New traditions, new dishes, new experiences

Last Friday we attended our school's Heritage Potluck. It sounded like an interesting event -- each family is supposed to contribute a dish that represents their heritage and traditions -- but honestly, I thought people would bail out and buy apple pies at Whole Foods, maybe bake a lasagna or toss a salad together.

I wasn't too keen on going, but the kids convinced me, so I decided to buy some puto (Filipino rice cake) from Goldilocks, our local Filipino bakery, and make some chicken fried rice (yes, I know it's not strictly Filipino food, but Filipinos eat fried rice all the time so I figured it counted). I was backing up the van, ready to leave, when Alfie pulled up on his motorcycle; I told him where we were going and said I could handle the kids if he wanted some time to himself to work out or watch tv (aren't I a nice person?).

It just goes to show you how stupid I can be and how much I underestimate the generosity of our community in general. When we got to the school, the tables in the multipurpose room were groaning under the weight of all the dishes that people had brought. What a feast! I saw matzoh ball soup, a plate of Swiss cheeses, Indian curry, smoked salmon, Spanish rice, Spanish omelette, English sausage rolls, hot Louisiana sausage, Dutch potatoes, wontons, egg rolls, enchiladas and more. I can't even begin to describe the dessert table because it's going to make me get up from this chair and raid the fridge. Most of the dishes were homemade, and were disappearing quickly -- but were just as quickly being replaced with new dishes brought by arriving families. I quickly put the puto and rice down (thanking my lucky stars that I needn't be too ashamed of our contribution!) and dialed home. I told Alfie to get his butt here pronto, because the food was amazing and he absolutely had to try everything!

The night turned into a taste adventure for the whole family. I was so proud of the way all three kids tried so many strange and unfamiliar dishes! We've had our struggles with picky eating and macaroni-and-cheese phases when they were younger, but we resisted the urge to give in to chicken nuggets and pizza and separate kiddie meals and kept feeding our kids real meat and veggies and rice. Through a combination of luck and the right personalities and parental persistence, I'm happy to say that The Pea, 3Po and Jammy are now open to trying pretty much anything. That's not to say they will like all of it -- we all have our personal food likes and dislikes, after all -- but we've established a family culture that doesn't refuse a taste of food based on how it looks. I saw the payoff last Friday, as 3Po happily shoveled some boiled salmon into his mouth and The Pea slurped up the clear broth and limp veggies in her matzo ball soup. We'll definitely be attending next year's Heritage Potluck; who knows what new and delicious foods we'll get to try next!

This post was inspired by the Silicon Valley Moms Book Club's March book selection: Top 100 Baby Purees and Top 100 Finger Foods , written by Annabel Karmel. Another of Annabel's books, First Meals, was my food bible when the kids were babies; I credit her yummy fruit and vegetable purees with opening my kids' palates and getting them on the right track towards eating healthy, real food.


Elizabeth @ TexasEbeth said...

The school my son attended last year had something similar. I took individual Irish trifle since my husband is 1st generation Irish. The desert was a hit! There was so much good food there too & Kiddo tried a little bit of everything too. That has taken much work from me as well.

Suz said...

My kids always LOVE going to our Filipino friends' house for birthday celebrations. Thank heavens we made a rule to try 3 bites of anything new. Their fave, by far, is Auntie Shirley's fried rice. :)

c2cmom said...

Perhaps you'll have a fried rice recipe post in the future? (Pretty please? :-D)

I'll have to look into if our school holds a Heritage Potluck, it sounds fun!

lucybrown said...

on Annabel Karmel's website ( there is a section in recipes on 'world food' my boys love everything from oriental, to indian to italian... there is a great selection

my boys (including my husband :) ) love this beef stir fry

1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
8 canned whole baby corn, cut in half
1 zucchini, cut into matchsticks
10 ounces round steak or rump steak, cut into very fine strips
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
A few drops of tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Heat the sesame oil in a wok and stir fry the garlic, carrots, sweetcorn and zucchini for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the beef and continue to stir fry for 4 to 5 minutes. Mix the cornstarch together with a tablespoon of water and stir into the beef stock. Stir this into the pan together with the sugar, soy sauce, Tabasco and sesame seeds. Bring to the simmer, cook until slightly thickened and serve with rice.

Magpie said...

The school I work at does a multicultural dinner every year - it sounds much like this one. Awesome!