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Essay 1: Home

You have 2 options to choose from for this essay: a food tradition or a hospitality tradition. The length should be 1000-1200 words. Please read through the assignment description below to help you come up with a clear thesis for your essay.

19th century family picnic

Option 1, Food Traditions

Family traditions have several important benefits:

  • they connect us to the past and to previous generations of family
  • they connect older family members to the younger generations
  • they build memories that bond us to our family
  • they give us a sense of belonging, a sense of who we are
  • they help us clarify values

For your essay, talk about a food tradition in your own family to make a point about the significance of that food tradition to your own identity. You might think of the project this way: through your own story, you are telling the reader how important food and/or tradition is in our lives.

Feel free to use the essay or the TedTalk as a model or as inspiration for your essay. It is perfectly fine to "steal" the general essay plan of another author as long as you then make it your own — As Julie Andrews says in The Sound of Music, "Nothing comes from nothing." On the other hand, do pay attention to that fine line—think of how many musicians claim other artists have stolen their melodies!

Both authors do a great job of working with personal stories and with description to connect with their readers, but notice that there is a clear point to their stories about food, family, tradition, and identity.

Option 2, Hospitality Traditions

What does your home, or your family's way of behaving at home say to visitors about you and your values (or your family's values)? Focus on different values and allegiances such as class, region, generation, politics and culture (traditional and conservative vs. modern) and the way the material elements in your home (and/or your family's practices) reflect those values. How is your home an autobiography of your family?

General Making Tortillas_Nebel_1836questions to help you develop your ideas

  • What does this tradition say about your family? Does it connect to your roots? (e.g., a regional dish, or ethnic dish, an annual holiday or religious practice) Why is it important to you to hang on to this tradition? 
  • How has a family tradition changed in your family? Why did it change? Has it changed for the worse or the better? (sample student essay: "Family Dinners")

General Essay Instructions for Everyone

  1. As you think about how you will develop your thesis, concentrate special attention on using good paragraphing techniques. Be forewarned that when I grade these essays, I will be paying extra attention to your ability to write focused, coherent, well-developed paragraphs!

  2. No matter which essay topic you choose, you must have a significant argument (thesis) in your essay. Everything in the essay should add support to that argument.

  3. Length: 1000-1200 words.

  4. You will also need to follow MLA guidelines for essay and citation formatting! Below are some helpful resources.

MLA document format by English instructor Alexander Clarkson


MLA document format
MLA document format instructions  from Purdue Online Writing Lab

MLA citation format
Basic in-text and Works Cited citation rules, Purdue Online Writing Lab