A few months back, I overheard my 5-year-old rattling off names of countries from around the world.
My oldest is either correcting or applauding her as she attempts to match images of flags with their respective country. I’m impressed with her accuracy and memory.
It occurred to me, my kids were embracing a learning opportunity; why not take it to the next level? Besides, one month into “stay at home” and my Sagittarius nature is becoming increasingly more restless with our inability to travel, to have an adventure. We all needed an escape, so we planned a trip around the world.
Travel the world during a global pandemic? With kids? Sounds nothing short of crazy, I agree, but we were desperate for a little fun. Not to mention, there’s something to be said about the value of experiencing culture and diversity. I’ll assume this statement needs little explanation if you’ve been paying any attention to our national news.
There are many ways to explore culture, but in a home with a nutritionist and a chef, it was a safe bet this tour would start with food. Under the circumstances, we were going to have to bring the world to our kitchen table. It may not be the most authentic approach to teaching cultural diversity, but at present, it’s the tool we have at hand.
On the first night, my family sat down to an Argentinian dinner featuring chimichurri. Similar to pesto, this sauce, often served over barbecue steak, consists of finely chopped parsley and oregano mixed with garlic, olive oil and vinegar.
True to nature, the initial response to something different was fear. An unfamiliar green food was threatening the existence of what was individually defined as good and safe – like mac and cheese. Why can’t we have normal food, my kids asked? To that, I responded, this is normal food, it just depends on whose shoes you’re standing in. Perhaps you’d like to see the world from a different perspective? With the genuine curiosity of children, they cautiously agreed to embrace a learning opportunity and expand their awareness.
I prompted my girls to find Argentina on the small globe they received from Santa. Within minutes, they had identified Argentina and found the light blue and white, horizontally stripped flag from this faraway land. In our makeshift dinner theater, YouTube displayed dancers gracefully pairing complex moves with the soul-filling tunes of Tango. A dance born from the blending of African, Cuban and European cultures.
With the help of Google, we scrolled through images of Buenos Aires and its people. My husband and I shared stories of backpacking around Monte Fitz Roy in southern Argentina many years ago. As we explored the landscape and the musical and culinary culture of another country, my girls began to notice that while there are differences, there are also similarities to what they know.
Before long, the chimichurri is no longer being pushed around the plate or poked with a fork as if it would lash out unpredictably at any minute. Rather, it is being accepted as a component of the meal that in combination with all the other flavors, actually makes for a much better experience.
Flash forward two months and our global tour has passed through Mexico, India, Thailand, Vietnam, North Africa, Greece and Italy. The flavors of cumin, curry, fish sauce, harissa and anchovy paste are different from mac and cheese, but it’s amazing what can happen when we experience before we judge. We still can’t tango, but it’s fair to say two young girls have not only found joy and comfort in cultural variety, but they actually crave it. Turns out, it is the spice of life.
Nicole Clark is the family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach her at email@example.com or 382-6461.Nicole Clark