Lesson Plan: Recipes to Remember; a Family Recipe Memoir Book

Written By: Melinda Crimmins
Grade Level: High School Language Arts , Social Studies, adaptable to all ages.

Time Allotment

Unit, five to six 50 minute class periods


In this lesson, students select favorite family recipes, research the history of its ingredients, interview family members and write family memoirs, then compile the data in a family recipe and memoir book.

Supplemental Material
Download Lesson Plan
Family Recipe Book Requirements
Graphic Organizer Traditions
Food Quotes
Family Tradition Essay
Interview Questions

Subject Matter

Family, Culture, Tradition

Learning Objectives

  • Students learn about history and culture by studying a particular food or recipe that is important to their family.
  • Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity.
  • Gain an understanding of the many roles that food plays in people's lives
  • Learn about different cultures and groups through food
  • Use a range of research and presentation skills

Media Components - Video/Web

The Meaning of Food | PBS

Video Clip : Food Memories; Minnesota State Fair

Video Clip: Behind the Recipe; Angel Food Pie

Video Clip: Behind the Recipe; Southern Macaroni Pie

Food For The Ancestors - PBS: Public Broadcasting Service

Lesson Plan: Students Share Global Holiday Traditions


  • printer paper
  • Pictures of relatives
  • Family Recipes
  • Paper
  • Binding machine and ½ “ binding combs
  • Clear report covers
  • Scanner

Introductory Activities

  1. Brainstorming/Webbing. Have students think of celebrations and holidays that have food associated with them. Write the celebrations as well as the food on the board in the form of a list or a web. Have them also name holidays from other cultures if they know of any, if not give them examples. (some ideas--Passover, Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah, Chinese New Year, Hana Matsuri, Powwows, Cambodian New Year, TET, Birthdays, Cinco de Mayo, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Day of the Dead, Halloween, Easter, Valentines, Korean Children's Day, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Mardi Gras, etc.)
  2. After discussing their responses, explain to students that there are many types of foods associated with different cultural and ethnic groups, traditions and celebrations that feature foods, and different rules about how and when people eat. Foods and food rituals help us learn about cultures and groups.
  3. Show students a clip from THE MEANING OF FOOD. You can choose from among many segments. For a complete listing, go to www.pbs.org/meaningoffood. Or show one of the Behind the Recipe clips.
  4. Ask students to think about their own family heritage. What recipes might their mothers, fathers, or other relatives be most famous for. Discuss how certain dishes are culinary signatures of a person, city, or country
  5. Ask students to complete the graphic organizer (See handout 1) describing their family celebrations and daily meals, what food is served, how it is eaten and with whom.
  6. In small groups or pairs, have students compare how similar and different their traditions are from each other and how this reflects the specific identity of their family and/or culture.
  7. Instruct students that they will each select their family’s favorite recipes, interview family members about the cultural and family traditions associated with the dish, research the recipe and its ingredients and create a family recipe memoir book.
  8. Hand out the student worksheet and ask students to interview family members at home or on the phone.
  9. After students have interviewed a family member and acquired a family recipe and photo follow the steps below to guide your students through the lesson plan. See handout 2: Family Recipe and Memoir
    1. research an ingredient in their recipe
    2. write a story to go along with their recipe and picture (If the photo is not in a digital format, students must scan the picture) If they are not able to obtain a family photograph have student find an image to go along with their recipe on the internet.

Culminating Activity

Have students choose a different recipe for each day that you continue this project.
Have students compile the interviews, research, pictures and recipes in a book format with cover, index, and page numbers using a word processor, scanner and binding machine.
See Handout 3: Family Recipe and Memoir Requirements
Handout 4: Food Quotes

Students can be assessed on their recipe, memoir content, writing conventions, and design.

Cross-Curricular Activity

Family Tradition Essay ( See handout 5): Have students write an essay on their family traditions or a new family tradition they would like to implement.
Mathematical Conversion: Have students convert (i.e. from serves 10 to serves 30) a traditional recipe from home that relates to a family celebration and bring to share with the class.
Price Comparison: Ask your students to find the current price of the ingredients used in the recipe and compare with the price of the ingredients from
20 years ago. Students may include the information in their recipe books or present it in a Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheet. Aroma Poem writing. Review the concept that smells are a very powerful agent that can bring back memories of an event or place. Bring in different spices for the students to smell (cinnamon, pine=Christmas; turkey=Thanksgiving; blown out candle=birthdays, chili powder=family camp out; etc.). Ask them if any of the smells bring back a memory of a family celebration or other type of celebration, or event. Have students write a poem about the memory that was evoked. (If nothing was prompted by the spices, have students try to come up with a smell that does remind them of something. For instance, would the smell of turkey or any other food trigger a memory.) Story Extension/Interview. Read Pgs 41-45, and 122-135 from When I Grew Up Long Ago by Alvin Shwartz as an introduction to this lesson.
Read A Medieval Feast by Alki. Explain that food was an important social aspect of that time period and culture. Have students plan a celebration of differences. Have students research celebrations from their own heritage, create a poster, and give a presentation .
Create A map and basic information of the country where your recipe gets its roots. Include at least five basic facts about the country.
You may use these websites to do your country research:
CountryWatch.com (http://aol.countrywatch.com/)
Country @ a Glance (http://cyberschoolbus.un.org/infonation/index.asp)
Encarta Encyclopedia (http://encarta.msn.com/artcenter_/browse.html)

Community Connections

Lesson Extensions

Community Cultural Night: Expand this project into a school-wide celebration of the community's cultural groups and foods. Invite parents and extended family members to view the students' recipe/history books, to make and share the foods from their cultures and to talk about their own histories and food stories.

Community Cultural Cookbook: Create a book reflecting the families and cultural groups represented at the school, and community including the ways in which foods are used in their culture, along with recipes. Distribute copies of the class cookbook online to all of the student’s families