Study Guide

Alligator Bayou Food

By Donna Jo Napoli


Calogero and his family spend most of their time thinking and talking about food in Alligator Bayou, either because they are going to grow and sell it to the townspeople, or because they are going to make their own elaborate dishes. Carlo is a gourmet cook and his family eats very well for laborers, mainly because they grow it or milk it or ferment it all themselves, which is cheap—and coming together for a meal is a way for this family to stay connected to their Italian roots. Calo and Cirone and their uncles lead tough lives in America, constantly bombarded by racism, and food keeps them afloat both financially and emotionally.

Questions About Food

  1. How does mealtime affect conversation in this book?
  2. Why is food so important to Calo and his uncles? Is it just as important to other characters? Why or why not? How can you tell?
  3. What cultural etiquette surrounds meals and parties do you notice in this book? How is mealtime different for the Black families than for the Sicilian family? How is mealtime similar? Does Calo catch on to differences?

Chew on This

Food is the most culturally specific difference between groups of people, and otherwise they are all very similar.

Without shared meals, Calo and his family would come unglued.

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