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Food, Fun, and Primary Sources: Celebrating Holidays

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As we prepare for the long Memorial Day holiday weekend, many in our office find ourselves thinking of, and talking about, food. Those who live closer to the water are thinking about going crabbing and fishing. Another friend is having her annual crawfish boil. Others are barbecuing everything from hot dogs to marinated tofu for a picnic lunch or dinner.

This reminded me of a conversation that several of us had at the end of last year about New Year’s Day food.  We shared stories about black-eyed peas and greens; the person who had to eat gefilte fish at the stroke of midnight for luck; and the tradition of long life noodles where the person who ate the longest noodle would have the longest life (For more New Year’s traditions see this post from Inside Adams).

These conversations came to mind as I stumbled upon a post in the Library’s Folklife Today blog about food traditions. Food is central to many events and community traditions, and studying how a community eats can provide a way to learn about that community’s history and what its members value.

Study these images of people gathering to eat. What food do you see? What don’t you see? Can you speculate about what is important to this group of people? How do these meals compare to meals you have participated in?

Picnic II. Albert Price
The Faro Caudill [family] eating dinner in their dugout, Pie Town, New Mexico. Russell Lee, 1940

Paiute Indians Move through Serving Line. Carl Fleischhauer, 1978

Greenbelt, Maryland. Party for Mrs. Taylor’s eighty third birthday, attended by her children and grandchildren, on the grounds of the home of her son-in-law, Dr. McCarl. Marjory Collins, 1942

Looking for more blog posts about food?

  • Learn about Paganni’s Ravioli and Thomas Jefferson’s ice cream recipe.
  • For those who avoid meat, there is a World War II recipe for baked bean loaf.
  • And for those of you who think that birthdays must include cake this post on Texas sheet/sheath cake will be of interest.
  • Want more? The Science, Technology and Business reading rooms’ Inside Adams blog has a large collection of food related blog posts and Chronicling America has compiled a collection of recipes from newspapers.

Ask your students to share what foods are always part of their special family events.

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