Around the world, food is a big part of culture. The foods people eat in different countries can teach kids a lot about a culture’s history, populations and traditions.
So last month, when 6th graders at the Henniker Community School studied India through an Artist-in-Residency program, the school called on Fresh Picks Cafe to serve a school-wide lunch featuring a sampling of the foods of India.
“Everyone at the school is still talking about the event,” says Fresh Picks Café Floating Chef/Manager, Joseph Monroe.
Monroe worked with his Fresh Picks Café associate, Floating Chef/Manager Travis Beaton, to oversee food preparation and service for the January 14 luncheon. It topped off a four-day residency at the Henniker, New Hampshire school, where students explored the colors and traditions of mosaics in Indian culture through art, storytelling and dance.
Because Indian cuisines are as diverse as the regions from which they come, Fresh Picks Café designed a menu around the flavors and ingredients that are common to many.
For example, curry— a gravy- or stew-like sauce for protein, vegetable and cheese dishes—is a staple ingredient throughout the country. The mix of spices, degree of liquidity and complementary ingredients vary by regional preference. Because many kids shy away from spicy foods, Monroe took special care to turn down the heat on traditional curry dishes—like Punjabi Chicken, for example—by using just enough spice to give it authentic flavor.
It’s widely known that kids learn better when they use multiple senses. To help kids learn to appreciate Indian foods, Monroe invited them to touch and smell raw ingredients like whole cinnamon and whole nutmeg before grinding them into Garam Masala—a spice blend common to many regional Indian cuisines.
He also shared the luncheon menu with the 6th grade teachers in advance; so they could help students make connections between traditional Indian foods and regional cultures.
Although exploring world cuisines can be an adventure in itself, kids gain much more when food is a vehicle for learning about a different culture. The Indian food luncheon at Henniker School was such a success; Monroe would like to see more schools join with Fresh Picks Café to host culinary events that complement studies of world cultures.