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Background For Teachers:
Attitudes and values about foods are rooted in society and culture and are transmitted through the family, as society's smallest unit. These values are preserved and practiced by the family in the home, which is the fundamental institution in society.
People who live in different countries or regions of the world develop common interests, institutions, and collective activities. Within families there are reflected certain characteristics of the society and culture in which the family exists. These ethnic languages, customs and values affect individual and family food choices and patterns.
FOOD HAS ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS
Marco Polo excelled all other known Christian travelers in his experience, in his connections to important people, and in his influence. Although Franciscan monks went to Mongolia and back in less than three years, and some stayed in a role of missionary-diplomats, Marco Polo's journey lasted twenty-four years. He reached farther than any known earlier explorers, going beyond Mongolia into the heart of Cathay. He traversed the whole of China, all the way to the Ocean, and he played a variety of roles, becoming the confidant of Kublai Khan who was the ruler, and governor of a great Chinese city. He was at home in the languages of China, and he immersed himself in the daily life and culture of Cathay.
Marco Polo entered Kublai Khan's diplomatic service, acting as his agent on missions to many parts of the Mongol empire, and he was for three years governor of the Chinese city of Yangchow. His father and uncle served as military advisers to Kublai Khan. The Polos stayed in China until 1292, when they left the country as escorts for a Mongolian princess traveling to Persia. The travelers reached that country by sea via Sumatra, southern India, the Indian Ocean, and the Persian Gulf; they then went on to Venice, proceeding overland via Tabriz in northwest Persia, the east coast of the Black Sea, and Constantinople, (Istanbul), arriving in their home city in 1295.
In 1298 Marco Polo was captain of a Venetian galley which participated in a battle between the fleets of Venice and Genoa, and he was taken prisoner. During his incarceration in Genoa, he dictated to a fellow-prisoner, Rusticiano of Pisa, the detailed account of his travels. He was released from prison in 1299 and returned to Venice.
The literary work, The Book of Marco Polo (first published in French), is perhaps the most famous and influential travel book in history. With a wealth of vivid detail, it gave to medieval Europe its first consequential knowledge of China, and its first information concerning other Asiatic countries, including Siam, Japan, Java, Cochin-China, Ceylon, Tibet, India, and Burma. For a long time it was the only existing source in Europe for information on the geography and life of the Far East. The book became the basis for some of the first accurate maps of Asia made in Europe; it helped to arouse in the navigator, Christopher Columbus, an interest in the Orient which culminated in his discovery of America (1492) while attempting to reach the Far East of Polo's description by sailing due west from Europe; and it suggested the all-sea route from Europe to the Far East around Africa finally accomplished by the Portuguese navigator, Vasco da Gama (1497-98).
As a result of explorers such as Marco Polo, Columbus and others, an exchange of food products began to take place. People in Europe coveted the foods and spices of the Orient.
There were three principal regions of the world in which food plants were domesticated. The vegetables, fruits and spices from these regions include:
(Source: ON FOOD AND COOKING: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Harold McGee, Scribners Publishing, 1984)
Spices, Herbs, Seasonings and Extracts
Help Make Each Culture's Foods Unique
Spices are the dried seeds, berries, fruit bark, roots, or flower parts of a plant. Black pepper and sage are common spices in the culture of the United States.
Extracts are made by pressing the oils from aromatic plants and mixing the oils with alcohol. Vanilla is a flavoring that is familiar to most people in the United States. It is made from the bean of the vanilla plant.
Historically, spices and herbs have been used for medicine as well as for flavoring and preserving foods. Their production is of major economic importance in world trade.
Spices, herbs, flavorings, and extracts are distinguished from condiments and sauces. Condiments are made from a number of ingredients including spices and herbs. Catsup, mustard, relish and sauces are common condiments. Sauces include soy sauce, tabasco sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.
Vinegar is made from apple, grape, or other juice. Vinegars are often seasoned with spices and herbs.
Seasonings make foods distinctive and keep meals from being boring. Spices and herbs can replace salt in many foods. This helps reduce the sodium intake, which is too high in the diets of many people living in the United States.
Sodium-free spices and flavorings that could be substituted for table salt, which contains high levels of sodium, include:
LEARNING ACTIVITIES AND TEACHING STRATEGIES
As a follow-up discussion have them answer the following questions:
A large world map would be useful in identifying locations of countries, ethnic and religious groups. Reference: Guide to Good Food Instructor's Manual.
NOTE TO TEACHER: Make resources available for students' use.
One possible procedure:
Summarize the presentation by listing the alternatives the speaker had and the consequences faced by each alternative.
Have the students brainstorm the problems related to food that they would find in the exchange student's native country.
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