MARIBEL MOHR, KINDERGARTEN HOMEROOM TEACHER: As a kindergarten teacher, I am blessed to have wonderfully rich, teachable moments sprinkled throughout my day. One of my favorites occurred one day, last year, during our reading time.
I was reading one of our AlphaTales books, a series of letter books with thought-provoking animal tales. In this particular story, a young, naive yak kept discarding new foods her parents were desperately attempting to feed her. The young yak kept yelling “Yuck!” and tossing the food over her fence.
As I approached the end of the story, a little girl in my class shared a terrific saying, which I had not heard before; she said, “Don’t Yuck My Yum.” She explained that she liked to say this any time people said rude things about her food. We all thought that was a terrific thing to say and proceeded to remind each other of this statement as we went through the year.
This statement is particularity fitting because kindergarten is the only grade in which Peck School students bring their own lunches to school. Throughout the years, I have witnessed many cross exchanges around the lunch table. Often born of innocent curiosity, these conversations can take on unpleasant tones when ignorance of other peoples’ cultures leads to rude observations about strange smells and lunchbox items.
The smells and exotic textures of the foods I ate were unlike those of my classmates and I remember on too many occasions being ostracized for not having your typical American sandwich at the lunch table.
Growing up in Union City, NJ in the 80s, a child of an immigrant Peruvian family, “don’t yuck my yum” really resonated with me. The smells and exotic textures of the foods I ate were unlike those of my classmates and I remember on too many occasions being ostracized for not having your typical American sandwich at the lunch table.
As parents, my husband and I have worked hard to imbue our children with respect for diverse foods and cultures. We go out of our way to introduce them to unfamiliar cuisines; eschewing children’s menus, which are usually full of the same fried, bland fare. For our years of effort, our children are often excited by the smells, textures and flavors of different cultures.
One of our favorite annual events at The Peck School is World Cultures Night. This event brings together diverse foods, music, dress, sports, and allows everyone a chance to share in each other’s traditions. It has become an April tradition and a night that many look forward to.
Teaching children to eat and appreciate foods from diverse cultures will help lay a ground-work for a curious life; allowing them a foundation for relating not only to new foods, but to new people, customs, languages, and ideas.
Some of my favorite children’s books about encouraging adventurous eating are:
The Sandwich Swap by Rania Al Abdulliah
Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin
I Will Never Not Ever Eat A Tomato by Lauren Child
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables From A to Z by Lois Elhert
National Geographic Kids Cookbook: A Year-Round Fun Food Adventure by Barton Seaver
Kids Around the World Cook! : The Best Foods and Recipes from Many Lands by Arlette N. Braman
The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs: An Essential Guide to the Flavors of the World by Padma Lakshmi