Around the World in Three Meals

by Deanna Cook
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Whether you're in New York or New Delhi, you'll find that all kids have strong opinions about food.

If your children are apprehensive eaters, try to get them involved with the meal. Invite them to help prepare the dish, sniff the spice, or lick the bowl.

The more familiar they are with a flavor, the more likely they are to try it. When they find something they do like, even if it's as exotic as pickled chicken feet (a South African snack) or snails (escargot in France), they'll eat it over and over again.

Italian Lunch

In many Italian communities, schools and businesses shut down at noon, and families head home to eat their main meal of the day, lunch.

Although your family may not be able to take a two-hour break in the middle of the day, you can schedule this wholesome Italian meal for a weekend lunch.

HOMEMADE PASTA

The process of making homemade pasta was once part of everyday Italian life, and kids as young as six learned to master the art. Pasta flour, or semolina, is available in most grocery stores.

PESTO

Thanks to the food processor, the sauce can now be made in a matter of minutes.

FOCACCIA

The predecessor of pizza, focaccia, is an Italian flatbread flavored with olive oil and herbs. It's a great appetizer, side dish, or pizza crust--for pizza, add toppings before the second rising.

Middle Eastern Meze

At the end of a long day in Greece and the Middle East, families and friends gather at outdoor cafe tables and enjoy meze, or small dishes of olives, hummus, baba ghanouj, and other appetizers.

Many of the ingredients are locally grown, including the olives.

To introduce your kids to this delicious custom, set up the following buffet of Shish Kebabs, Tzatziki, Hummus, olives, Tabbouleh and plenty of homemade pita bread to wipe plates clean.

SHISH KEBABS

Shish kebab means roast meat stuck on a stick and that is exactly what it is. Lamb kebabs originated in Turkey. Throughout the Middle East they are cooked over charcoal grills and served at outdoor markets.

Kids can help by mixing the marinade and threading the skewers through the chunks of meat and vegetables.

PITA BREAD

This round bread is thicker than the pita you find at the local grocery store. In many parts of the Middle East, a meal wouldn't be complete without pita. Use it to scoop up Hummus, Baba Ghanouj, or Tzatziki.

For a Middle Eastern sandwich, remove the Shish Kebabs from the skewers, slip the meat and vegetables into a pita pocket, and top with Tzatziki.

HUMMUS

Serve this garlic-chickpea spread with pita bread. You can store what's left over in a sealable plastic container for up to one week and use it as a sandwich spread.

TABBOULEH

This bulgur wheat and mint salad is a Middle Eastern staple.

Rather than making it from scratch, you can buy a mix in the rice section of a grocery store and prepare it according to the package directions.

You can embellish the recipe with fresh chopped mint, diced red onions, sliced tomatoes, fresh chopped parsley, or sweet peas.

BABA GHANOUJ

Roasted eggplant is the key ingredient in this healthy Middle Eastern spread. Dip a pita into a bowl of it or spread it on pita for a vegetarian sandwich.

OLIVES

Serve a bowl of olives with your Middle Eastern meze. Buy two or three varieties (kalamata, Greek, green) from the deli section of your grocery store or from a gourmet market and have an olive taste test (this might be more fun for the adults than the kids, but you never know).

TZATZIKI

This creamy sauce is made with cucumbers and yogurt. Dip triangles of pita bread or fresh vegetables into it or drizzle it over Shish Kebabs.

Indian-Style Buffet

In India, meals are served family style. The dishes and condiments are arranged on trays, and guests simply help themselves to a little of this and a little of that. It is customary to eat with your right hand, scooping up your food with a chapati, a whole wheat flatbread. When you eat with your hand, some Indians say, the food should never fall below your second knuckle.

CHICKEN CURRY

Before refrigeration, curry powder was used to hide the taste of spoiled meat. This flavorful mix of cardamom, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cloves, and cayenne is sold in most grocery stores, or you can mix it up yourself.

For an authentic Indian meal, top this dish with chopped peanuts or cashew nuts, grated coconut, plain yogurt, and chutney.

CHAPATIS

First cousin to the flour tortilla, this whole wheat flatbread is used to scoop up curries, yogurt, and vegetables in India.

The dough is rolled into pancake-thin pieces with special wooden dowels, but your family can also roll out the dough with a regular rolling pin.

BASMATI RICE

Delicate in flavor, this narrow, long-grain rice is a wonderful accompaniment to curries. You can buy a box in the international section of your grocery store or in a health food store.

Prepare it according to the directions on the package.

Deanna Cook is the author of two cookbooks, including "THE KIDS MULTICULTURAL COOKBOOK" (Williamson Publishing Co.), from which these recipes were taken.

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