Unit 3 Overview

Food is Elementary Unit 3. Legumes from Around the World

The objectives of this unit are to: 1) cook with the students; 2) illustrate the great variety of highly nutritious legumes which are used in unique ways in different cultures; and 3) acquaint the students with commodity-based recipes which can be served as entrees in the school meals program. It is essential that the students cook with assistance from the teacher and/or parents. The educational impact is lost if adults prepare the food. In each lesson, the students prepare one entrée while they discuss traditional accompaniments and the history of the dish. Suggestions for side dishes are included in each lesson plan. The students eat the entrees prepared in class, and they take recipes home to prepare with their families. Most of the legumes used in this set of lessons are commodity foods available free to schools through the USDA Commodity Food Program. Students keep journals (time permitting) to keep recipes and record general information and personal reactions to the recipes they prepare. Students take recipes home to their families.



In Unit 3, students will…

-Become familiar with the name of the recipe, ingredients, culinary tools, and cooking methods.
-Become familiar with the recipe’s country/region of origin, location on a world map, and several traditions of that culture such as music, dance, art, agriculture, cooking, geography, etc.
-Work cooperatively to accomplish a common goal in a relaxed manner. They are not rushed during cooking and they have enough time to eat, enjoy, and evaluate the recipes they prepared.
-Demonstrate food safety and hygiene practices and are able to identify the potential risks involved in cooking.


Lesson 1. Native American — Three Sisters’ Casserole

The students learn about the three sisters in Native American cuisine — corn, beans, and squash.  By drawing a diagram or, if possible, actually planting the three types of seeds together, students learn how the foods were traditionally planted together and how they complement each other nutritionally.  The folklore of Native American Indians includes many stories about the three sisters personified as flint corn (larger and whiter than common corn in the U.S. today), beans, and squash.  Students prepare an Iroquois version of the Three Sister’s Casserole which includes corn, kidney beans, butternut squash, and maple syrup.


Lesson 2. Mexico — Tacos

The students learn about this popular traditional dietary combination and make their own tortillas.  They learn why frijoles (pinto beans) and tortillas are an important nutritional combination which has sustained Latino cultures for centuries.  Through this combination, Latinos have obtained all of the essential amino acids in one meal.  Chopped avocado, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and lettuce are served as accompaniments to the combination of frijoles and tortillas.


Lesson 3. Caribbean – Red Beans and Rice

The students learn about foods from the Caribbean.  In traditional Caribbean cuisine, the combination of beans and rice provides all of the essential amino acids in one meal.  The students learn about island cultures and many of the outside influences on the Caribbean cuisine.  Identifying the islands where red beans and rice is a popular entrée enables the students to learn the geography of a part of the world new to many of them.


Lesson 4. Brazil — Brazilian Black Beans

The students prepare a hot Brazilian black bean dish which also includes vegetables and spices.  They learn about the spices commonly used in Brazil.  By pounding them in a mortar with a pestle, students also learn about the Portuguese, West African, and Indian influences on Brazilian cuisine and culture.  Brazil is unique in South America by having a complex cuisine which has been influenced by distant cultures with which the country had trade relations.


Lesson 5. Africa and American South — Soul Stew with Cornbread
Ideally, this unit is taught in January to honor Dr. Martin Luther King. The students learn about the history of soul food and how African Americans blended foods from Africa (okra, black-eyed peas) with foods from the American South and Native Americans to develop a creative cuisine.  Dr. King’s life and the civil rights movement are discussed.  Students listen to soul music and discuss the development of this cuisine within the American culture.


Lesson 6. North Africa – North African Stew with Couscous and Harissa
The students learn about the countries in North Africa where couscous is a staple. They make an African stew with chickpeas and vegetables, and they make harissa, a spicy sauce to serve on the side.  Students learn how couscous is traditionally eaten by hand after the hands have been washed and rinsed with rose or orange water.  The students wash their hands and rinse them with rose water to eat in this manner.


Lesson 7. Egypt – Ancient Egyptian Barley and Peas
The students learn about traditional foods from ancient Egypt where barley and wheat were the primary staples. They cook an entree which contains foods from ancient Egypt: barley, leeks, dill, peas, and artichokes.  Students learn about the Egyptian pyramids and why the 1992 USDA food pyramid was designed using the ancient pyramids as a model.


Lesson 8. France — French Bean Salad

The students make a salad with French beans as a base.  They learn that a bean-based salad can be very filling and nourishing.  Students compare different types of potatoes and learn characteristics of different varieties.  Students also make a traditional vinaigrette salad dressing with tarragon, shallots, and Dijon mustard.  The salad is served with French Baguette or French peasant Bread.


Lesson 9. Italy — Pasta Fagioli

The students learn how to make a one-pot meal combining beans, greens and pasta.  Any pasta can be used, but multi-colored spirals are recommended for this recipe. Students will flavor this dish with tomatoes and fresh basil which are two important ingredients used in many Italian recipes.  They learn how tomatoes from South America and basil from India become vital to Italian cuisine even though they were not indigenous.


Lesson 10. Middle East — Lentil Soup and Lentil Salad

The students make a soup with brown lentils, carrots, celery, parsley and spices.  They learn that bean soup is very economical to make and nourishing to eat.  Students also prepare a cold, marinated, Mid-Eastern salad which includes lentils, parsley, onions, and spices.  They compare and contrast the hot and cold entrees prepared from essentially the same ingredients, and they discuss other ways to prepare lentils.


Lesson 11. India — Dal with Rice or Flatbread

The students see variety of color and taste in the lentil family of legumes beginning with the red lentils used in this recipe.  They learn about the use of spices to flavor recipes, and they grind spices together in a mortar and pestle.  Students observe that red lentils turn brown when they are cooked.  Dal (thick cooked beans with spices) is traditionally served with curried vegetables, rice, chutney (fruit preserves with ginger and sometimes vinegar), and chapattis (pita-like flat bread).  The Dal prepared by the students is eaten with chapattis or naan in the classroom.


Lesson 12. China – Tofu Vegetable Stir-fry with Rice or Noodles

The students learn about cooking in a wok or stir-frying as an energy efficient way to cook.  They learn that beans can be sprouted, and they sample raw bean sprouts.  The stir fry also contains soy sauce and tofu which are derived from soybeans.  Students discuss how these products are made from the versatile soybean.


Lesson 13. Japan — Sushi – Maki Rolls

The students learn about artistic presentation of food by making sushi.  They use rice, nori seaweed and fresh vegetables to prepare sushi.  Each student assembles their own maki roll to eat with soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi.