Food Show Lesson Plans

Just as our nation is experiencing a major fat attack millions of viewers are tuned into television shows focused on food. There may lurk some irony in this occurrence. Think about it. There is truly a show called “Man Versus Food,” wherein a rather rotund individual seeks to eat all that he can at a variety of sites around the nation. This show plays already as the Centers for Disease Control issues a clarion call about the obesity epidemic and movies like Forks Over Knives present the scientific evidence that our diets are killing us. Alas, Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) has, in all probability, fewer fans than Adam Richman, the large number of “Man Versus Food.” Not much is politically correct about food shows.

Teachers can turn the food craze into effective lesson plans with homework assignments that students will not object to doing. Students can learn something, exercise writing skills, and possibly develop some interests in terms of career while they are being entertained by shows such as “Iron Chef,” “Chopped,” “No Reservations,” “Restaurant Impossible,” or “Diners, excursion-Ins and Dives.”

I tried such an assignment on both a freshman and a senior class last year. The kid’s opinions about which shows are best are firm; their loyalties are deeply established and they have no problem following the story lines and the characterizations of various personalities. They are alert to the character of the competition and grow adept at predicting which estimate will appreciate a particular chef and which of the meals prepared will earn praise. They learn about spices, herbs, and how to select a particular ingredient for a particular recipe or how to substitute one for another when the event calls for some creativity.

Young people watching these food shows quickly become food critics themselves, already without the opportunity to taste the exotic meals prepared. They already become alert to the metaphorical value of what these shows call “presentation.” I’ve had kids talk about poor handwriting in terms of ineffective presentation and job interviews in terms of presenting the self as a worthy candidate for employment. Hmmmmmm. What could this average?

It method teachers can use cooking shows as teaching tools in their ELA lesson plans. I produced a worksheet that I distributed to my students asking them to clarify elements similar to those found in literature, such as conflict, complication and resolution, and to estimate the show for its pacing, drama, suspense, emotional allurement and themes. additional credit, I said, when I first began to use the worksheet. Fairly soon, virtually all kids were writing essays, critiques and already formatting their own shows with their age-based themes. A few kids produced a show based on veganism in which they suggested using live animals to increase the component of compassion that is so important to people who refuse to participate in the killing of animals for food. The assignment was no longer for additional credit, but a serious part of my effort to meet standards and exercise writing skills.

Some kids truly prepared their own shows. One was on the making of fry bread. The students were reading Sherman Alexie’s novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and they decided to produce a fry bread competition. Everyone loved it, already though some of the results were better used as Frisbees than food. The judges played their parts beautifully and the critiques written by the audience, their fellow classmates, were bright. With the right lesson plan, education, quite often, can be entertaining.

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