/ / 05: Connecting Food and Global Learning

05: Connecting Food and Global Learning

On this episode, we discuss connecting food and global learning and how food can be used as a way to teach children about other cultures, while also teaching them a life skill and reinforce important studies like history, geography and math.

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On this episode we cover: 

  • using recipes as a vehicle for learning about other countries
  • How to learn how to easily cook from different cuisines?
  • What are some fun projects to help inspire cultural learning in kids?
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How can learning about other cultures help with picky eating?

We have our own food biases as parents.  You have to demonstrate the adventurous spirit that you want your kids to emulate. We stick with what we know because it is easier. But it doesn’t have to be hard to try something new.

Adults have stereotypes about what kids will eat.  Just look at the kids section on a menu at a restaurant.  No matter what the restaurant, they generally have the same kinds of food- burgers, pizza, etc.  If we want kids to eat better, we need to be giving them more options.

Remember, it takes repeat exposures for kids to even be open to trying something.  Try cooking foods in different ways.  Kids can be sensitive to different textures so try serving it different ways to see which they prefer. 

Getting them involved in the process also means they often are much more willing to try it. Cooking in a group can also result in positive peer pressure to try something if they see others enjoying it.

When they do have preferences, meatballs for instance, try preparing meatballs from different cultures or try serving meatballs in different sauces.  

In episode 6, I talked about strategies to help introduce new foods to kids with Alex from The Family Dietitian. She shared some awesome easy and actionable tips!

Don’t forget to prepare vegetables with the same care that you would give to the meat. Season it! Give it additional flavors. Kids love soy sauce! So cook that broccoli in some soy sauce.  Now it’s “I’m not just eating a tree.  I’m eating a flavored tree!”

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How can you start incorporating new foods and cooking with your kids into your routine?

Kids like routine so be careful about having too much routine in your meals.  The more they are used to trying something new, the more they will push back. Start younger and they should be more open to new foods. Between 2-4 is when they start to regress a bit but if you’ve started young they are already ahead of the game.

Instead of it feeling chaotic just thinking about cooking with kids, try to pick a day of the week to take turns to cook with each child. You can find more tips here to destress cooking with kids.

Also, a weekly meal plan is essential if you want to cook new things.  Plan for one night a week to try something new so you can try a new global recipe. Start with where you are at. Even if it’s only once a month! No matter where you are, you can explore the world around you. Something is better than nothing.

Where can you source hard to find ingredients?

Most major supermarkets will have basic ingredients.  Spice blends might be the hardest to find but it’s not impossible.  

Be willing to shop outside your own neighborhood. Visit an “ethnic” grocery store.  They are a great little micro-culture and they often try to represent the neighborhood that they are in.  So they often have products available from other cultures.

You can also find an amazing selection of products, especially spices online. Some online sites to look for spices include:

  • Amazon
  • The Spice House
  • Etsy

It’s okay to substitute. It may not be 100% authentic, but you’ll get the feel of the dish. 

You can also try making your own spice blend. It might be a little extra work but then you can get a more authentic feel.

another text graphic with a quote from Chef Mireille

Using recipes as a vehicle to learn about other countries

Our education is lacking in so many ways because it’s very American and European centered. Connecting food and global learning can help children have a better connection with how many countries and cultures there are out there.

Plus, different kids learn in different ways. Some need to see it, some need to read it, and some need to physically do it. Concepts often sink in better when we do a combination of all of those.

Some kids may have a hard time with a math book, but cooking can be a good way to practice.

Tip: instead of giving them a whole cup measuring cup, give them a third cup measuring cup and then they are practicing fractions. You could also have them do conversions like, “How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon?” The answer is 3.

Ways to connect food and learning

So, when cooking a dish from Thailand, you can have them go find it on the globe, map, or Google Maps.  Have them identify which continent it is located on? What is the topography like there? What other countries border it?

Then have them start brainstorming how all of the geography might affect their food choices. Were they influenced by their neighbors or would trade have been hard because they are surrounded by mountains? 

We shouldn’t judge what others are eating if we don’t know WHY they are eating it. Understanding where their resources come from helps us better understand their food choices.

Then they can go find out what is there? What things are they known for? Do they have any famous landmarks? What about art or music? 

Whenever you can, have your kids do the research. Before we moved to the Netherlands, we had our kids research about the Netherlands. It helped drive an interest and excitement about our new home.

For older high school kids you can let them pick a country and discover everything they can about the country.  What is their religious makeup, racial makeup, or major historical events? What events, climate, or geography affect their food choices and language?

Also, get to know your own country! Every country has regional cuisines, so you can explore “new” foods with ingredients that are easily available as well as getting to know your own country better.

Amy from House of Nash has a fun American Eats series where she shares recipes from different states.

Resources for global learning

Youtube can also be an amazing resource too. Mireille shared a series called “How kids go to school around the world (most dangerous ways to school)” that can help kids start to realize that not everyone in the world gets to school the same way they do. 

“Teaching kids about cultures, it gives them hope, it gives them ambition, it gives them a world beyond their sometimes very small world.”

You can find fabulous curriculum resources from Lokua Labs (I interviewed him in episode 3: Travel From Home) or the Local Passport Family’s Global Passport Club

There are also many subscription boxes for kids like Raddish Kids, Eat To Explore, Kiwi Co: Atlas Crates that often have either curriculum or food options.

Thank you for joining me on this journey! Happy exploring!

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Listen to this episode here

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Chef Mireille is a NYC based classically trained chef who has more than 10 years experience working in a variety of culinary roles including everything from a Catering Chef to a Nursery School Chef. For the past several years, she has worked as a Chef Instructor, teaching children cross cultural recipes and nutrition in an after school culinary program.

She is also the food writer and photographer at Global Kitchen Travels (formerly The Schizo Chef), a food and travel blog presenting traditional recipes from around the world. You can find her LIVE 3 times a week on Instagram @chefmireille on Tuesdays, Thursday and Sundays at 5pm EST with recipes and culinary tips with global inspiration or watch the replays on IGTV.

If you need some guidance to help you start teaching your kids about other countries and cultures with recipes, Chef Mireille has some quick tips and links to kid friendly recipes on her website Global Kitchen Travels.

How kids go to school around the world (most dangerous ways to school)

Local Passport Family’s Global Passport Club

The Ultimate Subscription Boxes For Kids Who Want To Explore The World

Episode 3: Travel From Home with LJ Sikahema from Lokua Labs

Additional reading material:

https://inservice.ascd.org/why-global-education-matters/

https://www.gettingsmart.com/2017/11/21-global-education-resources-to-continue-expanding-your-horizons/

https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/19/01/global-approach-teacher-development

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