Cooking History – Culinary Arts Food History Lesson Ideas
“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” James Beard
Our students live in a world where hopefully food is readily available. This is the result of technology and the evolution of food production. Unfortunately, much of the food available to us has little to no nutritional value.
It is hard for students to imagine a world where they would have to go in search of their next meal.
The earliest man hunted and gathered. Foraging for food in the environment where they lived. It would have been a lot harder to live in a harsh climate!
5 Ideas for Teaching Food History
1- There were no tomatoes in Italy?! Grasping the concept that the food that existed in a region, stayed in that region until the age of Exploration in the 1500s can be a tough task. People ate the food that was available to them in their surroundings.
You lived near the coast? You ate fish and other seafood. You lived in a tropical location? You ate the fruits and veggies that grew in that area and made the most of it. It wasn’t until Columbus and other explorers began their “conquest” of new lands that food items were shared among the continents. Imagine a European’s first taste of cacao. Or an Aztec’s first bite of pork.
- the climate and what was historically available
- immigration and the nationalities influences
2- Growth of Agriculture- about 10,000 years ago the concept of farming emerged and those that figured it out didn’t have to continue traveling in search of food. The history of agriculture is a really interesting topic and includes new technology.
3- History of the Food Service Industry. Did you know that some of the first food service establishments were street vendors in China? Around the 1100s, the possibility of creating a business by making food for others began. French communities were the first to create “restaurants” meaning “to restore oneself” in the 1600s and the idea spread throughout the world!
4- Modern food– We have to talk about fast food and modern foods when discussing the history of food. With the invention of the automobile came the fast food restaurant! Families were on the go more and with 2 adults in most households working, quick and easy food became popular.
5- What’s Next? Asking students to research food trends and agriculture innovations is a great way to get them thinking about what’s next in the history of food. Farm-to-table movements are swinging the pendulum away from the quick and easy meal and emphasizing whole, local foods. Food sustainability is another important topic for the future of food and food production that students can explore. Want to read more about food sustainability? Here is our blog post all about the topic.
Other Food History Websites to Have Students Complete a WebQuest
The Smithsonian Institute’s Food History page: https://americanhistory.si.edu/topics/food-history
The Food Timeline – https://www.foodtimeline.org/ – This website is a great resource for researching the history of various foods. It includes timelines, recipes, and information on food in different cultures.