Food is Cultural

Food is Cultural

Critical Thinking Activity

Do you already know what foods and meals are considered “traditional” in the region of the U.S. where you live? Just because you grew up eating certain foods doesn’t necessarily mean that those foods reflect what is customary for other people in your region to eat. And just because something is considered a regional specialty doesn’t mean that your family eats it! If you have traveled around the United States, you may have sampled specialties from different regions. Now that you are traveling to a new country, you probably want to identify and taste some specialties from that part of the world as well as share some specialties from your own region with your host family!

The objective of this activity is to help you think about culture as it relates to food. By taking a closer look at what your family eats, you can decide if your typical meals are traditional of your region, of your family, or both! This will help you have a cultural discussion about food while staying with your host family. This activity will also help you identify what kinds of regional specialties you might want to try once you are on your Xperitas trip! 

Step 1: First, make a list of the top 6 meals or dishes that your family eats most often:

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Step 2: Take a look at the lists below of dishes that could be considered regional specialties around the United States.

  • New England: Chowder, baked beans, popovers, pot roast, shellfish, Boston cream pie, lobster rolls, cranberries

  • Mid-Atlantic: Waldorf salad, strip steak, eggs benedict, cheese steak sandwiches, cheesecake, crab cakes

  • Midwest: Wild rice, tater tot hot dish, gooey butter cake, fish fry, Kansas City BBQ, morels, lefse, apples

  • South: Crawfish, cornbread, pecan pie, baby back ribs, biscuits and gravy, sweet potato pie, okra, fried green tomatoes, jambalaya

  • Northwest: Crab, California mussels, oysters, sourdough bread, Pacific cod/halibut/Pollock/salmon, cherries

  • Southwest: Fajitas, quesadillas, enchiladas, cornbread, corn on the cob, potato salad, Cobb salad, clams

Are any of these dishes included in your list above, or do you recognize them?

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If so, are they things you eat on special occasions? Or are they stereotypes of your region and not actually eaten regularly by your family or others you know? 

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Now take a look at this list of national specialties and ask yourself the same questions:

U.S.A.: Meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, hamburgers, peanut butter sandwiches, s’mores, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, hot-dogs, Thanksgiving dinner (turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, etc.)

Do you eat these meals at home? Do you recognize them?

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Are they stereotypes of “American food” and not actually regularly eaten by your family or others you know?

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Can you name a few more dishes that might be categorized as regional or even national specialties?

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Do some of your own research and try to explain why these dishes might be described as important to your region:

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Are any of these dishes (either the ones listed above or the ones that you listed) dishes that you might be able to cook for your host family? Why or why not?

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Can you bring the ingredients with you or buy them in the destination?

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Don’t forget that measuring systems might be different! View our conversion charts on the attached PDF.

Step 4: Now think about the type of foods you will eat while you are on your Xperitas trip. Have you already studied the regional specialties of the place you will be visiting? What are they?

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Find a recipe for a dish that you might eat while abroad and make it for your own family before you go.

What kinds of ingredients might be different that those commonly used by your family?

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Download Activity PDF