Monday, October 24, 2011

Food for Thought: Meltingpot Meals on the Menu

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Happy Monday. I'm so excited because in a couple of weeks I get to speak on a panel about three of my great passions; food, parenting and ethnic diversity. Where? You ask. How? Tell us more, you say. But of course.

Our local NPR station, WHYY is sponsoring a monthly parenting series with different pre-arranged topics every month. The November topic is nutrition and I was asked to speak on the panel, bringing my own opinions and experience about 'ethnic eating' to the table. No pun intended. Okay, it was kind of intended, but I digress.

What I'm going to talk about is how I take inspiration from other cultures to prepare nutritious and delicious meals, as well as teach my kids about different cultures at the dinner table. This is my modus operandi in the kitchen and it's been working pretty well all these years. But it's not just about the kids.

Personally, I love buying cookbooks from other cultures, eating at ethnic restaurants and shopping at ethnic grocery stores. And then I bring what I've sampled and tasted, read about and learned into my own kitchen. Even if it's just a new spice that I'm trying, like the dried oregano I purchased from a Mexican food stall sprinkled in last night's pot of beans, I feel like I'm experiencing a different culture and of course, my kids are too. Obviously we can't fly to Mexico or Morocco at a moment's notice, so sampling from their cuisine is a good second best.

And unlike certain schools of thought that think it's a good idea to 'hide' healthy food for your kids -- spinach in the lasagna, sweet potatoes in the brownies  -- I think it's a better idea to 'hide' healthy eating habits in a world cultures lesson. For example, if you want your kids to eat fruit for dessert instead of say cookies or cake, don't just give them an apple or an orange and expect them to jump for joy. Instead, tell the kids you're having a dessert from Jamaica or Haiti and then serve a sweet, juicy mango. And be sure to serve the fruit on a pretty plate with presentation in mind. I learned that trick from my Spanish in-laws and my host family in Morocco. I'll never forget how good a bunch of green grapes tasted in Morocco because they were served on a gorgeous silver platter.

So, that's one of my tricks. What about yours? Do any of you co-opt other culture's culinary habits to entice your kids to eat 'better.' Within your own culture do you have any great foods or eating habits that your kids love? Wanna share? I'm listening.


P.S. If you'd like more information on the panel and/or if you live in the Philadelphia area and would like to attend, follow this link for more information.

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