Based on a nursery school memory The Sandwich Swap, by Queen Rania Al Abdullah with Kelly DiPucchio, is a delectable delight about two simple sandwiches. Fast friends Salma and Lily find themselves with a dining dilemma: Each silently thinks that the other’s sandwich is “weird and yucky, strange and gross.” It’s not until they tell one another what they think that “hurt feelings turned mad,” bystanders took sides, insults started flying, and so did food. The food fight lands the friends in the Principal’s office not once, but twice; first to make restitution, then to make a suggestion. And so began their International Day, so that the children could showcase foods from different ethnicities and expose one another to new and different textures and tastes.
This sweet story could easily serve as a springboard for your own Cultural Cuisine Celebration. Start with students interviewing their grandparents or parents and researching where their ancestors were born and grew up. Ask them to gather recipes to create a cookbook to share with the class. Compare and contrast the recipes. Make a T chart with common ingredients on one side and unique ingredients on the other. Fix a few of the dishes together as a class if possible. Let students decide which recipe they’d be willing to try at home and bring to school to share. Host the celebration at night if you want to include families in this ethnic extravaganza. Ask for follow-up reflections about the new foods they’ve experienced.
If you’d rather just host a sandwich swap of your own, two other books that would nicely piggyback your event are Carla’s Sandwich by Debbie Herman and The Peanut-Free Café by Gloria Koster. In the former, Carla combines all sorts of fun and different ingredients in her creative concoctions. In the latter, children learn to be sensitive to Grant’s peanut-butter allergy.
In the meantime, I think I’ll set some dough for a batch of Danish Kringle.
Barbara Gruener is a school counselor at Westwood Elementary in Friendswood, TX, a winner of the 2009 CEP National School of Character Award.
For more information on Westwood’s program, visit its website.