If you’d like to expand your family’s horizons both in cooking and in world knowledge, Camilla Mann of Culinary Adventures with Camilla suggests connecting kids to other cultures by celebrating their holidays, as her family does.
“National food holidays” abound in America. You can find a different food celebrated on almost every day of the year. January 19th is listed as National Popcorn Day; March 18th is National Sloppy Joe Day; and August 2nd is National Ice Cream Sandwich Day.
While I don’t typically honor any of those sorts of single food holidays, with our Cooking Around the World adventure, I regularly seek out international holidays and celebrate those with a nod to their cuisine. It’s been a great conversation starter to connect my kids to other cultures. Who can resist a party, right?
For instance, January 6th is designated as National Shortbread Day in America. However, I prefer to celebrate it as Befana Day. Befana is an Italian woman on a broomstick (think of her as a good witch), enticed by gifts of wine, who brings treats for all the girls and boys on the eve of Epiphany. We make an Italian feast for dinner, then snuggle on the couch and read a few of Tomie dePaola’s picture books about Befana. For our Italian fare, we finally made a panforte nero. And one of my favorite snacks from when I lived in Rome – Supplì al Telefono – has become a family favorite.
In late January or early February, for the lunar New Year which is celebrated in many east Asian nations, we have blended our own Chinese Five Spice. D, my Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf, made his own Spring Onion Pancakes and loves to make Lion’s Head Meatball Soup. “It’s not made with anything lion,” he assures friends and family when he announces dinner and they look at him with horror on their faces.
So, as most of our country are celebrating Independence Day with a bevy of American foods such as hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, and coleslaw, we usually head on a virtual trip, via tabletop, to France to honor their Bastille Day.
Bastille Day is celebrated on July 14th each year and, in France, is simply called La Fête Nationale, literally “the national celebration” or “the national party.” It might also be referred to as Le quatorze juillet, meaning ‘the fourteenth of July.” Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille and, in a very abridged and simplified explanation, the beginning of the revolution that brought the end to French feudalism. When the kids were smaller, I explained that it was sort of like Independence Day in France. I know that’s not completely accurate, but they understood it. “Do they have fireworks, too?” one of the boys asked. Yes!
Planning our menu this year, they noted that we had just prepared Escargot in my Bizarre Foods class last semester; they weren’t too excited about having that again so soon. While they both love eating duck, the Civet de Canard I’ve made before was not a hit because the red wine taste was too strong for their palates. We eventually made it to discussions of dessert and Fresh Strawberry Flaugnarde was at the top of the list. But we opted to go even more traditionally French with clafoutis.
This dessert comes from the Limousin region of France and is traditionally made with black cherries. Here’s an interesting tidbit, for clafoutis purists, the cherries should be baked with their pits intact. Supposedly, when they’re heated in the oven during baking, the pits impart a unique flavor to the custard-like batter. Regardless of whether you pit the cherries, or not, clafoutis is as easy to make as it is fun to say. Klah-foo-tee!
I put the boys to work – one with his cherry pitter (it’s his and he won’t let anyone else use it), one with a stainless steel straw that he read about as a cherry pitter hack. “D – I don’t need to use your pitter. I can do it myself like this…” R retorted.
- 2 cups cherries, pitted
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup organic granulated sugar
- ¾ cup flour (my husband is currently gluten-free, so we used a gluten-free flour blend)
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
- powdered sugar for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C.
- Butter your baking dish(es). The amounts above gave me one 9" clafoutis and one 8" clafoutis. Spoon the cherries into the bottom of the dish(es).
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and flour until smooth.
- Pour in the milk and extracts. Whisk until smooth.
- Pour over the cherries.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. When you pull it out of the oven it will still jiggle a bit. That's normal.
- Place on a wire rack to cool slightly before slicing. The clafoutis will have puffed up quite a bit during baking and will deflate while cooling.
- When cool, dust the clafoutis with powdered sugar.
- Slice and serve.
Using world holidays is a great way to explore the world or your own cultural heritage. What alternative holidays do you celebrate with your children? We’d love to hear your suggestions and comments.