Ethnic Food Night

Read about being a mother of 12 as our resident 'Supermom' shares her wise parenting advice.

Food ruts are no fun. You know how it goes: Sunday is spaghetti, Monday is hamburgers, Tuesday is fish fry, Wednesday is casserole night and on and on, until you feel that if you see one more casserole you will lose your mind. And it's not only you; it's your kids, too. They are begging you to make something new, or something their friend's mom made.

As the mother of 12 kids, I'm not exempt from getting stuck in the groove and serving the same old thing, week after week. Perhaps I'm more liable to repeat myself, since it's darn hard to find something that everyone likes at one and the same time. The rotation of crowd-pleasing dishes is limited in the extreme.

I have a blast in the kitchen

However, I don't give up easy and I hit on a good method for introducing new dishes into a humdrum diet. I call it 'Ethnic Food Night.' I let the kids take turns choosing a country or ethnicity and I have a blast in the kitchen; I love to cook, and am grateful for a chance to try my hand at something new. The kids enjoy having some say over dinner and really get into the act, making centerpieces and even sometimes dressing the part. For example, when we had Jewish food, the kids wore Yarmulkes, and when we had Chinese food, my daughters stuck knitting needles inside their upswept hairdos.

I did find that I had to set down a few ground rules. For instance, everyone has to taste a tablespoon of each item. If, after tasting the food, a child doesn't find it to his liking, he is allowed to help himself to the jars of peanut butter and jelly and the loaf of bread that is always on the table on Ethnic Food Nights. I tell my kids they should try to be thoughtful of their sibling's choice of food, if they want him to be thoughtful of their choices in the future. Sometimes the kids pick unusual ethnic food, and it's up to me to research their choice. At other times, the kids themselves create the entire menu.

A kind of preventative medicine

I feel that in this way, the kids not only break a boring pattern, they also experience other cultures. Eating tacos is a way to embrace the Mexicans, while eating sushi develops love for the Japanese. I think that Ethnic Food Night is a kind of preventative medicine against the fear of those unlike themselves.

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