Feast Food

In the United States, November has a holiday almost every person enjoys, Thanksgiving Day. For many, the meal is the best part of the day. In fact, feasts are part of the celebration of many holidays. Is there any science in a holiday feast? 


Why do we need food? 

There are different kinds of food. Each kind is used a little differently by our bodies. Our cells use oxygen to carefully burn carbohydrates and fats to give us energy. This is called respiration. Carbohydrates are found in foods like bread, pasta, rice, cereal, and potatoes. 

Protein is another kind of food. Proteins are used for growth and to repair our bodies. Proteins are found in fish, meats (pork, beef, and lamb) and poultry (chicken, duck and turkey). Plants also have protein but some have more than others. Corn, rice, and beans all have a lot of protein. 

Food also gives us the vitamins, minerals and fiber that we need for our bodies to work properly. Fruits and vegetables are good foods for these important parts of a healthy diet. The Nutrition Cafe has some fun games to learn more about good nutrition. 

From Where? 

Where does food come from? If you are an animal, your food comes from other living things. Some kinds of animals eat other animals. We call them carnivores which means meat eaters. Some kinds of animals eat only plants. We call them herbivores which means plant eaters. Some kinds of animals eat both plants and animals. We call them omnivores which means everything eaters. Many people are omnivores. Are you? Make a list of the different things you ate today. How many came from plants and how many came from animals? 

Green plants actually make their own food using water, air, and energy from the sun. We call this photosynthesis. You can read more about it on the ESP Web page about leaves

For information on when humans first grew different crops and developed different foods, visit the Food Timeline

Why a Fall Feast? 

Why did people start to have feasts in the fall? In North America, Asia, and Europe, crops grow all summer long. In the late summer and early fall, crops are harvested. Apples are picked, wheat and other grains are brought in, potatoes, carrots, and turnips are dug up. All summer long there is lots of food for farm animals to eat. They are large and healthy. By autumn, the barns, root cellars and pantries where food can be stored are as full as they will ever be for the year. 

How can you store all this food for the winter months ahead? Before refrigerators, storing food was a real problem. Some food could be canned (like tomatoes), or salted or smoked (like ham and bacon), or dried in the sun (raisins), or stored underground where it stays cool (turnips and potatoes). Food for animals could be stored as hay or grain, but it was hard to store enough to keep all of them healthy through the winter. 

So the tradition of feasting in the fall and early winter began. There was lots of food, more than could be stored. Why not celebrate the harvest with a feast? Eat a lot of food while there was a lot, and store some on your own body as fat. 

Are Things Any Different? 

We still get all our food from plants and animals. Only plants can make food from sunlight, air and water. These things haven't changed. We do have many more ways of storing food for the winter. We can freeze food, can it, refrigerate it, or preserve it with chemicals (including salt). We have farms and orchards in warm parts of the world like Florida, Hawaii, and southern California where fresh fruits and vegetables can be grown in midwinter. But it is still fun to have a feast!
View text-based website