Writing about food and culture | High school writing projects

Do you have a teen gourmet or budding chef in the house? Have any of your kids traveled overseas? These writing activities invite them to explore recipes, describe travel experiences with food, or write a restaurant review.

High schoolers will have fun writing about food and culture as they American recipes, describe travel/food experiences or write a restaurant review.

Encourage your high schoolers to explore their culinary passion or hobby with one of these projects that encourages writing about food and culture. 

This article contains affiliate links for books we think your family will enjoy.

Writing Project: American As Apple Pie

A well-rounded study of a geographic region or period of history can include maps, literature, art—even food! This activity focuses specifically on American cookery, helping you learn about foods of the past, regional dishes, or even your own family’s everyday eating habits.

Search recipe files, family cookbooks, specialty cookbooks, and online sources to find some recipes that are uniquely American. Your collection should include at least 10 recipes that relate to a single topic or theme.

If possible, choose a theme that ties into your current history or geography studies. Here are several possibilities:

  • Colonial American or frontier recipes
  • First Ladies’ recipes (from one First Lady or several)
  • Regional or cultural recipes (choose one, such as New England, the South, or soul food)
  • Ethnic foods introduced by immigrants (choose one, such as Scandinavian, German, or Italian)
  • Contemporary cookery (choose one theme, such as salads, cookies, or breakfast foods)

Once you’ve chosen your topic and gathered your recipes, prepare three of them. Then, evaluate each one by asking yourself some questions, such as: Was this recipe easy to prepare? How did the final dish look, smell, and taste? What did your family think of it? Would you make it again? Why or why not?

Finally, make a booklet of your 10 recipes, designing or decorating it to match your theme.

Writing Project: A Taste of Travel

Have you ever eaten haggis or blood pudding? How about fried locusts or Vegemite? These foods may sound weird to us, but in other parts of the world, someone else is probably gobbling them down right now! If you’re up for the challenge, this writing project invites you to take a look at unusual foods.

My children are now grown, but when they were teens, they spent many summers on overseas missions trips. Their travels gave them the opportunity to try some strange local foods they wouldn’t normally eat here in the States.

Our middle daughter went to Peru when she was 15. One evening, her team was introduced to cuy chactado, or fried guinea pig. It sounds nasty, doesn’t it? But she actually loved the chicken-like meat. Do you want to see a picture of cuy chactado? Click here if you’re brave.

When our son was 16, he spent a summer in Botswana. In Africa, people eat dried mopane worms as a snack. He wanted to experience all sorts of new things while in his host country, so yes—he really did eat a caterpillar. (I don’t think I could be that brave. But who knows?) You can see a picture here, but don’t click if you think it will gross you out!

Have you ever traveled internationally? Perhaps you’ve been on a missions trip overseas, visited grandparents or other family, or vacationed in a foreign country. Write about your culinary experiences during your travels, choosing one or more of the following topics:

Describe the weirdest food you ate. How did it look and taste? What was its texture like? What did you think of it? Would you eat it again?

What was your favorite new food to try? Describe it.

Did you experience any unusual mealtime customs or expectations? How does this culture approach food? Explain how different it is from the way most Americans eat.

Writing Project: Restaurant Review

Next time you go out for a meal with your family—whether to a fast-food place, local diner, or a nice sit-down restaurant, write a review about your experience.

The gourmet burgers might be fantastic, but the service is slow. Or the food isn’t great, but there’s a breathtaking view. Because a restaurant review is about more than just food, be prepared to take in the whole dining experience. Include details about atmosphere, service, and food so you can give an accurate review. Readers appreciate knowing both the pros and cons. You’ll probably find it helpful to take notes to help you recall your meal.

Write descriptively. Vague words like good, delicious, or bad don’t communicate a food’s characteristics. Instead, explain how a food tastes by using specific words to describe appearance, aroma, flavors, and textures.

Vague: For dessert, I had their delicious Molten Lava Cake and ice cream. It was a perfect way to end the meal.

Descriptive: Topped with a generous scoop of homemade vanilla-bean ice cream, the rich Molten Lava Cake was drenched in a warm, fudgy sauce. What a sweet way to end the meal!

Make your review personal. Be real! Then, with a parent’s permission, publish your review on a site like Yelp or Urban Spoon.

By Kim Kautzer

Photos: liquene (Yummy), Whitney (apple pie) and Joshin Yamada (street vendor), courtesy of Creative Commons
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