The food Americans eat has changed substantially over the course of history. Many of the most popular foods today would have been completely unknown to our ancestors on the Western frontier. During the cattle drive era in the latter part of the 19th century, ranchers and cowboys had limited menus and primitive food preparation facilities available to them. On the trail during a cattle drive, the cook's chuck wagon contained all of the provisions and equipment needed for feeding the hungry trail outfit.In this lesson, students will examine how popular foods have changed over the course of American history. Through an online exploration of an 1860s Texas ranch kitchen, students will develop an understanding of the types of food and food preparation equipment used during the cattle drive era. After developing an understanding of how chuckwagons were used on trail drives, students will be challenged to stock a virtual chuckwagon with period-appropriate food and equipment. As a culminating activity, students will design and create menus for an authentic, cowboy-themed restaurant.This lesson can be used as a pre- or post- viewing activity for the PBS series TEXAS RANCH HOUSE, or as an independent lesson on the settling of the American West. A basic knowledge of 19th century US history and a familiarity with the cattle drive era is required.
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