Yet another part of having a great summer vacation with Geeky Kids. This edition: food and cooking. In order to carry this out, you will need a good market with international foods, or more than one. I just happen to have Jungle Jim’s on tap nearby, and it was a blast to take the Jr. Mad Scientist and Little Man there. We just lagged behind them and watched them react to it all. Little Man fell in love with the 781 pound cheese hanging on display, it’s aging and won’t be cut down to sell until October 2015. Jr. Mad Scientist boggled at the olive bar and happily picked out, I think, one of each.
But some general things you can do would to research your local market and what they offer, then before the trip, plan out a recipe (or menu for a week) and make a shopping list (including possible substitutions, like ginger for galangal). We were there getting the ingredients for cioppini, and I had the kids pick out an exotic meat (you could do this with fruits or veg, too) and we centered a meal later that week around it.
My kids are used to a variety of cuisines, having grown up eating authentic (the best books and food TV could teach me) Mexican, Thai, Chinese, and Indian, among others. If your geeky kids aren’t used to that, you may have to ease them into the idea. Far better to start from birth, as a note to our readers who have not yet spawned their own minions. Watching Andrew Zimmern on Bizarre Foods might not be the best tack to take, although my kids liked him. My kids also loved Alton Brown, which is a show I highly recommend if you are teaching the Geeky Kids to cook. So much science! Such good food…
One way of easing them into the idea is to browse the exotic candies. Might want to steer clear of the lollies with the scorpion embedded in them. Or the cricket. Unless your boy really gets into the idea. The JMS flinched and ran, I’m afraid to say. But the Pocky got her back, along with some other mystery sweets. Thai Tea popsicles? Those went over very well. JMS reports that hers was sweet, tastes a lot like chai, but more caramelish (her own word).
The Little Man chose a pound of ground kangaroo, and we made that into delicious pot pies (recipe can be found here) which both kids ate happily. JMS went overboard on the Faygo (midwest brand of soda) because she’d read about it in a story and thought it was fictional. They both declined to drink the Peach flavor after a sip, and talked me into taking a taste of the Cotton Candy (shudders. So. Sweet. Ow, my teeth!). I do recommend setting a budget, as they will want everything once they get over the wide-eyed stage.
This is a great way to get into teaching about tastes around the world, and how they vary. Take some time to research different cuisines, how they came to be, and what led to the dish you are preparing. If the Geeky Kids are old enough, have them do some directed research (Moroccan Cuisine? How about Spanish? What are the differences and similarities? Look at a map to see how close they are. That sort of thing). Maybe plan a day where you eat around the world, with a dish from each continent as a minimum. I did this for a library program once, and we all had a blast with snacks from all over. But most of all, have fun with it!