Before we had kids, like many couples, my husband and I talked about the things we would do once we had kids. Of course, we were a bit overzealous and a lot of our ideas didn’t come to fruition. For example, I didn’t can any homegrown vegetables last fall and this fall isn’t looking so promising either. But, my husband did have a good idea that we actually just started. It’s fun, educational, inexpensive and a little cheesy. It’s…
Instilling a sense of adventure and curiosity in our kids is really important to us. We want to expose our kids to cultures and geographical areas different than their own. We want them to try new things, learn new things and just really have fun. That’s really the whole point of Foods of the World Night. We love to travel and once Little D is old enough, we absolutely want to take him along. But, there are 196 countries in the world and I just don’t think we’ll manage a family trip to all of them. So, this is our best alternative.
This is what we do…
- I printed this list of countries, cut them out and put them in a mason jar.
- One of us pulls out a country name.
- Once a month, we serve a dinner traditional to that country.
The most traditional dish of each country is usually pretty easy to find. Google the country and “food” or “traditional food” and you’ll find one dish pops up the most. With the United States, apple pie pops up a lot. Fish and chips for the United Kingdom. Tacos and chiles for Mexico.
Step outside of your comfort zone and try new things. For example, if you pull Italy, don’t just make your own spaghetti and meatballs or order Dominoes. Try something new. Make a margherita pizza from scratch with fresh basil and sliced mozzarella. Talk about the different types of pizza and what you all like best.
Find the country on a map. I think this globe is great because it’s cheap, inflatable (so you can store when not using) and can easily pass around the table. This can be a great geography lesson to show kids where the country is, what is nearby and where you live in relation to the country.
Share basic history and facts about the country. What languages do they speak? What religions do they practice? What does the country look like? How do they support themselves? How are we the same? How are we different? Finding basic information is really easy and it’s actually pretty fascinating to learn more about unfamiliar countries.
For older children, this can be a great opportunity to talk about tough, but important, topics like poverty, AIDS, war and civil rights. It can be a great lesson in humility and charity. Or not. We’re starting this process with a toddler. So, these conversations don’t go very far with him. But, it’s a good topic of conversation between my husband and I. Obviously it’s the parents’ decision what you feel comfortable discussing. I think it’s extremely worthwhile to expose kids to a world outside of their own and you can do that however you see fit. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like.
Finding traditional music to play during the meal is pretty easy with a Youtube search. You can even find tourism videos and get a glimpse of what it would be like to visit that country.
You can also present the meal in a traditional way according to the country. For example, some meals may be more formal and you can break out your nice dishes and light candles. Some meals may be served later or earlier than you normally eat. You may sit on the floor and eat. The adults can enjoy a nice wine or cheese from the country.
Let’s be honest, this is not just for the kids. Even if you don’t have kids, there are only so many ways you can cook chicken. Date nights are expensive. This is definitely a way to shake up your weeknight routine. Plus, YOU will learn a lot. You may be extremely well-traveled and worldly, but still not familiar with every country in the world. I knew almost nothing about the first country we pulled out of the jar. But now I do and that’s pretty cool.
Have an open mind. Step out of your box. Have fun! If you’re interested in having your own Foods of the World night or already started, be sure to leave a comment. Stay tuned for our first Foods of the World night report!