Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Character Recipe Cards

The Great Gatsby and the Sense of Taste

Jane Baber, Jane Fisher | Published: May 31st, 2022 by K20 Center


In this lesson, students will explore how the sense of taste functions in The Great Gatsby by composing recipes that make connections between culinary creations and character.

Essential Question(s)

What can the taste of food reveal about a character?



Students will sample foods with various flavors in order to establish the characteristics of differing tastes.


Having identified the different tastes of the foods presented, students will make connections between the tastes and characters in The Great Gatsby.


Students will use the connections made between taste and character to develop recipes that utilize knowledge of the characters' traits, relationship to other characters, and role in the plot.


As a further extension activity, students can prepare their recipes and bring them to class to present and share.


This recipe can be evaluated using the attached rubric in the "The Great Gatsby and the sense of Touch" handout packet.


  • The Great Gatsby and the Sense of Taste Handout

  • The Great Gatsby and the Sense of Taste Powerpoint

  • Oreo cookies

  • Salted pretzel twists

  • Coffee grounds

  • Lemon wedges, sliced small

  • Plastic sandwich bags


To begin, organize students into groups (groups of four or five, depending on class size). Once in groups, display Slide #3 and have students work in groups to come to a consensus about the five basic taste groups. Since this is a brief introduction, give only one minute to do this.

Next, using Slide #4, students will compose a Two-Minute Paper in which they write, for two minutes, about the five tastes on which their group came to a consensus. The prompt is: "Describe, on your own, what the 5 tastes are that your groups decided were most basic. Try to describe each taste either through examples or reactions to the tastes". Once the two minutes is over, select one volunteer from each group to share their writing. This is an opportunity for students to hear what was similar and what was different about their knowledge and understanding about basic tastes.

Most students will have probably listed "sweet, sour, bitter, and salty" as common tastes, but left out "umami". Save listing the tastes until after the next activity.

Now that students have discussed and written about tastes, they will be tasting some foods on their own.

Using Slide #5, announce to students that they will be actively experiencing a few foods that have different tastes. Tell them that they will receive a sample of each food on the board, and their task is to identify which taste group the foods belong to. Before class was started, the foods below would have been prepared and separated into plastic bags. Each group should receive one bag each of the foods below, and in each bag there should be enough for each student to have an individual sample.

  1. Oreo cookies (sweet)

  2. Lemon wedges (sour)

  3. Salted pretzel twists (salty)

  4. Coffee grounds (bitter)

With Slide #5 still displayed, give students two minutes to sample the foods and discuss in their groups which food corresponds with certain taste groups. While the foods have an obvious group that they belong to, some students may experience taste in a different way. For example, a student might list an Oreo cookie as being sweet and salty, while others may just taste sweetness. These differences are fine and add interest to the discussion.

After giving students time to sample the tastes of the foods, have them throw away the bags of taste samples and return to their groups to identify the tastes of the photos on Slide #5. As they identify each, have them describe the taste as best they can. They are sure to be curious about what the fifth taste is; on Slide #6, the same photos of the food samples are shown with taste identifiers, and the fifth, "umami", is shown in the corner with a link it its description. Consider clicking this link to show students what foods fall under the savory category of "umami". For the purposes of this lesson, only the first four of the taste groups will be used and "umami" will be excluded.


Next, now that students have had plenty of practice describing different taste groups, display Slide #7 and reflect on the question "What is the relationship between taste and character?" Ask students, "Can you describe people in the same way that you describe taste?"

After sharing answers, display Slide #8. This slide shows both the taste groups and a list of characters from The Great Gatsby. Ask students which "taste" goes with each of the characters. Which of the characters can be described by a blend of tastes? To get deeper into this activity, randomly assign each group a character. They may only choose from the list of the four tastes displayed to describe their character. Give students 5 minutes to do the following, using Slide #9:

  1. Identify their character (this has already been done if you assigned the characters to each group)

  2. Identify the "taste" or "tastes" that best describe your character’s personality, relationships, and/or actions

  3. Find supporting evidence through a direct quote from the text that shows this taste/character connection

  4. If there was a dish/recipe named after this connection between taste and your character, what would it be called?

  1. Harry Potter

  2. Sour and Bitter- these tastes describe his attitudes toward and relationship with Draco Malfoy

  3. "Malfoy? Revenge? What can he do about it?" "That’s my point, I don’t know!" said Harry, frustrated. "But he’s up to something and I think we should take it seriously!"

