Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tasting History

I've found that even my picky eaters have been willing to at least try a food if it's something we can relate to history or social studies.  One of the things we try to do when studying history is to get an idea of what life was like for the "everyday" people of that time and place.  When studying another country and its people and culture, we often find out that certain foods and dishes are associated with it, and why.

A side benefit I've found is that this helps me with meal planning! Generally, I don't like cooking that much, and I'm not very good about meal planning.  However, when the kids and I get together and choose recipes inspired by our history studies, it helps me to plan ahead and mix things up a little.  Occasionally we try something that everyone likes well enough that the family requests it be added to the menu plans.  I also get help in the kitchen! Score!!!! ;-)

Many books and resources that tell about daily life in times past include some information about what the staple foods were and what was likely to be eaten most often.  Many of these books that are geared towards children have some simplified recipes or suggestions.
Ancient Egyptians and Their Neighbors: An Activity Guide
Activity guides such as Ancient Egyptians and their Neighbors are great for finding recipes and many other hands-on ideas.  This one tells how to make Overnight Fig Cakes (ancient Egypt), lentil soup and hummus (ancient Hittites), and suggests a way to enjoy an Assyrian style feast.

Of course you don't always have to go with the "authentic" food experiences either.  Sometimes it's just fun to do something like construct Stonehenge from rice krispie squares!

Another series of activity guides that includes food ideas are the ones from Janis Herbert.

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These three that focus on American history showed us how to make Liberty Tea Punch to enjoy as we learned about the colonists boycotting their favorite beverage and making tea from herbs and berries instead; how to make hardtack like the soldiers of the Civil War would have enjoyed depended on; and how to make a Great Plains stew such as the one described in the journals of Lewis & Clark.

In studying the history of other countries, it's easy to find information on what foods and dishes are associated with that country, and enjoying a taste of another culture might spark interest.  This past year we studied Europe and the countries of the former USSR, and enjoyed foods like: Chicken Paprika with Dumplings (Hungary); Bavarian Apple Cake; Sicilian Cake; Queso Frito (deep fried cheese sticks - Spain); Khachapuri (cheese bread - Georgia); Armenian Pizza; and Beef Stroganoff (Russia).  Stroganoff is a favorite for my kids already, and now they know how it got its name.  It is named for a Count Stroganov who popularized the dish by serving it frequently at his dinner parties.  Some of the new recipes we try, like this Greek Feta and Chicken Pie, are liked well enough by the family that they become part of our regular meal rotation.

Georgian cheese bread
Armenian Pizza
Sicilian Cake

Another interesting idea is to follow a particular food through history, such as bread or fried bread.  Bread has been a staple food since the earliest times, but the way it is prepared and eaten has changed and is different depending on the culture.  My favorite food to follow is chocolate!  Not just its first use by the Aztecs, but its introduction into Europe as a luxury beverage, and how different countries became known for their signature chocolates - eat a Swiss Toblerone bar! Then we learned how Ghirardelli opened a family business during the San Francisco gold rush, and that is why Ghiradelli chocolates are wrapped in gold foil; and because we are relatively near to Hershey PA, we have also learned how Milton Hershey built his business by perfecting a method of making milk chocolate.

Suggested resources (all of which I found at my local library):
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Lynn @ TDHGP said...

Ooh, yummy! I'd like your recipe for the Greek Feta and Chicken Pie. I'm always looking for something new to try out on my family.

We like to "taste" some of the things we study in history too. Our favorite was probably the hardtack that we made when we studied Christopher Columbus. It was GROSS but fun to say we ate it.

Jennifer said...

The rice crispy Stonehenge looks fun, and your other food looks delicious. I'm not good about meal planning either. It is nice to be able to tie into the lessons in such a hands on way.

Stefanie said...

We made stonehenge out of brownies during our winter joke stint. We just finished Russia and were going to create some Russian dishes but then she had to go and break her ankle and can't cook. lol

Kym said...

I will make a note to share some of the recipes on the blog. Since I don't consider myself a good cook, it doesn't usually occur to me to share my recipes!

and making/eating hardtack is definitely more for the experience than for the taste. Blah. LOL

Stef - maybe she can read the recipe out loud to you while you cook? ;-) I bet she can still eat, even with the broken foot.

Unknown said...

This looks like a lot of fun. I never have time to do things like this, but maybe now that my two oldest are cooking they could make it happen! What great ideas.


Mary said...

Awesome!! I love those books - we recently used the Lewis and Clark book in preparation for our History Fair.

The photos made me hungry!!!

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