Family mealtime adventuresOct 31, 2022 12:16PM ● By Kimberly Blaker
Teaching kids about different cultures is a great way to defeat stereotypes, break down barriers and help kids value and respect people who are different from them. So why not give your grandkids the opportunity to experience the many cultures that make up our diverse planet and country? A fun way to explore our diversity is by trying out foods and mealtime customs of other nationalities and unique American regions.
If your grandkids are picky eaters, don’t sweat it. There are yummy foods from every culture kids will love. Try some of the following dishes at local ethnic eateries. If you can’t find the cuisine locally, find recipes online for your whole family to enjoy cooking together.
There are many different Arab cuisines, but the most popular in America is Lebanese. Prepare hummus and pita bread as a healthy appetizer. If your grandkids have only tried store-bought hummus, they’ll be in for a real treat with fresh, authentic hummus.
Deliciously seasoned chicken shawarma, which you can order as a dinner or in a pita sandwich, is a favorite Lebanese meal.
When dining, there are several Lebanese meal customs to keep in mind. First, dress well. Greet your elders first and wait to be told where to sit. Also, hold your fork in your left hand (knife goes in the right), and try all foods at the table.
The food of India varies somewhat by region, but there are several Indian dishes kids love.
Nearly everyone loves Tandoori chicken—skinless legs and thighs marinated in a mix of yogurt, lemon juice and spices. Serve it with curd rice, a yogurt rice dish of Southern India, which you can eat plain or with lentils or almost any meat dish.
A few Indian meal customs to observe include eating with your hands.
Avoid mixing utensils between different dishes. Also, hygiene is essential, so Indians don’t dip into shared bowls, share cutlery or pass food with their fingers. In rural settings, Indians dress comfortably and sit on floor mats.
There are 562 Native American tribes in the U.S. Traditionally, their foods varied depending on region and availability of certain foods.
Today, they eat much of the same foods as non-native Americans. But Indian fry bread and Navajo tacos are still quite popular and loved by kids and adults alike. Succotash, another tasty dish, is made with beans, vegetables and flavored with bacon.
Mealtime customs vary by region and tribe, but traditionally, there was no set mealtime. Everyone just dipped into the eternal cooking meal when they were hungry.
Pita gyros stuffed with chicken or pork, tomatoes and lettuce are the most popular Greek food. There’s also spanakopita, which are turnovers stuffed with zucchini, and crispy and gooey Tyri saganaki—fried cheese.
To eat like the Greeks, be prepared to adjust your meal schedule. They eat lunch at around 2 p.m. and don’t eat dinner before 9 p.m. Also, eating with your fingers rather than silverware is common, even with meat.
Shepherd’s pie is an all-time favorite Irish dish. But don’t let “pie” fool you—it isn’t a dessert. Instead, it’s a tasty entree of beef or lamb, vegetables and mashed potatoes.
Boxty (potato pancakes) is another kid-friendly Irish food.
Irish food customs are quite familiar. But keep your fork in your left hand preferably with the tines turned down. Also, keep your elbows off the table and don’t get wild with hand gestures while holding your silverware.
Pierogis are one of the most famous Polish foods and are usually a hit with kids. That’s because these dumplings are stuffed with potatoes, sausage or even fruit. Polskie nalesniki, or Polish pancakes, is another tasty dish served a variety of ways, including with cheese, meat and vegetables, or fruity quark.
In Poland, don’t begin eating until everyone is served and the host says it’s time to start, usually with the word “smacznego.” Your fork goes in your left hand and knife in the right. When you’re done eating, your knife and fork should be placed horizontally on your plate, facing left.
Pad Thai is a great introductory dish to Thai cuisine. This sweet and savory noodle dish is made with peanut sauce which kids will love.
Gaeng Daeng (red curry) is another delicious choice. Thai is the hottest (spicy-hot) cuisine you’ll find. So request mild for your grandkids. For dessert, prepare sticky rice served with mango!
Thai people typically use a fork and a short spoon for eating, rather than chopsticks. Each person gets a plate of rice. Then all the other dishes on the table are shared among each other and poured over rice. Young kids usually sit on their parents’ or grandparents’ laps and are spoon-fed rather than sitting in high chairs.
Not to be confused with Mexican food, one of the dishes of Spain that your grandkids might enjoy is paella, a rice and meat dish. It can be made with rabbit or squid, which some kids won’t be too keen on. But it can also be made with chicken or other seafood.
Another yummy entree is empanadas, which are pockets filled with tuna or ham and cheese.
Late dining is also standard in Spain. Plan to eat lunch between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and dinner between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. Also, Spaniards don’t eat and run. They sometimes linger for hours enjoying good company and conversation.
This style of Louisiana cooking is well known for its shellfish dishes and spice. Jambalaya, a sausage, shellfish, celery and rice stew, is one of several favorites. Another stew is gumbo, made with meat stew, seafood and okra.
In Southern Louisiana, food is relished, and preparation is taken quite seriously. Cooks aren’t content to serve mediocre food. So conversation about what you had to eat the night before is common.
The most famous Vietnamese dish for both kids and adults is Pho. This noodle soup is made with beef or chicken and it’s much more substantial than the chicken soup Americans eat. It’s usually served with fresh veggies on the side.
The Vietnamese typically eat with chopsticks and a soup spoon. As a sign of respect, a bowl and spoon are handed to the eldest man at the table first. Don’t begin eating until everyone is seated and the most elderly man takes his first bite.