Unit VII Material Culture: The Stuff of Life
Lesson 3 Introducing Louisiana Foodways
We'd have quiltings then, you know . . . we'd sit there and quilt out sometimes two or three quilts a day. You see, two people would cook, and the rest of ‘em would quilt. They be there singing and having fun quilting. Well, it'd be in the first of the fall, at that time, ‘cause we would have a fire in the hearth, and peanuts and potatoes, you know, and my uncle would go and kill squirrels and coons and stuff like that, rabbits, and we'd be just cooking molasses and bread and maybe peanut candy, and stuff. Oh, we'd have a good time. You'd have five or six ladies who'd stay till first night, then their husbands would come get them.
--Turlie Richardson, West Feliciana Parish
English Language Arts, Social Studies
Purpose of Lesson
This lesson introduces Louisiana foodways by continuing to give students "insider" and "outsider" perspectives. Its main aim is to lay groundwork for studying Louisiana foodways more deeply. In this lesson and Lessons 4 and 5, teachers will be able to develop interdisciplinary activities based on many aspects of Louisiana food and find resources on foodways of all regions.
Lesson Objectives/Louisiana Content Standards, Benchmarks, and Foundation Skills
1. Students look at their own foodways as a cultural outsider would and categorize types of food that they eat.
2. Students begin to study traditional Louisiana foodways.
3. Students observe and document meal preparation.
4. Students learn that foodways include acquiring ingredients, preparing, presenting, and cleaning up as well as food itself.
2 class periods
Pictures, postcards, cookbooks, restaurant menus, and articles on Louisiana foodways. If your students will be doing fieldwork, you may need digital cameras, audio recorders, or video recorders in addition to notepads and pencils as well as appropriate fieldwork forms. Print out and duplicate any worksheets or rubrics that you will be using.
Background Information for the Teacher
What if a cultural outsider came to dinner at a student's home tonight? What would the meal say about the student's culture? Would the meal say anything about the region of the state? Louisiana's unique, varied foodways are renowned and the subject of many publications. Folklorists study all aspects of food, from acquiring ingredients to serving. Because Louisiana is famous for excellent and diverse foods, you'll find many ways to integrate Louisiana foodways into your curriculum throughout the year in science, math, visual art, music, social studies, and English language arts. You may link this lesson with Unit 4 Lessons 1 and Unit 4 Lesson 3 on Louisiana folk regions and sense of place and examine the role of foodways in regional culture and identity.
Accumulate materials on Louisiana foodways such as photos, postcards, cookbooks, local restaurant menus, and articles. Review online articles in Technology Options and print out and bookmark any that you plan to use. Also review Unit II. Decide on a time frame for students' fieldwork, giving them several evenings to choose a meal preparation to document. Send a letter home with students explaining the assignment (see Letter to Parents and Caregivers in Unit II). Read Mapping Space: A Meal in the Making, by Bonnie Sunstein, to help students prepare their observation of meal preparation. If using Venn diagrams, Venn Diagram shows how to use them for comparisons.
4th Grade Activities
1. Brainstorm with students about the term foodways. Record responses to compare with students' responses after this lesson. Describe aspects of foodways that folklorists study: acquiring ingredients, recipes, equipment, cooking, presenting, cleaning up. Introduce traditional Louisiana foodways by noting that many folk groups contribute to the diverse foodways of the state from Native Americans to recent immigrants. Regional foodways within the state vary and relate to the geography and ecology as well as the folk groups of a region.
2. Ask students to write down what they ate for dinner the previous night. As a class or in groups discuss their lists. Did any foods seem traditional to Louisiana? If so, why?
3. Now ask students to categorize what they ate: salad, main course, side dish, dessert, beverage, and so on. Again, working as a class or in groups, ask students to create a graph or table of food categories or display results using computer software. Include a category for foods that students find traditional to Louisiana. What percentage of the foods fits this category?
4. Give students a time frame in which to choose a meal to document from start to finish and send a letter home explaining the assignment. Students should observe meal preparation and interview the cook about how and when ingredients were acquired, recipes, whether this is a Louisiana dish, cooking tips, how the meal is served, clean-up. Adapt the level of fieldwork to fit your curriculum. If using this as a key fieldwork lesson (see Unit II), students can design surveys, record interviews, transcribe, map meal preparations, and so on. Or, make this a simple exercise emphasizing observation skills and merely collecting enough data to continue the activity.
