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If you are wanting to study the world, either just for fun or in conjunction with another geography curriculum, one fun way to do so is through food. Cooking Through Geography is a book designed to take you on a taste test around the world while developing geography, cooking, and writing skills.
When the author, Marci Wolf, first connected with me about checking out her book, I admit. I was skeptical of it. Our family isn’t exactly risk takers when it comes to food. I can barely get them to eat a plain hot dog, let alone an exotic dish from far away. But Marci assured me that it was worth the try – that, in her experience while homeschooling her boys, kids often love to taste the food they make themselves. I was a bit nervous about the fact that so many ethnic foods require specialty items from stores that tend to be quite pricey. She told me that she’d carefully picked out recipes that typically use everyday ingredients (with a few fun exceptions) to make it as easy as possible to just get cooking. So, I agreed to give it a try and she sent me a copy to review.
When it arrived, I was a little confused – admittedly. It’s a thin 8½ x 11 book with no pictures or real information. The recipes are just a number with a paragraph on how to make it. The front of the book has a list of countries with numbers beside them and the back has a map and some blank recipe sheets to photocopy. I wasn’t really sure how to use the book at first glance and didn’t know if I could convince any of my boys to do it with me.
Then I saw the tagline of the program: “A simple curriculum to encourage learning about the world through food.” Simple….. hmm. It made me take a closer look and, after reading through some of the introduction where Marci explains how to use the curriculum and also by looking through the various copywork pages, I got a clearer idea of how to make it work.
The numbers beside the countries in the list are the number of what recipe belongs to that country. For example, Canada has a #40 beside it, so if I flip in the book to recipe 40, I find Baked Fish with Wild Rice, while Sweden is #14 – St. Lucia Buns.
The reason that the recipes are laid out as simple paragraphs is shockingly easy to understand after you see that the purpose of the program is to teach skills around how to read a recipe. Students take the paragraph, and a printout of the recipe page, and write out the recipe in a traditional format: ingredients and instructions. It’s a slightly sneaky way of adding handwriting skills and language to a cooking and geography program. But it also helps kids see that there is important information within that short paragraph.
Once a child has finished writing out their recipe, their page also has space to learn more about the country that recipe is from. It asks them to find out the capital city, population, and products that country produces. There is also a world map, so that kids can see where the country is in the world and in comparison to themselves. The idea is to create a notebook binder of recipes. Marci has even included instructions on how to put it together – map on the left side of the page, recipe on the right. Once the recipe is ready, you can start to teach your child to cook.
So, now that I understood how the program worked, I decided to try it out with my 12-year-old son who has shown some interest in cooking. I asked him to pick out a recipe or two to try for this review. Being that his current interest is gaming, he decided that lasagne would be the meal of choice (since Mario is Italian….) I also considered trying the St. Lucia buns because it was Christmas season and bread is my favourite thing to make. Sadly, the only bulk store in town didn’t have any saffron left (and it’s kept on lockdown since it’s so special!), so lasagne it was.
I admit, I was nervous. My one and only attempt at lasagne in the past was a complete and utter failure. But away we went. Following the instructions in the book we made some lasagne. It wasn’t hard, really, but it did take some time. At the end, we pulled out the pan from the oven and popped in some garlic bread that we had in the freezer to finish off the meal. There were several “Mama Mia!” exclamations from my son who thinks that’s hilarious, but it turned out pretty good.
All in all, this is a nice little book that encourages the intersection between geography and life skills along with language. It would work well with a trip around the world study or as part of a geography curriculum. I like that it got my son interested in cooking, so much so that he has helped me a few other meals since then too.