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Study Unit IV The State of Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor  
Study Unit V Oral Traditions--Swapping Stories  
Study Unit VI Louisiana's Musical Landscape  
Study Unit VII Material Culture-The Stuff of Life  
Study Unit VIII The Worlds of Work and Play  
Study Unit IX The Seasonal Round and Life Cycles  
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Unit VII Outline

Introduction - Material Culture: The Stuff of Life

Lesson 1: Reading Artifacts

Lesson 2: Teaching and Learning Through Objects

Lesson 3: Introducing Louisiana Foodways

Lesson 4: Family Foodways (this page)

Lesson 5: Louisiana Regional Foodways

Lesson 6: Louisiana Crafts and Domestic Arts

Unit VII Resources





Unit VII Material Culture: The Stuff of Life

Lesson 4 Family Foodways


When my father's bourré club came over to play cards, my mother always served them matzoh balls.

--Carolyn Masur, Assumption and Ouachita Parishes
from "Jewish Folklore in Northeast Louisiana"

Grade Levels


Curriculum Areas

English Language Arts, Social Studies


Purpose of Lesson

Students discover, document, and share what they know of family foodways related to special occasions. They explore the context in which food traditions are created and adapted in their families and communities. Studying foodways increases students' understanding of and respect for the commonalities and differences among themselves and their peers.


Lesson Objectives/Louisiana Content Standards Benchmarks, and Foundation Skills

1. Students examine their family and community traditional foodways associated with special occasions.

ELA-4-E5 Speaking and listening for a variety of audiences (e.g., classroom, real-life, workplace) and purposes (e.g., awareness, concentration, enjoyment, information, problem solving). (1, 2, 4, 5)

ELA-5-E3 Locating, gathering, and selecting information using graphic organizers, simple outlining, note taking, and summarizing to produce texts and graphics. (1, 3, 4)

H-1D-M1 Describing the contributions of people, events, movements, and ideas that have been significant in the history of Louisiana.

2. Students interview family members and other community members to collect recipes and the context or "story" of the recipes.

ELA-2-M4 Using narration, description, exposition, and persuasion to develop various modes of writing (e.g., notes, stories, poems, letters, essays, logs). (1, 4)

ELA-4-E7 Participating in a variety of roles in group discussions (e.g., active listener, contributor, discussion leader). (1, 4, 5)

ELA-5-M3 Locating, gathering, and selecting information using graphic organizers, outlining, note taking, summarizing, interviewing, and surveying to produce documented texts and graphics. (1, 3, 4)

ELA-7-M4 Distinguishing fact from opinion and probability, skimming and scanning for facts, determining cause and effect, inductive and deductive reasoning, generating inquiry, and making connections with real-life situations across texts. (1, 2, 4, 5)

3. Students research traditional Louisiana foodways, including stories, songs, articles, and videos about food.

ELA-4-E7 Participating in a variety of roles in group discussions (e.g., active listener, contributor, discussion leader). (1, 4, 5)

ELA-5-M3 Locating, gathering, and selecting information using graphic organizers, outlining, note taking, summarizing, interviewing, and surveying to produce documented texts and graphics. (1, 3, 4)

ELA-6-M2 Identifying, comparing, and responding to a variety of classic and contemporary literature from many genres (e.g., folktales, legends, myths, biography, autobiography, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, novels, drama). (1, 2, 4, 5)

4. Students organize and publish data.

ELA-2-M1 Writing a composition that clearly implies a central idea with supporting details in a logical, sequential order, (1, 4)

ELA-2-M4 Using narration, description, exposition, and persuasion to develop various modes of writing (e.g., notes, stories, poems, letters, essays, logs). (1, 4)

ELA-2-M6 Writing as a response to texts and life experiences (e.g., letters, journals, lists). (1, 2, 4)

ELA-5-M4 Using available technology to produce, revise, and publish a variety of works. (1, 3, 4)


Time Required

2-5 class periods



Index cards, colored pencils, drawing paper. 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.


