A roundup of interesting bits on the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States:
Terrific interview with Ramona Peters, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer about what really happened on the “first” Thanksgiving.
Think Thanksgiving is all about pilgrims and turkey? Could have been salt pork and biscuits, as this post from the Smithsonian makes clear!
How Thanksgiving went from its regional roots to a national holiday in the nineteenth century.
Tired of only using the old Norman Rockwell Freedom from Want (the featured image) to illustrate the holiday? Try out Doris Lee’s painting Thanksgiving, from the Art Institute of Chicago. It’s a different style and set in a different time period from the Rockwell piece, which makes it good for comparisons.
A modern adaptation of a Wampanoag recipe for Autumn Sobaheg. (We haven’t tested this, but it looks both easy and delicious.)
Bonus link: adaptable lesson plan (aimed at middle school level, but there’s no reason older kids won’t enjoy it).
In my house, we have the traditional turkey, but make the sides with a “twist” that reflects our mixed ethnic heritages (for example, cranberry chutney instead of sauce). How do you and your students celebrate the holiday?
Use our databank of study questions in a polling service such as in Google Classroom to do quick mid-stream assessments.
There are many intersections of food and history. Previously, we speculated about the oldest dishes known to humanity. Today, let’s consider the dishes that are claimed by more than one culture. A recent article by NPR on the “hummus wars” does just that:
Palestinians don’t mind that Lebanon is proud of its hummus, or that Egypt makes hummus as well. This is a dish that brings Arabs together. But this same dish that unites Arabs doesn’t always have the same effect between Palestinians and Israel.
While the article analyzes the history, culture, and politics of hummus in the Middle East (which is quite a lot to be getting on with!) you can expand that discussion to the United States. While the hummus wars are not fought so fiercely here, Americans adopt and adapt foods in ways that purists might find upsetting. Did you know that as of 2015, 20 percent of American households had hummus? And they eat it mixed with flavors from other continents (jalapeños, anyone?) as well as the traditional blends.
Such “fusion” foods occur frequently in America — think of the non-traditional California sushi roll, which is an authentically Japanese response to local ingredients.
Take your students on a culinary field trip through history! Start with the Internet Project: Columbian Exchange in WorldView Software’s American History I or World History A, which takes students on a curated tour of the processes put in motion by the contact between “old” and “new” worlds, and ends with making a feast. Experiment with your own fusions of tastes and ingredients, or look for dishes that multiple cultures claim and explore the variations.
Use an Art gallery image to introduce a lesson or unit by discussing the image’s content, context, artist, and audience.
At the intersection of food and history, prepare your students to use the tools of geography, archaeology, and chemistry to find out what people ate long ago. And because it’s a fun scaffolding exercise: ask them what they think that diet was; it may be different than they assume!
Fans of the caveman-esque will extol the virtues of eating meat, but as this History.com article notes:
But critics claim that the Paleo diet dramatically oversimplifies what prehistoric man ate. While the Paleo diet emphasizes meat and fish, it’s not clear that proteins formed the majority of actual prehistoric diets. As with our modern eating habits, diets in the Paleolithic era would have varied wildly according to location.
For a longer examination of what prehistoric people ate, “Stone Soup,” by Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker has much more detail. In other words, then as now people ate what was readily available in their environment. (Although Kolbert points out that occasionally what was available were other humans. And no, the paleo diet does not include that.) And that meant that what people ate mostly were plants. True, plants before large-scale agriculture. But pace paleo dieters, agriculture itself has been around long enough to have an evolutionary impact on humans, for which many of us can thank our ability to enjoy dairy products.
Moving forward in time, it is easier to find evidence from ancient societies. From Harappa, we find the world’s oldest curry — a dish that is still familiar to the millions of people who eat it today.
Archaeologists Arunima Kashyap and Steve Webber of Vancouver’s Washington State University used the method of starch analysis to trace the world’s first-known or “oldest” proto-curry of aubergine, ginger and turmeric from the pot shard of a bulbous handi (pot).
(Note: aubergine = eggplant) The (easy) recipe is in the article, which is part of a series on Indian food. The original curry would have looked something like this, right down to the clay bowl:
Imagine eating a dish whose recipe is thousands of years old! And you can do that with many cultures around the world. For an example from North America, check out the recipes in the Three Sisters Cookbook from the Oneida Indian Nation. The “three sisters” in the title refer to corn, squash, and beans:
Modern day agriculturists know it as the genius of the Indians, who interplanted pole beans and squash with corn, using the strength of the sturdy corn stalks to support the twining beans and the shade of the spreading squash vines to trap moisture for the growing crop.
Take your students on a culinary field trip through history! Start with the Internet Project: Columbian Exchange in WorldView Software’s American History I or World History A, which takes students on a curated tour of the processes put in motion by the contact between “old” and “new” worlds, and ends with making a feast. Use the links in the project, from this post, or find ones from different areas — Oceania, anyone? — and make something tasty.
Graphical questions test students’ ability to analyze and interpret data visualizations in maps, graphs, charts, and tables.