Columbus Day is sometimes called Discoverers' Day. In the spirit of discovery, take some time to learn about the world as it was in the days of the European explorers. You can make a compass, learn about the stars, read about other explorers and discoverers, and find how even our way of eating has changed since the Europeans came to the Americas looking for gold, glory, and, yes, tasty cooking spices.
Pizza Without Tomato Sauce?
The explorers who came to the Americas found the food enjoyed by the native people to be very different from what they knew at home. They had never seen tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, maize (corn), pineapples, chili peppers, or even cocoa. The vegetable dishes from the Europe they knew relied on parsnips, cabbages, peas, carrots, turnips, and onions. After being at sea and living off of a diet of lentil soup, salt beef from a barrel, salted sardines, hardtack, and other delights, the fresh, new foods of the islands would have been an astonishing change.
In time, sailors brought the New World foods not only to Europe but also took them along when they settled other lands. And, over the years, the Europeans brought olives, bananas, wheat, and sugarcane to the Americas. Now, about that pizza with no tomato sauce: a kind of pizza had been around for over a thousand years before Columbus made his voyage, but that rich, red sauce we know today comes directly from New World tomatoes he discovered.
For a Columbus Day dinner, ask for Mom or Dad's help to make a meal that shows how the Old World and the New World got together. Here's a recipe for Columbian Lentils that blends Old World flavors the sailors knew, such as lentils and onions, with New World ingredients such as tomatoes and potatoes for a delicious dish. Serve it with a nice loaf of Italian Bread (for Columbus) or Easy Cornbread (for native peoples). After dinner, grab a mug of Thick, Rich, Spanish Hot Chocolate and watch the stars as explorers did on their long voyages.
New Ways, Old Ways
Discover the tastes and cultures of Europe and the New World with these kid-friendly cookbooks. Click on any title to go to our catalog where you may place a request for the book.
Cooking the Caribbean Way by Cheryl Davidson Kaufman
Cooking the Italian Way by Alphonse Bisignano
Cooking the South American Way by Helga Parnell
Cooking the Spanish Way by Rebecca Christian
Need a Book on Columbus' Life?
Central Rappahannock Regional Library has many books for students of all ages about Columbus. Check one out from our list.
This short book (47 pages) follows Columbus' life, from his beginnings as a boy who loved the sea through his adventures in the West Indies to his ultimate fame as the Admiral of the Ocean Seas. Part of the History Maker Bios series.
You'll learn about Columbus' life and voyages -and- get to try your hand at activities based on the time period and the science of sail. Also available as an eBook.
Demi's beautiful illustrations of a long-ago world will get readers' attention, and the story she tells is a balanced one.
Learn about Columbus' famous explorations and how we came to have the holiday known as Columbus Day. Includes drawings and photographs.
A good choice for sharing out loud with a class of younger students. Includes the critical facts of his life, a map of the first voyage and a list of important dates. Part of the Picture Book Biography series. Also available in a Spanish-language edition, Un Libro Ilustrado Sobre Cristobal Colon.
At slightly over 100 pages, this biography of Columbus explores his paths to exploration and discovery. A good choice for established readers.
A humorous look at sailing on a ship in the 15th century. So you want to go to sea -- Why do you want to explore? -- How would you pay for the voyage? -- How would you prepare your fleet? -- Could you handle a sailing ship? -- Which way would you steer? -- Could you cope on board? -- Would you lose hope? -- Could you survive on shore? -- Would you get home safely? -- Would you make more voyages? -- Would it all be worthwhile?
On the Web
Columbus Day Crafts and Activities
Great stuff here! Make a map, a globe, an Earth pendant, a totem pole, a rainstick, a dream catcher, and a paper canoe.
TeachersFirst: Columbus Day Resources
Attention, teachers! Links to lessons for different age groups.
Learning About Columbus
All About Christopher Columbus
An article from Grolier Online encyclopedia has a lot of information about Columbus' life and voyages.
Christopher Columbus Biography for Kids
Gross and tasty details of foods enjoyed by Columbus' sailors and the Indians.
Famous People: Christopher Columbus
The BBC's primary (elementary) school site has a lot of information about the explorer and includes games, images, a quiz, and links to their good sites.