We're one of those crazy families that actually enjoys the grocery store.
For starters, we know not to go during the witching hour, saving all the whining and bickering to the confines of our own home. We all go together when we can, even our six- and four-year-old sons. My husband doesn't go as often as I do, but trust me, he misses it. As a marketer, I like to see the displays, shelf talkers, promotions, and merchandising. I am also the Chief Label Reader. As our resident Rain Man, Mac Daddy does the math on the unit pricing. Our sons just like to go for the free sugar cookies and cheese samples. Bird is actually a big help now that he can read, and Deal helps pick vegetables based on color.
Surprisingly, I've found that the grocery aisles are one of the best places to teach my kids about international fare. We travel across continents without even a passport or money belt in tow. Since my son goes to an international studies magnet school (Note: no school board commentary here, though I am thinking it), it's a great opportunity to tie what we eat to what he's exposed to in school. Because he has some understanding of what global perspective means, he's on board when I point out this and that from various countries. Food is a fantastic way to make culture come to life.
Lucky for us our local grocery store has a terrific international foods section. Even better, it's organized by country with the likes of Germany, Mexico, Japan, India, England, and Turkey represented. We walk through the various sections and look at the yummy delicacies. My sons are partial to the cookies and umpteen varieties of hot sauce. Just browsing the packaging and different types of delicacies gives us a springboard to talk about international cuisine. It sparks curiosity in my children and gives us inspiration for a tasty treat for dinner. More importantly, it's a tangible means to open their eyes (and palates) to the world around us.
Sometimes we have what we call an "Olympics Dinner." We pick a course from a different country to have an internationally flavored meal. Hummus and tabouli, corned beef and sauerkraut, snow peas and tofu, red beans and rice, dal and naan, whatever you desire. It's a fun way to engage the kids in shopping and develop their interest in both food and travel.
Ilina Ewen is the mom of two who writes about food every Wednesday on Go Ask Mom. But you can always find her on her own blog Dirt & Noise.