Culture: It’s what’s for dinner

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By Mary Jane Williams

As we are all winding down from our school year and the children are diligently working to finish up their required textbook work, you are probably finding yourself trying to pump your spirit full of a second wind of ambition to plan for the next school year.

Well, here is a subject that gets such little attention, but I am sure you will agree, it is not only important, but is actually exciting to plan — FOOD!

As roadschoolers, we have an advantage that many may miss. We travel the continent and witness so many different cultures.

When we ask our children what is the difference between a “northerner” and a “southerner” or the difference between someone who lives in Philadelphia versus someone who lives in New Orleans, their instant response is usually the cultural differences which center so much around the food they eat.

Many times, with very little research, you can find the heart of people in their beloved local restaurants.

Yes, this does mean you will need to ditch the “chain restaurant” comfort foods and opt for a restaurant that may feel a little sketchy and order food you many not even know how to pronounce. The outcome, however, will be a recollection that will etch itself in the memory of all who participate.

You may find yourself remembering an area on the map strictly from your food experience.

Of course this fun learning method will take some pre-planning on your part. You will not only want to find the right restaurant and food, you will also want to research the “why.” Many times you will find that the food makes sense.


For example, while in Pittsburgh, we engaged in conversation with a local resident by asking what would the locals consider a must-do activity. This woman delighted in giving us a recommendation to Primanti Brothers for one of their famous sandwiches.

We did a Google search to see what these sandwiches were all about. We learned it was invented by this restaurant to feed truckers who frequent the area: however, they never had time to sit and eat.

This restaurant took two slices of bread and piled it high with all the meat and then threw the fries right inside as well. What they ended up with is a one-handed meal and a tradition!

Our kids will always remember the huge sandwich and the need to feed the busy trucking industry which has so much to do with the steel industry.

You can find easy local foods and enjoy a little game of “who has the best?”

When in Boston, we went to all the famous bakeries and ordered a cannoli in each and then judged who’s was the best.

When in Philadelphia, we learned we had to visit both Pat’s and Geno’s to have a Philly cheesesteak at each so we could participate in the city’s long running debate regarding are you a Pat or a Geno?

Don’t forget to visit the “very firsts” as well. When in Seattle you must visit Pike’s Place to have a cup of joe at the original Starbucks.

Go get a tasty donut in Winston-Salem, N.C., at the original Krispy Kreme. Another fun restaurant one is the original Kentucky Fried Chicken in Corbin, Ky.

There are many books filled with historical restaurants and you can watch the many programs on Food TV, or you can talk to the locals. However you decide to research, your food culture doesn’t matter as long as you don’t pass up on this amazing opportunity afforded to all of us as roadschoolers.

And don’t forget to take a snapshot while eating all of this yummy food so you can build a memory book with your kiddos so they can recall the taste, smells and experience of their unique education.

Caution: You may put on a few extra pounds, but its all in the name of education!

Mary Jane Williams

Mary Jane Williams

Mary Jane Williams was a full-time roadschooling mom from 2011 until 2017. She recently purchased a hobby farm and now RVs part time for fun and adventure. Mary Jane and her husband enjoy living life with their six children ranging in ages from 30 to 2, as well as their 4-year-old grand-daughter. Mary Jane is based out of Fort Myers, Fla., and loves exploring this beautiful continent. She has a passion for God, her family, photography, education and the outdoors.

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