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Summer SAVY, Session 2 Day 1, Culinary Anthropology (5th – 6th)

Posted by on Monday, June 17, 2024 in blog, SAVY.

Dear Parents,
We’re off to a great start to our week of Culinary Anthropology! It has been a joy to witness your students’ curiosity, enthusiasm, and eagerness to explore the diversity of human cultures.
As I (Ms. Kathryn) conducted my own academic research in Paraguay, our day began with an immersive exploration of the ritual of tereré, a Paraguayan tea-drinking custom. This activity served as an introduction to the basic concepts of cultural anthropology, including ethnographic fieldwork (i.e., participant observation and fieldwork), the difference between cultural relativism and ethnocentrism, and the cultural importance of food rituals. The students learned about the historical significance of yerba maté, tracing its origins to indigenous South American groups and its evolution through European colonization. While trying the tea, they documented their sensory observations, as well as reflections on the ritual in their field journals, fostering their skills as budding anthropologists. Many students didn’t appreciate the bitter, earthy taste but were happy to take home the guampa (cup) and bombilla (filtering straw) in order to try other loose-leaf teas at a later time!
In the afternoon, we explored hunting and gathering societies, dispelling the common misconception that they represent a lower-evolved form of society. Students learned that modern and skilled hunting-gathering societies continue to thrive today.
How you can support your student:
  • Discuss Today’s Activities: Ask your child about their takeaways from drinking yerba maté and their insights from hunter-gatherer societies. Encourage them to share what they learned and how they felt about these experiences.
  • Share Cultural Traditions: Does your family have an ethnic or heritage tea or beverage? If so, how do those customs compare to the ritual of tereré? Discuss the ethnic and/or intergenerational food rituals in your family and their significance.
  • ‘Travel’ like an Anthropologist: Family-friendly options for documentaries on hunter-gatherer societies include John Marshall’s The Hunters (1957) and People of the Seal (1971) produced by the National Film Board of Canada. To further examine cultural particulars vs. human universals, the documentary Babies (2010) (rated PG for some images of breastfeeding and naked babies) provides a fascinating look at the first year of life for babies from four different cultures around the world.
Tomorrow, we will delve into how our own food preferences are shaped and discuss ethnic cuisines and authenticity. We are excited to continue this journey of discovery with your children and look forward to more enriching experiences throughout the week. Thank you for your support and for fostering a love of learning in your young scholars.
Warm regards,
Ms. Kathryn and Ms. Omaya