I remember when we were kids, you had to either travel to experience food from different countries (which is ofcourse the best way to soak in both the culture and cuisine of any country) or the times when travelling wasn’t possible the only two cuisines you could try were Italian and Chinese where too we had a very few choices (at least that was true for me when we were little).
I feel our kids are so fortunate to be growing up in a world where they are exposed to cuisines from different parts of the world in whichever part of the globe they are in. Exposing our children to new cuisines broadens their definition of what “food” is, helps them understand how countries are diverse but still similar in so many ways, helps them appreciate the history and geography that surrounds the food and helps us raise adventurous eaters.
When the year began Sara and I came up with some new year food resolutions for her and invited all of you to join us (Many of you did! Thank you!). One of the four resolutions was to choose and try a new food from a country of her choice each month and I am so happy to report back that we are enjoying this journey that we are making with the help of our taste buds. She has a globe in her room and each month we spin it and choose a country. Throughout the month, we try to read up a little about that country, learn some new words, read about the local food, sometimes even draw the food and ofcourse try out new foods.
Then early this year with Chef Russell I got this fabulous opportunity to work with many many little chefs at the Young Chefs Club at Lafayette Gourmet. Each month workshop the children cook and cook what the world eats. In the last four months we have visited Japan, China, India and Italy and it has been such a great journey where we tasted fruits and vegetables from the different countries, smelt the spices, oils and cheeses, learnt about the food habits of the people who live there, saw the maps and flag. We even learnt a bit of history and geography and ofcourse “cooked” a couple of really simple recipes. Each time we worked with these kids they have surprised me for none of them said no to trying out something new. Some of them did not like everything they made but they never said no to tasting which is big win I think.
So today I am going to share what has been working for us with Sara to help her become a future world traveler:) I need to point out that we have had both victories and failures and I constantly keep reminding myself to see that as growth and not rejection.
Here are my ten tips to raise future world travellers sitting right in your very own city:
- Start with what they like; their comfort zone: Sara loves Italian so we began with that. Italian doesn’t mean only Pizzas but we made sure there was a pizza amongst the other things we tried. Also Pasta doesn’t mean only spaghetti and farfalle. So we tried the ravioli this time. We also tasted tomatoes with some balsamic vinegar (she loved it). We tried olive oil with some bread (she hated it). We made lots of bruschetta toppings (fun to put together for kids), rolled out fresh pasta (messy equals exciting) and we made a ricotta cake. But we didn’t do all this over one day. We did this in bits and pieces over one month. We didn’t make everything. We tried some at restaurants too along with a slice of her favourite pizza! So go with what works for you. Having an Italian evening does, do that. Spacing it out works, do that. Not comfortable cooking an unfamiliar cuisine, order in or go out the first time around. Absorb the flavours and then try something simple.
- Visiting new restaurants: Two years back when we moved to Dubai we were so excited at the prospect of experiencing this city through all the restaurants it had and it was something of a fun project that we started at home. We called it Project 52. Each weekend the three of us would try one new place to eat. We didn’t have any cuisine in mind but over time Sara started loving the idea of this “game”. Where are we going next weekend and what food will be we eating made it exciting and over time she has become more open to trying out new foods. Oh yes, we are very much playing this game even now.
- Books on food: There are some great books on food for children with stories about local food and food habits with fun illustrations, stories, poems and correct meanings and pronunciations of unfamiliar words. New books always get her super excited so if your little one is into reading then you must try out some bedtime reading on food with them.
- Visiting food festivals: Most big cities today have a myriad of food festivals. At these festivals we like to pretend that we are both food tasters and food critics (At these festivals a lot of restaurants and food stalls offer smaller tasting portions; both free and paid) and Sara loves giving stars and comments on each of the things we try. Just so you know the adjective “disgusting” is also up there with awesome and “supercalifraglisticexpiadolicous”. If your city has no food festivals planned food courts, global villages and local haats is where you can head to.
- Visiting international markets: These days thanks to so many people from different parts of the world coming together to work in a city far away from their homes we have a Japanese specialty store, a Pakistani grocery store, an Italian bakery, an Iranian shop and more all in one city. Where there are no stores there are international aisles in a big super market (Thai, Japanese, Mexican and Chinese aisles/shelves are pretty common now). Turn this into a game for the children. Select one recipe with them and ask them to write down the ingredients we require to make it and then go on a treasure hunt to buy all of them. Striking off each ingredient on their list and then making a new recipe is sure to get them excited
- Potluck with friends: I don’t know of any child who will say no to a playdate (mine is ready to go for one even in the middle of the night). Children these days are fortunate to have friends from different nationalities or from different cities of the same country and that presents them with a great opportunity to taste what their friends eat at their homes. Every once in a while inviting friends over or going to their place with one dish from your country/city is another great way of observing what friends eat at home and how they eat.
- Celebrating festivals: Food is such an important part of festivals and holidays across the world. Embracing festivals and cooking special traditional recipes and making into one big party always seems to work with Sara. Since she loves to draw and craft we also end up trying out a craft that makes for party décor. Food and décor both sorted.
- Maintaining journals or “passports”: Writing down which countries they know about or are studying at school, drawing out its map, flag, sticking pictures of historical buildings, food they have tried at home or outside at a restaurant, food they liked and did not like, adding local currency, stamps (if you can get your hands on it), have they visited it in the past or would they like to will ensure your little one is well travelled even without stepping out of your city!
- Watching delicious movies: I love watching movies that center on food. One of Sara’s favourite movie is Ratatouille. So what did we do next, we made some ratatouille! But then this doesn’t have to be restricted to “food movies”. When we saw the Sound of Music we took her to try some wurst and apple strudel. This always becomes a sort of a happy evening for us, pairing a movie we watch with her with food.
- Lead by example: Always remember only if they notice and feel we are truly enjoying this adventure will they be willing to become our partners in the journey. Our children learn more from what we are than what we teach them.
I hope these ideas and tips will help you raise “little travellers” and with summer vacations round the corner who knows you and we just might be going around the world in 60 days!
Do you have any ideas or stories that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear.
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