The World On Our Plate

Do you remember that part in the movie, Ratatouille, when Remi feeds his brother grapes and cheese? Amidst the spiraling fireworks of figurative flavors, Remi exclaims, “Now, imagine every great taste in the world being combined into infinite combinations, tastes no one has tried yet, discoveries to be made!”

With this, Remi captures not only a passion for food itself, but for the creative process, for the literal world of opportunity available to us if we choose to open our minds to new possibilities.

My hope for Taste Quest is to see kids to stretch their imaginations and explore what the world has to offer. Food is a fabulous medium for this. Food knowledge is like a passport. You can experience so much of the world just by visiting an international grocery store. You learn to appreciate culture and history as you taste flavors from all around the world. You can connect with people completely different from you as you share the same foods. You can learn about traditions, myths, and art forms through the process of cooking and eating.

By helping kids expand their understanding of food, I’m betting that they will become more curious in their neighbors, more curious about other cultures, and more curious about how they can impact the world. If we feed this curiosity, the next generation could be characterized by their compassion, their creativity, and their drive to explore.

As I test new material with kids around Nashville, I usually facilitate a cooking project, often involving an international recipe. We’ve done tacos, Chinese dumplings, and British afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches. I absolutely love seeing their faces as they taste some other part of the world. These sessions usually start out with a story. “Do you know the history of afternoon tea?” I ask them, and mostly get a room full of shrugging shoulders. Afternoon tea began, I say, in 1840 in England. It was invented by a Duchess named Anna, who was quite the trendsetter. At that time, wealthy people used to eat dinner fashionably late around 8 or 9 at night, but Anna would always get hungry around 4 in the afternoon. So she began ordering tea with sandwiches and cakes to be served each afternoon, and because she was so fashionable, everyone in her circles started doing the same thing! To this day, British people around the world stop what they are doing in the afternoon to have tea and sandwiches.

Now armed with context, we set about making our sandwiches and preparing our tea. I demonstrate how to chop herbs, and the kids take turns mashing the cream cheese mixture. We cut the sandwiches into triangles (of course) and serve each other with Darjeeling tea which, I point out, comes from India. Then we munch. Once, one girl (8 ¾ -years-old), told me, “I don’t like cucumbers, I don’t like mint, and I don’t like mayonnaise, but I love this sandwich.” Score! Taste of England accomplished.

And this is just the beginning. We hope to be able to introduce kids to food from all corners of the globe. We will show them where ingredients come from and how they grow. We will help them balance nutrients and maximize deliciousness. And then we will give them the reigns. I long for the day when the content for Taste Quest comes directly from the kids, sharing what they learn about the world of food with their own recipes, stories, crafts, experiments, and games.

You see, cooking is a superpower. If we help kids discover that power, the world opens up.

Here is the cucumber sandwich recipe, my very own invention.

1/4 cup cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon fresh mint, diced (alternatively, you could add a dash of paprika)
dash of salt and pepper
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
4 slices soft whole wheat sandwich bread

Mix first six ingredients thoroughly until you have a smooth texture. Spread on bread slices and assemble cucumbers for even distribution. Slice off crusts for extra fanciness, if you choose, and cut sandwiches into triangles. Serve with your favorite tea.

This post was originally written and posted at our partner blog, The Wandering Rumpus. Check it out for tips and tales about travelling with kids!

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