Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Textbooks and Cookbooks Working Together {5 Days of Teaching Creatively}


Although I generally manage to prepare a meal or two for the family each day, I am not really very enthusiastic about cooking. Also, I'm not very good at meal planning. I keep trying to do better, but it's not something I enjoy. So how do I bring school into the kitchen without passing along my lazy attitudes about cooking?

If it was up to me, we would probably eat the same six meals over and over.  The ones I know how to cook and don't take a lot of effort on my part. (If I'm completely honest, my ideal would be to have a short order cook on staff so that I never had to cook at all if I chose not to!) But since that would be boring, I need new ideas. Believe it or not, sometimes my inspiration to try a new recipe - or to get the kids to try something new - comes from a History textbook.

When we study another country and its people and culture, or even the history and geography of North America, we find that certain foods and dishes are associated with times and places, and why. It's easy to find information on what foods and dishes are associated with a country or region, and if I can find a recipe (and affordable ingredients), we are willing to give it a try. In a previous Blog Hop, I posted the following about "Tasting History":

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. 
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.

Additions to our menus inspired by World History include these and many other ideas:
-Italy provided the perfect excuse to enjoy fettucine alfredo and stuffed eggs (already family favorites!).  We also had salad and tomato herb bread.
-Greece forced us out of our comfort zone a bit and we tried a Chicken and Feta Pie.  I wasn't very optimistic that the kids would like it, but it was very well-received, and has been requested since!
-I found a recipe subtitled Armenian Pizza when we studied the countries of the former USSR, and we tried it. It was almost like Sloppy Joes on a crisp pita crust. We liked it and decided it would make a really good appetizer. Another recipe from that study that was delicious was Georgian style Cheese Bread, a shortcut recipe using frozen bread dough. That was easy and delicious.
This year we've focused on American history, and that has provided some great food ideas as well. Berry Cornbread inspired by studies of Native Americans was our lunch one day; despite the kids' claim that they don't like tea, they had little objection to having a colonial tea party;
 we had a southern plantation style dinner one night; when we discussed the California Gold Rush it was inevitable that we would eat Ghirardelli chocolate;
we made Hamentaschen after learning about the Eastern European Jews who came to the US in the late 1800s and early 1900s (and conveniently, Purim was on the calendar too); and when we studied San Francisco and building of the Golden Gate Bridge... you guessed it, there's the Ghirardelli again! Along with Sourdough bread.
The latest food inspired by history studies appeared at our 1930s Family Game Night. Since Toll House Cookies were invented during the 1930s, we had homemade chocolate chip cookies; and we had a sampling of chocolate candies that were introduced in the 1930s.

Next up will be a Route 66 Diner dinner later this week. Stay tuned!

We've even managed to make fun use of food in science as well. Oreos provided a delicious visual edible to demonstrate the phases of the moon.
A few years ago when studying geology, we made an ice cream volcano that was very memorable.

Suggested Resources:

When studying world history or geography, I used books such as Holidays of the World Cookbook for Students and Eat Your Way Around the World to find ideas.  Both have plenty of recipes - most of them quite simple - and it's simple to incorporate a little *flavor* from another part of the world by baking some bread to serve with our dinner.
Holidays of the World Cookbook for Students: Updated and Revised    
  • Ancient Egyptians and their NeighborsProjects about Colonial Life by Marian Broida
  • The American Revolution for KidsThe Civil War for KidsLewis and Clark for Kids, by Janis Herbert
What does schooling the kitchen look like in your homeschool? Please leave a comment, and if you don't already follow my blog, I would love for you to do that too.  And head back to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to find out more about the 5 Days of Teaching Creatively Blog Hop! Today we are all sharing about Schooling in the Kitchen.  Follow the links below to see what others have to say.

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