Today’s second post has no recipes. Yesterday marked a dark day in recent American History. It is considered to be one of the worst days of for civil liberties America has ever seen. On February 19, 1942 the President of the United States ordered the round-up and imprisonment of people in this country simply because they looked like our “enemy”. It was argued that this action was a “protective” measure – for them and for us.
When I was in the 5th grade, my teacher was a frail, quiet spoken woman whose family lost everything as a result. She was not bitter. She used the experience in a positive way. Throughout the 5th grade, in addition to math, science, English and all of the other subjects that year, she also shared the rich traditions and beauty of Japan. She taught us through two basic forms 5th graders could really get behind – we designed traditional Japanese clothing and learned about traditional Japanese foods. On the last day of school, there was a party. We dressed in the clothing we had made and ate a meal often served in Japanese households. Later in my own life, I adapted this teaching method with Kiddo.
When Kiddo was still in school, I worried about his brain turning to mush. He attended year-round school, so we had a month off in October, three weeks for Christmas and two weeks for Easter. That’s a lot of down time. Taking my cue from my 5th grade teacher, I came up with a fun way to broaden his horizons, keeps his mind active and have fun all at the same time. Back then, we usually traveled in October, the weather was nice and most “kid” friendly destinations weren’t overly crowded. Christmas and Easter breaks were another story. It seemed to make sense to combine my love of cooking with his love of travel. While we couldn’t explore the globe literally, we could travel in other ways. As each school break approached, Kiddo would pick a country to “visit”. During the break, we got books, videos and CDs from the local library. We learned a few basic phrases in the language spoken in our country of choice. We also studied customs and traditions of that land – the history and the people. This included learning about foods. On the last day of “break” we donned homemade costumes (crepe paper and fabric remnants work well), prepared a traditional meal and served it in a traditional fashion. (Japan, for example, was served at the coffee table, sitting on cushions). We listened to music from the country to help set the mood. Kiddo would “teach” Hubby and I what he had learned about the people and act as our “guide” in a foreign land via posters and other creative ways to enhance the experience. Not only was this fun for him, we learned a thing or two along the way. The more we see ourselves in others, the more connected we become to the world around us.
Cooking is also a great way to teach and reinforce skills such as math and science. It brings other lands into focus in ways that books cannot. The dining experience creates a tangible memory that will stay with them a lifetime. I honestly believe that Kiddo has a compassionate heart in part because he discovered through this experience that people are basically the same. They might look different from him and speak a different language, but deep down inside, what makes us human is the same.