, we conducted most interviews over the phone. In June, we were able to start with the coordination of visits to take the photos, taste the dishes and share with the families. Since not all members of the families were on the island, these visits were concluded at the end of 2020.

Throughout this process of interviews, visits, content development, photographs, tasting and review of countless versions of the recipe book, there was a lot of support from people inside and outside of the CDF.

For this reason, I would especially like to thank the families who opened the doors of their homes, Carla Zambrano for her support and dedication in the recipe book, Kathe Jaramillo for the illustrations and the CDF communications team for the design and support in the review of the prescription. I hope readers will enjoy their stories and venture to meet and try a part of Isabela's culinary tradition.

"Through food customs we are mindful of our origin, it is important to teach our children to keep history alive over time." – Ing. Gabriela Rivadeneira. Author of one of the recipes.


Andres Cruz

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