  4. "Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold"

After enough time has elapsed for students to work in their groups, ask for volunteers to share their taste/character connections; in particular, when students share the name of their dish or recipe, as them to describe what it might taste like and how it might appear. Now that students have gotten into the mode of connecting characters to the sense of taste, and thinking about recipes, engage them in a Think-Pair-Share strategy in which they will analyze recipes further. Slides 12-14 hold the instructions for this strategy.

First, display the "THINK" slide (#12) and give students a minute to jot down their answers in a Quickwrite in their comp books to the question, "What are standard characteristics of all recipes? Include what is typically on a recipe card, units of measurement, and typical directions."

Next, have students follow the directions on Slide #13 and pair up with a partner sitting closest to them; students should then have a minute to read their Quickwrite and share their answers with their partner, finding similarities and differences in their responses. Finally, using Slide #14, have a whole class discussion about what components are typically found in a recipe.

On Slide #15, there are links to:

  1. Sample recipes (this is a simple Google search- click on a variety of images to look for similarities)

  2. Units of measurement in cooking (there is a printable chart at this link that may be helpful to print out for students)

  3. Examples of cooking directions (scroll down to "The Preparation Method")

Click on each of these links and explore these as a class, pointing out significant elements in each link that are typically featured in recipes. If possible, give students time to browse recipes on their own for a bit, using available technology. The links above are merely suggestions, so students might want to explore other examples on the web as well.

After students have had enough time to get an idea of what a recipe looks like and how to compose one, bring the idea of a recipe back to the Harry Potter example. Slides #16 and #17 for an example of how to incorporate a character and the text into a recipe. After viewing this example, ask students to think back to the exercise they did with their Gatsby character in connecting him/her to taste and a recipe. How might that recipe look on a recipe card?


Now that students have worked both with how taste relates to characters in The Great Gatsby and have begun thinking about the ins and outs of recipes, inform students that they will be creating a Character Recipe Card. Pass out a copy of the The Great Gatsby and the Sense of Taste handout to each student.

Using Slide #18, inform students that they will need to choose ONE character and ONE or TWO tastes to inspire their recipe card. Students may, but do not have to, use the same character from the group writing activity completed earlier.

As Slide #18 is displayed, go through the The Great Gatsby and the Sense of Taste handout. After re-reading the essential question together, show students the Brainstorming section. This looks similar to the exercise that students already completed with their groups, but they should plan the recipe based around their character in the spaces provided. The Brainstorming stage asks that students plan:

  • One character from The Great Gatsby

  • The "taste" or "tastes" that best describe the character’s personality, relationships, and/or actions

  • Name of dish/recipe

  • Describe dish/recipe

On the next page of the handout is the Character Recipe Card planning sheet. For the final product, inform students that they should use all of the recipe card requirements on the handout, although they may be flexible with the format and draw inspiration from real recipe cards. Remind students continually to use standard recipe measurements and play off of standard recipe directions, while always keeping their character and the text in mind.

The final product should appear like a realistic recipe card, however the dimensions should be no smaller than a piece of 8 ½ X 11 paper. Final Character Recipe Cards should be done and cut out either on paper or cardstock.


As an extension activity, students will add to the back of their Character Recipe Card a description of the taste of their dish. This description should be at least one paragraph and should include the reactions that those who are served the dish are likely to experience. Refer to the early examples in this lesson where students recorded examples of reactions to tasting a lemon vs. tasting a the sweet Oreo. Students should include their chosen text evidence in this extension as well.

As an additional extension activity, invite students to actually try cooking their recipe at home (with the help of an adult). This process can be filmed at home, then shown in class and the final food product can be shared with the class.


On the "The Great Gatsby and the Sense of Taste" handout, there is a simple rubric that can be used to evaluate these recipe cards. Consider also using Slide #19 as a reminder for students. The slide informs students that their final project will include the Character Recipe Card and the rubric. This rubric is attached as both a PDF and a Word file, so it can either be modified as needed.