Tag Archives: KidCulture blog

Russian Kasha

Russian FeastKasha is one of the oldest Eastern European foods. For more than a thousand years, Russians, as well as other Eastern Europeans, have enjoyed kasha, or buckwheat groats, in a variety of ways.

Originally conceived as a food for ceremonial events such as weddings and celebratory feasts, kasha came to be a staple of the Russian diet.

Long before Americans began to incorporate whole grains into their diets, the Russians habitually enjoyed a plate of kasha as part of their meal.

Although there are many ways to enjoy kasha, I cannot promise you that your children will fall in love with it unless it is slowly introduced and – probably – heavily camouflaged by things they do like.

You can try this recipe from AboutKasha.com that sounds intriguing, or modify the recipe I created below.

Kasha with Tomatoes, Mushrooms, and SpinachKasha with Tomatoes, Mushrooms, and Spinach

4 cloves garlic, minced

8 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 c. spinach

1 c. white button mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare the kasha according to the directions on the box. In a sauce pot, add olive oil and turn heat to medium high. Add garlic, onion, and mushrooms. Saute until softened, about 4 minutes at medium high heat. Add tomatoes and cook for about 3 more minutes. Finally, add spinach, stir and cover. Remove from heat. After 3 more minutes, stir and add more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over the kasha. Adjust seasonings, if necessary.


Filed under Eat, Europe

Martyrs Day in Madagascar

Antananarivo, MadagascarMarch 29 marks the anniversary of Martyrs Day in Madagascar, a day when 11,000 people lost their lives while opposing French colonial rule in 1947.

On this day, their sacrifice is remembered and honored.

Families celebrate by spending time together and enjoying activities together such as going to the movies or relaxing in a park.

Elected officials make speeches at special events and lay commemorative wreaths to honor those who died.

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Cherry Blossom Festival Unites Japan, USA

DC cherry blossomsOn March 27, 1912, American First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, the wife of the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, planted the first two Japanese cherry blossom trees near Washington, DC’s Tidal Basin.

Mrs. Taft was an excellent advocate for bringing the Japanese cherry trees to Washington. For three years, she lived with her husband and children in the Philippines while her husband served as the Governor-General of the Philippine islands. She was considered remarkable at the time because she welcomed the opportunity to learn about the language and culture of the Philippines and to befriend the Filipino people.

In addition, Mrs. Taft enjoyed traveling to Japan and China and she brought a respect and appreciation for other cultures to the White House when her husband was elected in 1908.

Ninety-nine years after the two ladies planted the first cherry blossom trees, visitors to Washington still enjoy them, as well as the 3,000 others that subsequently joined them.

This year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival is being conducted while the original givers of this beautiful gift – the people of Japan – are struggling with unbelievable challenges and tragedies.

More than two weeks after an earthquake and a tsunami changed life for people of Japan and set off a nuclear crisis in their country, many Americans are using the National Cherry Blossom Festival to reinvigorate American donations to help the people of Japan.

For more information about the history of the cherry trees in Washington, DC, check out the National Park Service’s website.

More information about the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs from March 26-April 10, click here.

The American Red Cross is one of the best options for donating funds to help the people of Japan.



Filed under Asia, Learn

A Cookie By Any Other Name


Photo: Real Simple

Known as palmiers in France, palmeritas in Spanish, ventaglio in Italian, and elephant ears in English, these little cookies have a devoted, global following.

It is believed that they are French in origin, where their name translates to “palm leaves.”

They are widely available in bakeries and from companies such as Goya, but they are also easy to make – so long as you don’t try to make your own puff pastry!

Here’s a recipe from Ina Garten that was posted on www.foodnetwork.com. Try it and let me know what you think.


Filed under Eat, Europe

What Kids Should Know About Libya

Libya has been in the news recently as the United States and other nations enforce a “no fly zone” to help protect Libyan citizens who do not agree with their current government.

Without going too deeply into the situation in Libya, which may be overwhelming for children, it is an opportunity to teach kids about Libya and its place in the world.

Libya – whose official name is Libyan Arab Jamahiriya – is located in North Africa. It is the fourth-largest country in Africa and the 17th largest in the world.

The country is mostly covered by the Libyan Desert, which is one of the driest, hottest places on earth.

Some parts of the desert have not had rain for more than 13 years. The highest temerpature that has been recorded in the desert is 136 degrees Fahrenheit!

The majority of people live in cities and are primarily concentrated close to the coastline with the Mediterranean Sea.

Islam is the major religion in Libya. While most people practice Sunni Islam, there are also Coptic Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics.

Arabic is the primary language spoken in Libya but there are many people from other countries living in Libya, including people from Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Egypt, and Italy. Italian and English is sometimes spoken in the larger cities.

Libya is a very young country – half of the people there are 15 years old or younger.

Fortunately, every child in Libya has access to a free education through secondary (high) school.

In fact, Libya has the highest literacy rate in Africa. More than 82 percent of the people can read and write.

Family is very important to Libyans and they are accustomed to living close to each other. There are more than 140 tribes or clans and people strongly associate with their tribe.

Libyan food is very similar to the rest of North Africa. Staples of a Libyan diet include: couscous, olives, soups, dates, grains, and milk. Following the meal, most people consume several glasses of black tea.

Libya is a beautiful, historic country facing many challenges but hopefully the Libyan people will soon be living in peace.

Libyan Desert

Photo courtesy Wikipedia


Filed under Learn

Hear the World

kids listening to musicLike most people, I love listening to lots of different kinds of music.

