The food Americans eat has changed substantially over the course of history. Many of the most popular foods today would have been completely unknown to our ancestors on the Western frontier. During the cattle drive era in the latter part of the 19th century, ranchers and cowboys had limited menus and primitive food preparation facilities available to them. On the trail during a cattle drive, the cook's chuck wagon contained all of the provisions and equipment needed for feeding the hungry trail outfit.
In this lesson, students will examine how popular foods have changed over the course of American history. Through an online exploration of an 1860s Texas ranch kitchen, students will develop an understanding of the types of food and food preparation equipment used during the cattle drive era. After developing an understanding of how chuckwagons were used on trail drives, students will be challenged to stock a virtual chuckwagon with period-appropriate food and equipment. As a culminating activity, students will design and create menus for an authentic, cowboy-themed restaurant.
This lesson can be used as a pre- or post- viewing activity for the PBS series TEXAS RANCH HOUSE, or as an independent lesson on the settling of the American West. A basic knowledge of 19th century US history and a familiarity with the cattle drive era is required.
Grade Level: 5-8
Time Allotment: Three to four 45-minute class periods (excluding homework time for Culminating Activity)
Subject Matter: US History, English/Language Arts
Students will be able to:
- Explain how leisure time activities have changed over the last 150 years, and specifically compare contemporary experiences with life on the 19th century American frontier;
- Discuss when today's most popular foods were introduced or invented;
- Describe the foods available on the Texas frontier in the 1860s;
- Explain methods of food preparation and preservation on the 19th century Texas frontier;
- Discuss the importance of chuck wagons on 19th century cattle drives;
- Stock a virtual chuck wagon with period-appropriate items;
- Create a period-appropriate menu for a cowboy-themed restaurant.
From the National Standards for History Grades 5-12, available online at http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/nchs/standards:
Historical Thinking Standard 2: The student thinks chronologically; therefore, the student is able to read historical narratives imaginatively, taking into account what the narrative reveals of the humanity of the individuals and groups involved--their probable values, outlook, motives, fears, strengths, and weaknesses. The student is also able to describe the past on its own terms, through the eyes and experiences of those who were there, as revealed through their literature, diaries, letters, debates, arts, artifacts, and the like. The student is also able to draw upon visual, literary, and musical sources to clarify, illustrate, or elaborate upon information presented in the historical narratives.
Historical Thinking Standard 4: The student conducts historical research; therefore, the student is able to formulate historical questions from encounters with historical documents, eyewitness accounts, letters, diaries, artifacts, photos, historical sites, art, architecture, and other records from the past.
Era 4, Standard 2E: The student understands the settling of the West. Therefore, the student is able to explain the lure of the West and the reality of life on the frontier, and analyze cultural interactions in the trans-Mississippi region.
From the English Language Arts Standards, available at the National Council of Teachers of English Web site at: http://www.ncte.org/about/over/standards/110846.htm:
Students will read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g. conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively for a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
For the Introductory Activity
The Food Timeline
This site, developed by a New Jersey reference librarian, provides an exhaustive timeline of food product and culinary history. The timeline featured on the site links to additional Web resources about food and food history.
For the Learning Activity
Texas Ranch House: Visit the Cooke Ranch
This site, part of the Web companion to the PBS series Texas Ranch House, provides an insider's look at the 1867 ranch in which the participants lived. The site offers 360-degree panoramic views of a variety of locations on the ranch. The site requires the Flash plug-in, available for free download from http://www.macromedia.com.
Diamond R Ranch: Chuckwagon
This site, part of an online exhibit from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, features an interactive chuck wagon, where students can learn more about the food and cooking implements used during cattle drives.
Texas Ranch House, Interactive History: Stock a Chuckwagon
This site, part of the web companion to the PBS series Texas Ranch House, provides users with the opportunity to stock a virtual chuck wagon with period-appropriate items. The site requires the Flash plug-in, available for free download from http://www.macromedia.com.
For the class:
Chalkboard or whiteboard
Computers with Internet Access
Food Item Timeline Answer Key (download here)
"Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch" Answer Key (download here)
Set of "Food Item" index cards:
Prior to class, label each of thirty index cards with one of the following items: pizza, potato chips, hot dog, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Hershey bar, French fries, hamburger, pretzel, Krispy Kreme donuts, Buffalo wings, submarine sandwich (adapt to hero or grinder or sub, depending on where you live), candy corn, ketchup, Dr. Pepper, Jolly Ranchers, tacos, Twizzlers, lollipops, cotton candy, Cheerios, Marshmallow Peeps, Pez, Gummi Bears, Kellogg's Corn Flakes, bagel, gingerbread, french toast, coffee, caramel.
For each student:
One "food item" card (described above)
Small piece of scotch tape
"Food, Glorious Food" organizer (download here)
"Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch" organizer (download here)
Pencil and paper
Prep for Teachers:
Prior to teaching the lesson, create the thirty "food item" index cards (described above) for use during the Introductory Activity. Divide your chalkboard or whiteboard into four sections or columns. The columns, from left to right, should read:
17th Century or Before (1601-1700 or earlier)
18th Century (1701-1800)
19th Century (1801-1900)
20th century (1901-2000)
Review all of the web sites used in the lesson to make certain that they are appropriate for your students. Bookmark the web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom, or upload them to an online bookmarking utility such as http://www.portaportal.com. If necessary, download the Flash plug-in, available for free download from http://www.macromedia.com, to each computer in your classroom
When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, web sites, or other multimedia elements.