Consider the cronut: With the looks of a doughnut and the inner workings of a croissant, this confectionary hybrid has become a near-global sensation since it debuted in New York City in May. (National Geographic News)
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The cronut is a true geographic grocery treat, owing its culinary history to European bakers, Ottoman invaders, and an innate human love of all things fried.
Use our resources (outlined below) to learn more about melting pots, both literal and figurative.
- The National Geographic News article attributes the development of the croissant to Ottoman Turks invading Europe in the 17th century. There are two competing versions of the story. Can students identify the countries associated with the two versions of the croissant legend? (Cities are mentioned, not countries, empires, or nation-states.)
- Read the section “How the Two Met.” The first story attributes the croissant to Budapest bakers (Hungary). The second story attributes the croissant to bakers from Vienna (Austria). Today, however, the croissant is most associated with France.
- Read our “media spotlight” on the history of the cronut’s older cousin, the beignet. Then, use our MapMaker interactive to trace the development of the beignet from the bakeries of ancient Rome to contemporary New Orleans’ Cafe du Monde.
- Use the “Free-form Line Tool” in the Drawing Tools tab, or different markers from the Markers tab.
- The beignet’s journey should include Rome, France, eastern Canada, and Louisiana.
- According to our encyclopedic entry on food, “cuisine reflects a country or region’s history.” The entry mentions the development of pho, the definitive Vietnamese noodle soup, and chicken tikka masala, a spicy Indian dish. Like the cronut, pho and chicken tikka masala are the happy result of a melting pot of cultures. Can students explain how pho and chicken tikka masala are what the Nat Geo News article calls “foodie mash-ups”? (The two short paragraphs explaining the dishes are at the top of the encyclopedic entry page.)
- Vietnam was a French colony from the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century. French colonists brought French cuisine with them, including the stew called pot au feu. Pho is an adaptation of pot au feu, with the most significant addition being rice noodles, which are native to Southeast Asia.
- Chicken tikka masala, one of the most popular “Indian” dishes in the world, was invented by an immigrant Pakistani chef in Glasgow, Scotland.
- Read our article “Multicultural Stew,” about the delicious development of New Orleans’ unique cuisine. “I think food is the ultimate metaphor for describing how these cultures blended,” says Dr. Charles Chamberlain III, an historian with the Louisiana State Museum. Can students identify some of New Orleans’ historic immigrant cultures mentioned in the article, and how they may have influenced the city’s world-famous food?
- Native Americans: fresh seafood
- French: beignets
- Spanish: paella
- Caribbean: gumbo
- African: Jollof rice
- Acadia/Canada: Cajun cuisine
- German: beer
- Latinos: crawfish tacos (to come!)
- Can students think of other “foodie mash-ups” that blend traditions from different cultures?
- This writer fondly remembers a local farmers’ market staple that mashed up Indian and Mexican cultures, asking “When is a burrito not a burrito? When it’s a naan burrito!”