Technology Connections

Internet Resources

Louisiana Folklife Articles

All-Day Singing and Dinner on the Ground

Customs, Traditions, and Folklore of a Rural, Southern Italian-American Community

From Custom to Coffee Cake: The Commodification of the Louisiana King Cake

From Evangeline Hot Sauce to Cajun Ice: Signs of Ethnicity in South Louisiana

Folklife in the Florida Parishes of Louisiana

Louisiana Cooking: A Way of Life

Louisiana Foodways in Ernest Gaines's A Lesson Before Dying

Louisiana's Food Traditions: An Insider's Guide

The Piney Woods from Folklife in the Florida Parishes

Adaptation Strategies

History of Utensils

John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip

Student Worksheets

Recipe Interview Worksheet

Bingo Worksheet

Folklife Bingo

Assessment Tools

Research Self-Checklist


Evaluation Tools/Opportunities


1. Foodways bingo cards
2. Oral responses ("I liked the way . . ." and "That reminds me of . . . ."
3. Research Self-Checklist - used by students


1. Research Self-Checklist - scored by teacher


1. Special occasion food webs or outlines
2. Sensory impression graphics
3. Family recipe booklets or portfolios
4. Multimedia recipe booklets
5. Foodway traditions booklets or portfolios
6. Foodways time capsules
7. Foodways bingo cards
8. Class list of bingo items
9. Holiday dish stories
10. Lists of contemporary utensils


Background Information for the Teacher

A beginning discussion of the traditions preserved in special holiday meals provides students an opportunity to document and share family and community history and culture. Meals and food preparation relative to the seasons are important events that occur in the lifetime of a family and community. South Louisiana and New Orleans are particularly famous for their unique cuisines, influenced by waves of immigration over 300 years. North Louisiana cuisine is more closely related to that of the non-coastal American South but features unique foodways as well. By starting with families' foods for special occasions, students will identify significant regional and family foodways variations. This lesson relates to Unit IV Lesson 1 and Unit IV Lesson 2 and Unit IX Part 1 Lesson 1.


To Prepare

Think of occasions such as celebrations or holidays that you mark with food and share stories about these foods and their preparation with students. Accumulate pictures, articles, and cookbooks on Louisiana's regional foodways (see Unit VII Resources). Review the Louisiana Folklife Articles listed in Technology Connections above. Print out and bookmark those you plan to use. Print and duplicate the Research Self-Checklist and explain to students that they will use it as a guide to doing high-quality research. They will use it as a personal checklist while conducting their research, then you will use it as a summative measure to check and grade their research and presentations. If using Venn diagrams, Venn Diagram shows how to use them for comparisons.


4th and 8th Grade Activities

1. Tell students about a special occasion that you mark with food. Brainstorm special occasions that their families celebrate. Some of these include birthdays, Christmas, Easter, baptism or christening, Hanukkah, Passover, retirement, graduation, Halloween, weddings, funerals, Mardi Gras, Sunday dinner, July 4. You or a student should record these occasions in columns on chart paper or the board. Then ask students to come up and write underneath the occasions the foods that they associate with each. Allow for student discussion to compare and contrast the foods associated with special occasions. Homework is to draw or bring in a picture from a magazine or family photo depicting a scene from a particular special occasion.

Technology Option: Use a mind mapping software to record the brainstorming, connecting the special foods to each special occasion. Some foods could possibly be connected to two or more occasions. The information can then be arranged in either semantic web or outline formats.

2. Display drawings and pictures that students bring in. Make index cards for each special occasion then ask students to take an index card at random and create a graphic organization of sensory impressions or details associated with that occasion. Examples include food, decorations, songs, clothes, dance, games, people, sounds, smells, sights, and so on. Students may share results individually or in small groups. A mind mapping software could be used for this step also, or students may make drawings or paintings. To help students relate new information to their background knowledge, ask the listeners to respond orally to the sharing by beginning with, "I liked the way . . . ." and "That reminds me of . . . " Create a classroom exhibit of webs, pictures, recipes, foods, and enactments of songs, dances, or games associated with celebrations.

3. Student assignment is to record the recipe for one or more food dishes by interviewing the preparer of that dish. See Unit II for interview surveys and permission forms so that students can publish their findings. Students may use the Recipe Interview Worksheet or devise their own questions. The class may compile collected interviews and recipes in personal booklets or portfolios that include photographs or drawings of food, the recipe, and a story about the recipe, preparer, or special occasion. Students' work may be consolidated in a collective booklet they title to reflect their community.