From Edith Piaf to Bob Marley to Loretta Lynn to Ali Farka Toure, I’m interested in many different voices.

I’ve succeeded in getting my son hooked (a little). He enjoys French children’s music; in fact, it’s his favorite CD to listen to in the car.

And we both enjoy a CD of African lullabies that I bought him when he was a baby. 

I’m always looking for new ways to broaden our collection and a relative recently gave us Putumayo’s  Picnic Playground with fun children’s songs from around the world.

The Putumayo World Music company and their Putumayo Kids collection is a great resource for CD’s from different countries and regions of the world. According to their website, their goal is to “introduce children to other cultures through fun, upbeat world music.” As a result, they’ve been acknowledged by the Parents’ Choice Awards and the National Parenting Publications Association. 

But you don’t have to buy a CD in order to get your child to listen to different music from around the world. YouTube has many songs from other cultures that are fun for kids. As always with YouTube, you have to monitor it carefully to ensure your child doesn’t accidentally see something inappropriate.


Filed under Listen

Party Like it’s Oktoberfest!

310x206_c_wiesn.4Believe it or not, Munich’s famed Oktoberfest starts on September 19 and runs through October 4.  Oktoberfest started in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.

In later years, the festival was moved to September to take advantage of better weather conditions but the name Oktoberfest remained.  It’s the same logic that permits the New York Giants, the New York Jets, and the New York Nets to play their home games in New Jersey but use their neighbor’s name.  I’m just sayin’.

Personally, I loved Munich when I visited in 1996; everyone looked like my Great-Uncle Joe, right down to the hat with the feather in the brim and the beer stein!  It sounds a lot like a typical American fair or carnival but with better beverages and a more laissez-faire attitude.

If you can’t make it to Oktoberfest this year, fear not.  Here are the dates for the next few years:

2010: September 18 – October 3

2011: September 17 – October 3

2012: September 22 – October 7

Or you can celebrate the 199th anniversary of Ludwig and Therese with a mini Oktoberfest of your own.  Instead of beer, pour some apple juice for the kids and serve them a meal of  pretzels and sausages.  Play some traditional German polka music and serve dinner outside under a tent just like the Germans do.  Finally, there are even some Oktoberfest games kids can play.

Dancing is a must in order to really celebrate Oktoberfest, but feel free to skip “The Chicken Dance.”  It was actually written by a Swiss accordion player!

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Filed under Eat, Europe, Holiday

September is National Papaya Month

papayaIf you thought September was just back-to-school, the beginning of the end of summer, and the start of a new fiscal year, think again. It turns out September is also National Papaya Month, which answers the question that tormented us back in June (during National Mango Month): “When will papayas get their turn?”.

Papayas are another fruit I discovered while living in Burkina Faso, West Africa. My friend, Salimata, introduced them to me. Her method is still my favorite way of eating papayas. She took a sharp knife and split the papaya in half, long-ways.  She scooped out the black seeds inside with a spoon. Incidentally, she disposed of the seeds outside her house and about a year later we had a little papaya tree growing! Finally, Sali cut a lime in half and squeezed the juice onto the papaya’s flesh and then we dug in.  It’s the perfect combination of sweet and tart.

There are plenty of other ways to eat papayas: in smoothies, frozen like gelato,  or cubed in a fruit salad. But don’t just take my word – or ideas – for it! Check out what some other mom-chefs are doing to get their families to eat papaya.

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Filed under Africa, Caribbean, Eat

To Form A More Perfect Union

images-3I think that sometimes people misunderstand what motivates me to learn about other people and cultures.  To some, this interest appears a little disloyal to the country of my birth, the United States of America, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Like a lot of people, I don’t think I really understood what it meant to be an American before I left the country.  Until I was forced to consider how Americans are perceived – both good and bad – I never really questioned what my nationality meant to me.

The opportunity to talk to people in the comfort of their own countries about the United States made me realize that beyond the freedom that we often take for granted, America is an important symbol of acceptance.  In too many places around the world, the “wrong” last name, facial features, religion, or heritage can be a death sentence.  But in the United States, we mingle relatively well and relatively unconcernedly with each other.  At least, that’s the goal.

I have benefited from a family background that includes Revolutionary War soldiers and young men and women who immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s.  This background has given me an appreciation for our country’s long history as well as in the recent immigrants who enrich our country through their unique cultures.   

In my opinion, learning about other people, countries, religions, and cultures – and teaching my child about them – reaffirms what I believe to be the best things about being an American:  the courage to welcome diverse people to our country, the kindness to assist them in their transition, and the knowledge that this diversity strengthens the country I love.   

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

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Filed under Holiday, Learn

A Culture Double-Standard

When people find out that I am encouraging my son to be multi-lingual (so far, English, French and hopefully Spanish), they usually applaud my efforts.  They don’t know how successful (or unsuccessful) I might be in actually accomplishing my goal, but they typically quote statistics about how children are more likely to master a language if they are exposed to it early in life.  They might also point to studies that show mastery of another language actually improves students’ performance in English.  

That is why I am always surprised – and disappointed – to hear people express negative opinions on families who speak Spanish at home.  Instead of applauding their efforts (the way mine are), people condemn them.  I won’t pretend to be an expert on why this double-standard exists but I am hopeful that the more we think about – and draw attention – to these double standards, the better our chances of eradicating them entirely.

OK, off my soapbox now.images

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Filed under Europe, Latin America, Learn