Teaching a Love of Real Food Around the World

Teaching A Love Of Real Food Around The World

Wed 01 May 2013

Story by Natalie Montanaro

When I go to the supermarket now, itís mostly to buy fresh vegetables and fruit, flour and other staples and herbs and spices which Iíll use to enhance my dishes for others whoíve never had the kinds of ethnic foods Iíve grown to love.

No longer do I look for, nor have much opportunity to buy, canned or frozen goods of high quality - I still love German sauerkraut and Japanese edamame, but these are somewhat impossible to find in the places Iíve lived abroad.

What I do strive for is to continue to impart wisdom about healthy and robust eating that is different from the local cuisine which may contain too much salt, preservatives, saturated fats and meats. In my opinion, these are unnecessary if you learn about other ways of including protein in your diet like beans, seeds, nuts and various dairy products.

During the past four years of Peace Corps service, my colleagues, neighbors and students have not only learned to cook foods from pancakes to pierogis, but theyíve learned to love them and to modify what they do make of their own traditional fare (tasty but not always too good for you) to enhance and modify their own creations in the spirit of the mission of Jamie Oliverís Food Revolution.

Before I volunteered in the Peace Corps, I cooked a bunch for sure, but oftentimes included packaged goods like biscuit mix and frozen pizzas. Then I hearkened back to what Iíd learned as a young mother and that was to make everything I wanted from scratch. Southern cornbread, New York potato knishes, French creme puffs and Italian gnocchi and pasta are some of the homemade goodies that I like to share with new friends across the miles. Itís easy when you learn how and most are just three to five ingredients. Practice makes it perfect and itís a great way to save money and enjoy cooking like a pro.

All the kids in Romania and Tonga Iíve taught to cook are in my mind each time I whip up something tasty and will stay in my heart always. I know that they love to make their own dishes now and will remember the experiences we had together while they create in their own kitchens as I do.

Teaching English and traveling with my whisk and world of ideas is taking priority. Iím glad to report, that among many, the home economics crew and their instructor at the Tonga Institute of Education are the newest members of what I like to call ďNatalieís Food Rev Club.Ē While in Romania and in Tonga, I have reached out to families, neighbors, schoolteachers, students and fellow Peace Corps volunteers to spread the message that good food is not only easy and affordable, but a way to connect with others and understand that othersí traditions, tastes and methods are most times very different than your own.

Now Iíve gone on to China and will continue the work that I started back in Romania, hundreds of recipes and dinners with new people later and a whole lot of English and food culture later. Iím really looking forward to more ambassador experiences this year so check out some of the dishes Iíve gotten to try out here at www.facebook.com/FoodRevolutionKingdomofTonga and some other wonderful notes about local food experiences here as well as this recent article on CNN featuring a Tongan delight.

Food Revolution Day 2013!

For my activity this year (last year it was a garden party with 2nd and 3rd grade Hungarian kids in Transylvania) I will host ĎCool the Furnace!í.

I am now working in the ďhotspotĒ of Chongqing, China which everyone calls the furnace- famous for hotpot dishes with the spiciest peppers and itís eaten all year round even in the unbearable heat of summer!

For Food Revolution Day Iíll have a seasonal cooking class for my group of college students, teaching them how to use all those colorful fruits and vegetables grown here to make cool dishes together requiring no boiling, baking or frying along - delicious foods appropriate to beat the heat.

Check out these photos of some of the most lovely people I met as a Peace Corps Response volunteer and youíre a Food Revolution Ambassador in the Kingdom of Tonga, and a few of the many delicious foods we created together there in the spirit of the Food Revolution.

I look forward to more times to share skills, conversation and culture with new friends in any place around the world my life takes me. Thanks to Jamie and all the other ambassadors, families and friends around the world, the Food Revolution is stronger than ever and growing each day.

About the author: Natalie Montanaro, Food Revolution Ambassador Kingdom of Tonga, earned a masterís degree in foreign languages and language education from the College of Charleston in South Carolina. She is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Romania 2009-2012) and Peace Corps Response Teacher Trainer (Kingdom of Tonga 2012-2013) who loves food and entertaining, teaching and traveling, photography and music, culture and the art-most of which find their way into the meals and conversations she has with others. She is currently an English teacher/Ēnew food introducerĒ in China at Chongqing Business and Technical University in the Peopleís Republic of China. You can contact Natalie at knowenglishnow@yahoo.com.


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