Technology Option: Students may choose to create a multimedia slide show to present their recipes, using software. Photos and/or graphics of the preparers and foods can be inserted, along with the recipes, stories, and so on. Download graphics of food items to add.

4. Choose one of the foodways traditions below to research further and add results to class booklets or individual portfolios:

Foodways traditions based on day of the week (red beans and rice on Monday, fish on Friday, meatloaf on Wednesday, and so on)

Foods eaten when sick

Gardening and harvesting traditions in family or community gardens

Pickling, canning, or preserving

Syrup making

Outdoor grilling

Filé making (ground sassafras)

Menu planning

Etiquette, manners of different generations

Condiments special to Louisiana

Table setting, including family members' places at the table

Remind students to complete their Research Self-Checklists and turn them in with their research reports. You will use them as a summative evaluation tool by checking the items in the Teacher column.


4th and 8th Grade Explorations and Extensions

1. As a class, create a time capsule of caps, containers, and packaging labels from favorite foods. Use a shoe box or plastic container. Favorite recipes may be included as well as a descriptive essay about favorite foods at different periods in your life to the present. This time capsule provides ready artifacts for a future generation of family members or could be a gift to a family member.

2. Recreate a recipe emphasizing learning to measure, using fractions, and following directions. Demonstrate a recipe while another student records it on video. Share the video in conjunction with a food tasting. Or, pretend you must prepare the recipe for 200 people for a local festival. Convert the measures for each ingredient to make 200 servings. Speculate whether the cooking time will be sufficient for the larger recipe, taking into consideration whether the larger recipe will be cooked in one container, several, or whether the basic recipe will be cooked many times to make sufficient servings.

3. Create a foodways bingo game using a blank Bingo Worksheet. Choose categories for each column, such as holiday foods, sweets, herbs, food remedies or beliefs, wild game or meat, seafood, Louisiana specialties, and so on. If you want some hints, use Folkife Bingo in Word to get ideas and make your own. Then play Foodways Bingo with classmates and with adults and compare results. Play by asking people for examples to fill in each blank. Put their initials in the box. You might limit answers to one person per box. Vary the game by finding someone who has consumed the food. The first to fill a card wins. Make a class master list of examples. For suggestions, see the Microsoft Word version of Bingo.

4. Visit a local butcher, seafood market, or produce stand to interview the owner and learn about acquiring and marketing foods. (See Unit VIII Lesson 1 and Lesson 2 for related lessons on occupational folklife.)

5. Imagine you are a special holiday dish. Describe the following: What container are you put in? What are your ingredients? Where did those ingredients come from? Who bought, grew, or obtained them? Who prepared you? How? Where are you placed on the table? How are you served? Students may share writing activities and peer editing on computers or in notebooks. Print and photocopy final stories to share.

6. From the Laura Ingalls' Wilder Little House on the Prairie series to the latest Harry Potter adventure, foods and foodways often appear in literature. For an example, review Louisiana Foodways in Ernest Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying to see how one scholar analyzed foodways in a Louisiana novel. Teachers, if this is written above your students' reading ability, refer to Adaptation Strategies for ways to adjust and modify it to levels students can understand. While reading literature or folktales throughout the year, look for references to foods. Keep a journal of literary foodways, noting dishes and foods mentioned, crops, celebrations involving food. Compare foodways of at least one story or novel with your own food traditions by using Venn Diagrams or writing a short essay.

7. Identify songs about Louisiana food, southern food, or any food and have a classroom concert. Ask the school music specialist for help. Find some traditional music featuring food such as "Shortenin' Bread" in the John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip. Challenge yourself to create a song about your favorite food by using words from the recipe and words that describe how it tastes, how it makes you feel, and so on, and setting them to a familiar tune. See Unit VI Resources for Louisiana music resources.

8. Study the History of Utensils website. Brainstorm a list of utensils used in food preparation and consumption today. Identify any utensils that remain in use today. If desired, use a Venn Diagram.


Unit VII Resources

Unit VII Outline


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