Investigation 7: Whats Cooking? Food on the Erie Canal


NYS Learning Standards: SS 1.1 (NYS history), 1.4 (interpreting history)


Grade Level: 3-8


Essential Question: What were the challenges of preparing meal on a canal boat?

(7.1.A)
From Bottoming Out, January 1958. Courtesy of the Canal Society of New York State


Description of Kitchen/Cabin Size

(7.1.B)
Courtesy of Boonville Black River Canal Museum


(7.2.A)
From Captain H. P. Marsh's Rochester and Its Early Canal Days: Reminiscences of the Author. . .Rochester, NY: Democrat & Chronicle Print, 1914. p. 19-20. Courtesy of the Schuyler C. Townson Library, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Rochester NY


(7.2.B)
From The Rochester Telegraph, Tues, June 28, 1825. p. 2, col. 6.


(7.2.C)
From William Hullfish's The Canaller's Songbook. York, PA: The American Canal and Transportation Center, 1984. p. 29. Courtesy of William Hullfish


(7.2.D)
Detail from William H. Rideing's "the Water Ways of New York." Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol. 48, Issue 283, December 1873. p. 15. Courtesy of the Schuyler C. Townson Library, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Rochester NY


(7.2.E)
From William H. Rideing's "the Water Ways of New York." Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol. 48, Issue 283, December 1873. p. 15. Courtesy of the Schuyler C. Townson Library, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Rochester NY


(7.3.A)
From M. Parloa's The Appledore Cook book: Containing Practical Receipts for Plain and Rich Cooking. Boston: Andrew F. Graves, 1877. p. 172-173. Courtesy of the Schuyler C. Townson Library, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Rochester NY


(7.4.A)
From William Hullfish's The Canaller's Songbook. York, PA: The American Canal and Transportation Center, 1984. p. 12-13. Courtesy of William Hullfish

Activity 7.1: The Kitchen

Document 7.1.A: Photo of cook in cabin


    1. What do you notice about the photo of the cook in the cabin? List the things you see.
    1. How does the kitchen in the photo compare to yours? Share your observations with a partner.

Document 7.1.B: Cross section of a canal boat showing crew areas


    1. Look at the drawing of the inside of a canal boat. Do you think there was a lot of space to cook and sleep on the boat?
    1. Next, work with your team to make a scale drawing of the side of a canal boat. The length will be 80 feet and the width will be 14 feet. Indicate 10 feet of space at the front of the boat for the cook and 5 feet of space at the other end of the boat for the pilot. How much space will be left for the passengers or goods that the boat will carry?
    1. Imagine you have been hired to be the cook for a canal boat. What would you need to know before you start your job? Generate a list of questions. Be prepared to share in a small group.

Activity 7.2: Getting Dinner Ready

Document 7.2.A: Account of potatoes and duck
Document 7.2.B: Account of fish purchase
Document 7.2.C: Black Rock Pork songsheet


    1. Read the documents for this activity. Based on these documents, what do you think canal crews often ate for dinner? List all of the foods mentioned and record them below.
    1. It's one thing to buy a fish and quite another to prepare it for dinner. Re-read The Rochester Telegraph account. What else would the cook need to prepare the salmon for dinner?
    1. Prepare a shopping list for the cook.

Document 7.2.D: Photo of canal grocery store
Document 7.2.E: Account of shopping at Putman's


    1. Would you want to shop here, based on these descriptions? Have a written conversation with a partner and explain why or why not.
    1. Tell where else you might get your provisions.

Activity 7.3: Dessert

Document 7.3.A: Recipes for making cakes


    1. When we follow a recipe, we use standard measurements (cups, pounds, teaspoons, etc.). Read the recipes document. Do these recipes all use standard measurements? Research and record below some units of measurement that are not standard.
    1. Is anything else missing from these recipes?
    1. How are they different from today’s cake recipes? Search the internet for a modern recipe of one of these types of cakes. List the similarities and differences.
    1. Do you think dessert was common on a canal boat? Be ready to support your opinion why or why not.

Activity 7.4: The Cook

Document 7.4.A: Lyrics for A Trip on the Erie
Document 7.4.B: Lyrics from The E-ri-e


    1. What kind of mood do these songs set? How does the crew feel about the cook?
    1. Illustrate one or two phrases in your journal that describe the cook, based on the lyrics you read.

Assessment:

RAFT #1


Role: Canal song lyricist

Audience: Canallers

Format: Song/poem

Topic: Celebrating the cook


Write a canal song (or poem) that chronicles the hard-working cook. Be sure your song/poem includes:

  • Information about cabin space the cook had to work in.
  • The food that was available (or unavailable) and the menu the cook prepared.
  • A special treat the cook made for dessert.
  • Praise for the cook and how the crew respects him/her.
       


RAFT #2


Role: Canal cook

Audience: Yourself

Format: Diary

Topic: A day in your life as a cook


Write a diary entry about your long day from sun up to sun down as the hard-working cook on a line boat. Be sure your diary entry includes:

  • A detailed description of the galley and cabin space you had to work in.
  • What you served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Explain why you chose those foods.
  • The difficulties you encountered trying to make dessert.
  • How you really feel about all those canal songs!