November 05, 2009
Today, as I rifled through Neha's homework - my contacts practically dried out after a jet lagged-induced power nap at 6 p.m. - I came across a stack of construction paper strung together with curly yellow ribbon. On it were the words, "Thank You" handwritten and a little crooked in red marker.
Almost as an afterthought I opened it up and found a stack of notes and pictures addressed to me. It took me a minute in my drowsy state to figure out that these were from the kids I did a demo for two weeks ago on Indian food.
The upper grades in Neha and Aria's school were studying things Asian for International Day. I volunteered to show them an Indian breakfast - stuffed parantha. Basically whole wheat bread with veggies and some spices in it - rolled out thin and heated in a skillet on a stovetop.
I entered the class of about 15 - 20 kids with a sense of trepidation. Because we had no stove, I cooked a stack of parantha the night before and brought some uncooked dough, a rolling pin and a cutting board to show them my technique for rolling out the bread.
The first question I asked was, "So, what does everyone think of spinach?"
The question was met with 'boos' and 'no ways.'
But, I won them over. Not by telling them but by showing them how easy and fun it truly is to cook food that's healthy and nutritious. By the end of it every one of them had come to the front to roll out their own spinach paranthas. They weren't afraid to get their hands dirty and the classroom a little messy with flour. They were even braver to eat the paranthas in the end. It was like a vaccum had gone through the room - everything was gone in minutes.
They told me they loved it. Exactly why I think it's a shame that in this country we don't set a higher bar for our children when it comes to food. They are not going to eat healthy food if we don't as adults present it to them in a fun, non-intimidating manner.
So, to the amazingly articulate and adventurous students at the British School of Chicago...thank you for your wonderful thank you card. You can help me taste test for my cookbook anytime! And remember what I said - be fearless in the kitchen. You should always be open-minded enough to try everything. You may not like it - but give it a shot - you never know.
I did not forget that I promised to make you another stack of paranthas very soon. Just let your teacher know if you're still interested in taste testing and I'll get them right over for you.
We agreed to try shredded carrots instead of spinach this time, right?
P.S. And thank you to the one student who gave me incredible insight into why my kids were afraid of kiwi at first. He suggested they thought the fruit looked like a mouse with it's brown, fuzzy exterior. Wouldn't you know it - I asked them and they said that's what it was all along! Incredible!
Stay Tuned! I normally make healthy paranthas from whole wheat-soy flour/soy milk/various veggies for my kids. It's the fastest and easiest food when we're in a rush - usually every morning before school. You can heat them in a toaster oven and roll them up with a pat of butter, turkey and cheese/PB&J/simple Indian pickles/or anything else you love as a filling in traditional bread. It beats eating a breakfast of processed flour and sugar that you get from most pancake, waffle and cereal bar options.
I will be posting the recipe for my easy spinach and flaxseed paranthas - so stay tuned. Your kids will not only love eating them but will love making them as well if you can get over the slight mess you'll surely create in the kitchen.