Remember picking blueberries, blackberries, and huckleberries for Grandma’s special berry pie? How about feasting on fried chicken, dill potato salad, heirloom tomatoes, and deep-dish peach pie at the annual church picnic? Do you recall using an old hand-cranked churn to make gallons of tasty strawberry ice cream for your family? Some of our best summertime memories come from enjoying good food with family and friends. Encourage your group of senior adults to savor the flavor – and share a few nostalgic food memories – with some of the seasonal activities suggested below.

  • Discussion: List words used to describe the taste of food (ex: bitter, salty, tangy, bland, sweet, spicy). Name some ingredients that add flavor to foods (ex: citrus, herbs, spices). Ask: Are there any summer foods that bring back special memories for you? What flavors do you most associate with the season? Describe a favorite summer recipe that is bursting with flavors. (Note: You could also prepare a favorite dish, and ask participants to identify all of the flavors.)
  • Discussion: Talk about tasty foods served at the following summer events/gatherings: church picnic, family reunion, backyard barbeque, ballpark, camping trip, county fair.
  • Discussion: Display various old stoneware crocks used for pickling and fermenting. Talk about the old-fashioned way of making pickles. Hold a pickle taste test. For fun: Try saying the tongue twister “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”
  • Discussion: Show a photo of a peach tree in the backyard of an old home. Share fun facts about peaches. Read “The Ripest Peach” by James Whitcomb Riley. Ask participants if their grandparents ever planted fruit trees in the backyard or if their family made an annual trip to the fruit orchard. Share favorite peach dessert recipes – like pies, cobblers, and crisps.
  • Art: Demonstrate how to draw a bowl of late summer fruit – apples, pears, grape. Encourage interested group members to try their hand at drawing. Or, prepare some magazine cut-outs or color drawings of fruit. Draw a fruit bowl on a piece of paper and photocopy one for each group member. Ask participants to arrange the fruit pictures in the bowl. Talk about favorite fruits and different ways to prepare them.
  • Movie: Watch the 1945 musical State Fair, with music and lyrics by Rogers and Hammerstein. (Note the part in which Mrs. Frake enters her pickles and mincemeat in the fair contest.) Ask: Have you ever entered baked or canned goods in a fair competition? Did you win a prize? What are your favorite fair foods? Why are foods on a stick so popular at the fair?
  • Music: Listen to the song “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream.” Ask: What was your favorite ice cream treat as a kid? Where did you buy it? How much did it cost? Sample ice cream treats from participants’ childhood: Good Humor Ice Cream Bar, Dixie Cup, Klondike Bar, Popsicle, Eskimo Pie.
  • Music: Listen to the 1946 hit song “Shoofly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy” by Dinah Shore. Invite a speaker of Pennsylvania Dutch heritage to talk about recipes passed through the generations, like fastnachts, funnel cakes, and apple fritters.
  • Poetry: Read and discuss the poem “Blueberries” by Robert Frost. Ask participants to share recollections of hunting for and picking wild blueberries “as big as the end of your thumb.”
  • Activity: Display old canning/preserving books such as the Kerr Home Canning and Freezing Book and Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. Share memories of growing and “putting up” fruits and vegetables for the winter months. Memory games: Line up ten jars of assorted home-canned fruits and vegetables – beans, tomatoes, peaches, beets, pears. Tell the group to study the lineup for two minutes. Cover the jars with a towel, and ask someone to name the canned goods in the order which they appear. Or, remove one jar and ask the group to identify which jar is missing. A simpler version: Ask group members just to name the jars under the towel.
  • Activity: Decorate the activity room like an ice cream parlor – checkered tablecloths, photos of ice cream cones or ice cream sodas on the walls, price list for various ice cream treats from a 1920s soda fountain. Ask participants to make a list of the treats they would put on the menu of an ice cream parlor and what prices they would charge. Make ice cream malteds. Invent some new ice cream flavors.
  • Reminisce: Display props: old tin pie pan, wooden rolling pin, pie bird, apron. Reminisce about Grandma’s special berry and fruit pies. Name favorite pie toppers (ex: scoop of ice cream, dollop of whipped cream). Enlist a volunteer to demonstrate how to make a pie crust from scratch.
  • Food: Learn about the invention of JELL-O. Find out the first four flavors. Sing the J-E-L-L-O jingle. Listen to episodes of the old-time radio program, The Jell-O Program, starring Jack Benny. Make JELL-O Jigglers for staff members.
  • Food: Assemble a variety of tropical fruits – banana, pineapple, coconut, mango, papaya. Make fruit smoothies. Listen to tropical music. Craft a funny fruit hat – Carmen Miranda-style – to wear.
  • Food: Display some ears of sweet corn. Find corn recipes in an old cookbook. List the ingredients, and ask your group members to name the recipe (ex: corn pone pie, corn fritter, corn pudding). Tell some “corny” jokes. Fill a glass jar with corn kernels and hold a counting contest. Talk about uses for the following: corn stalk, corn cob, corn silk, corn husk, corn kernels.
  • Food: Gather a variety of juicy, sun-kissed tomatoes for tasting. Listen to the song “Homegrown Tomatoes” by John Denver. Ask participants to discuss 10 ways to use or prepare fresh tomatoes from the garden.


  1. Which summer vegetable grows in “ears”? Corn
  2. Which state is nicknamed the “Peach State”? Georgia
  3. Which vegetable has a variety named Vidalia? Onion
  4. What do Southern cooks coat green tomato slices with in order to fry them? Flour, cornmeal, bread crumbs
  5. Which summer fair treat features sugar spun on a stick? Cotton candy
  6. What is zest? Citrus peel flavoring
  7. Name two varieties of pears that begin with the letter ‘B.’ Bartlett, Bosc
  8. Which herb is often used to flavor pickles? Dill seed
  9. What three ingredients are used for s’mores? Graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate
  10. Which ice cream flavor, developed during the Depression years, has chocolate ice cream, marshmallows, and nuts? Rocky Road


“In summer, the song sings itself.” ~ William Carlos Williams

“SUMMER FLAVORS” written by Sue Hansen. © 2012 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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