Print and duplicate the Rubric for Observing Meal Preparation and distribute to students. Explain that this rubric is like a checklist of steps to include, things to prepare, and products to present, and should be used as a guide and self-evaluation tool to help them conduct an exemplary interview and prepare an outstanding report. At the end of the lesson, they will be evaluated using the rubric and a score will be assigned.
5. After students have completed their interviews, they should review field notes, transcribe parts of recordings, review photos and maps, and think deeply about them, trying to use deductive thinking to determine underlying themes and generalizations. Print and duplicate Preparing a Louisiana Meal -- A Cloze Activity and distribute to students. Tell them to read the worksheet all the way to the end to get a "sense" of what the completed story will tell. Then they should return to study their notes, maps, recordings, and so on and find answers that would fit in the blanks to make a true story about the interview they conducted. If students have worked in pairs or groups to conduct the interviews, have them complete the Cloze Activity together. The stories could be illustrated and combined into a book titled "Louisiana Cooks," or a title students think represent their comments. You may choose to have students read their completed stories to the class.
6. Students may display fieldwork results in several fashions: oral or written reports; computer slide show; or portfolios that include recipes, drawings, interviews, photos, and podcasts. Use the Rubric for Observing Meal Preparation to evaluate the projects and assign points. Compare students' brainstorming about the term foodways in Step 1 with what they have learned by asking them to write a short paragraph defining foodways.
4th Grade Explorations and Extensions
1. Make a class field trip to a local bakery, specialty food store, farm, dairy, fishery, or market.
2. Invite a guest chef or food producer to class for students to interview. Your school's food service personnel would be an excellent resource. Teachers, see Unit II Lesson 3 for guidance.
3. Look for traditional foodways in literature throughout the year and keep a class master list of the foods you read about from around the world.
4. Color a paper plate with your Thanksgiving meal. Share with friends and discuss differences and similarities.
8th Grade Activities
1. Give students a week or more in which to document in detail the preparation of a meal at home or elsewhere. They can tackle more observation and analysis than 4th graders. Brainstorm things they should observe and questions for the cook in addition to the list in Step 4, above: special ingredients or equipment, gender roles, use of space, timing, comparison of daily meal with a holiday meal. Students should document food preparation, service, and clean-up. They might work in pairs, one to record movements, the other to interview the cook. Bonnie Sunstein's Mapping Space: A Meal in the Making offers students useful perspectives on their fieldwork. The Rubric for Observing Meal Preparation offers a checklist of the steps outlined on that webpage and can be printed, duplicated, and used for self-evaluation and scoring.
2. Students should draw detailed maps to scale of the space they observed, noting key equipment and traffic patterns. See Mapping Space: A Meal in the Making, by Bonnie Sunstein.
3. As a class, share results. Discuss the traditional elements of food preparation. What have cooks learned traditionally by word of mouth, observation, and imitation? What have they learned from popular culture media such as magazines or TV shows? What have they learned academically in cooking school? What variations have they made on recipes? What unwritten rules govern food preparation, mealtime, clean-up? What are gender and age group roles? What if anything seems traditional to Louisiana about this meal? To your region of the state? Why?
4. Work with students to determine how to present fieldwork findings. They can make an oral presentation with their meal-making maps as visuals, produce a video, invite a cook to class, compile a project portfolio, or create a class exhibit. Use the Rubric for Observing Meal Preparation to evaluate the projects and assign points.
8th Grade Explorations and Extensions
1. Conduct detailed fieldwork documenting a special meal such as Thanksgiving or a family celebration.
2. Interview Louisiana cooks who are well known in your community or who you identify in their fieldwork. Ask about how and when they learned to cook, recipes, ingredients. Do they fish or trap game? Where do they shop? What tricks of the trade will they share, and which are considered a secret?
3. Collect and compare recipe variations collected in fieldwork for a single dish or compare recipes for Louisiana specialties in several regional cookbooks. Use Venn Diagrams or other means to analyze commonalities and variations.
4. Read one of the Louisiana Folklife Articles listed in Technology Options above or magazine articles or cookbooks about regional foodways of the state and summarize it for your foodways portfolio or other final product. Teachers, if you want students to use these adult-oriented resorces and they are written above their reading level, use Adaptation Strategies to build lessons around them.
5. Document a produce stand or a farmer's market, interviewing vendors and customers, mapping traffic patterns, identifying produce, noting produce arrangement, contrasting variations on how a single item is displayed.
6. Document a community food event such as a pancake supper, crawfish boil, or potluck using photography or audio or video recording. Or catalog special festival foods. Write a short essay or poem about what these events "say" about your community or region.