Do you want your children to grow more global-mindedness for people from other cultures and races? Cooking a steaming bowl of Pho is a start...
By Mandy dos Santos | Little People Nutrition
Cultural food traditions are unique in that they embody the rich history and heritage of the people who cook the dishes. In my experience, if you love to eat a particular culture's cuisine, you are more likely to extend compassion and understanding towards them as people too.
In a world fragmented by racism and prejudices, now is the time to harness the opportunity of multiculturalism and internationalism to bring people closer together. We can help our children connect and appreciate cultures abroad and of their own neighbours.
A perfect way to foster cultural appreciation through food. We all know that an easy way to someone’s heart is through their stomach.
There are many ways we can expose children to cultural food traditions, here are a few.
Cooking traditional dishes
Cooking is a life skill. It is the simplest of tools to arm our children with so they can cook and nourish themselves with fresh whole foods, now, and as they grow.
It is also a perfect gateway to start a conversation with children about why certain cultures eat particular foods and how the dishes came to be.
There are some brilliant cooking resources for children. On Booktopia you can find a book series of Food and Cooking Around the World by Rosemary Hankin. With her books, you can explore China, Mexico, India and Italy, all from your kitchen bench.
There is also a resource I have created for my own Little People Nutrition, a segment called Little People Cooking videos which are perfect for little fingers. From a cultural perspective, you could hop off to Japan and make Sushi Sandwiches or perhaps Vietnam and make some Rice Paper Rolls.
Visiting supermarkets and restaurants
Getting out into your community and connecting with people from various heritages is a beautiful way to be able to understand cultural traditions including food ones.
Visit your neighbours, exchange recipes, discuss what they are eating. And if you do not have neighbours or communities close by, go to the local restaurants and even supermarkets with unique international foods and ingredients.
And if you live remotely and you don’t have the restaurants or supermarkets with international cuisines, you can often buy shelf staple items online through portals such as this Indian online grocer or perhaps like this Brazilian food importer.
There are also international food boxes popping up whereby each month they deliver a box full of ingredients to your door based on a rotating list of countries. Meet the World is a recent company doing just this.
Reading stories together
For younger children, picture books are perfect conversation openers of any topic, especially food and multiculturalism.
There are a few simple rhyming board books for the youngest of children with gorgeous mouth-watering 3D illustrations of food. Amy Wilson Sanger has a range on Amazon which includes, Japan, China, India and Mexican food stories.
I have also written a book which explores the connection of food, the family table and culture, “At my family table”. It is perfect for pre-schoolers and early primary schoolers. Understanding that all families just want to eat together, like your own family brings a sense of delight and empathy with children. There are lovely illustrations of the children and their family tables to excite young eyes.
Documentaries and photo journals
Although screen time is often limited in my household, there are some terrific cooking resources available for free these days.
There is a beautiful and confronting photo essay online which depicts families from around the world and what they eat in a week, all laid out in front of them. This particular article comes from a more extensive book called Hungry Planet, What the World Eats. It's a fantastic resource for upper primary - high school children and one which could provoke a multitude of discussions.
There are some fascinating documentaries for older children as well, in particular, this series on Street Food around the world. The visual delight is incredibly engaging for children and morbidly-captivating as they watch squeamish foods eaten.
Or perhaps you could delve into some traditional videos such as how a local island community fish?
Enjoy the adventure of exploring the wonderful world of food through the eyes of people from around this beautiful planet of ours.
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Mandy dos Santos
Mandy is a mum to three and a nutritionist and food scientist. She simply loves food and if she is not in the kitchen, making a mess, she is with her family at the beach or in the bush. Mandy has recently published her first children's picture book 'At My Family Table'.