A trip to Brazil

31 07 2010

We learned about Brazil in our usual way, learning facts about the country, listening to Brazilian music like samba, bossa nova, and forro, and studying about the Amazon rain forest. Our dinner was a virado a paulista platter with couve refogata (sauteed kale), beans and rice, and fried eggs with hot sauce.

Here’s what it looked like:

Floppy wasn’t too sure he liked the idea:

After he tried it, though, he decided it was delicious, especially with hot sauce, which he had never had before (and to my surprise he agreed that a bit of tabasco punched things up in a delicious way). The recipes, which came from here, helped us with our Portuguese — they’re written in both languages.

We watched a really neat video series to learn about Carnaval, and looked at pictures of rainforest animals like sloths, toucans, and vampire bats. Finally, we made dessert to explore the fruits of the rainforest. Here we are cutting up an Ecuadorean mango:

And here are our two finished products: the fresh fruit salad, with pineapple, mango, papaya, coconut, and I forget what all. Also a tropical trail mix, with papaya, pineapple, mango, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, candied ginger, cacao nibs, and I can’t remember what else.

I didn’t get a shot of Floppy’s passport, but he drew a picture of Carnaval and wrote “We visited Brazil and learned interesting things about the instruments, words and food. We learned about carnaval wich is like the 4th of july only betr. There are fire wokes and you get to dress up and there is pradse (parades).”


Math: German 1-10 (and the end of our 1-10 series)

10 07 2010

Germany was our last country in our 1-10 math and culture series, and for a change, we visited Germany for a weekend frühstück (breakfast). According to my own memories of cheap B&Ba, as well as the internet (e.g., here), a traditional German breakfast is midway between what USians would call “continental breakfast” and what we would call “picnic lunch.” Cold cuts, sliced cheese, breads, spreads, and soft-boiled eggs, plus maybe some fruit or muesli. Here was our version this morning:

You can’t tell it by his face, but Floppy was super-excited at this breakfast buffet.

We ate our meal listening to this playlist of Austrian/German music, and between the all of it felt quite continental. There are lots of youtube videos that will teach you to count 1-10 in German. We used these two, which were each nerdily charming in their own ways.

Math: Polish 1-10.

7 07 2010

We used this video to learn our Polish 1-10, but the meal had me stymied.

It was such a hot day, today. Well up over 90, and we don’t use air conditioning, though our circa 1960 era house was designed to waste as much energy as possible, not catch cross-breezes. Anyway, not exactly the ideal time to be cooking a heavy Polish meal. I could think of some Eastern European-type hot weather dishes — cucumber salads, chilled fruit soup — but either didn’t have the appropriate ingredients or didn’t think they were substantial enough to count as a meal.

I ended up with a not-very-authentic, but very, very delicious, version of this bialy barszcz and an even more approximate Salata po Polsku inspired by this.

The barszcz (said “barsch”) turned out to be so delicious I will write up the recipe for you.

Bialy Barszcz ala DBI Schoolroom

  • 4 parmesan-garlic lamb sausages
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup no-knead bread sour dough
  • 1/4 cup dill pickle jar liquid (from vinegar-based, not kosher dills)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/4 cup whole milk or cream
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 2-3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, diced
  • 2 large slices no-knead bread, cubed
  • horseradish (we used wasabi powder)

Chop the sausages into bite-sized chunks and put them in about a quart or a bit more of cold water along with the whole eggs (still in their shells). Heat to a rolling bowl, cover, turn off the heat, and let sit for 18 minutes. Fish out the eggs and return the water with sausages to a simmer. Cool the eggs in cold running water, peel and slice them and set them aside. Take the sour dough in your hand and pull off dime-to-nickel sized lumps and toss them in the simmering sausage water to turn into dumplings. Add the pickle-liquid. Leave the soup to simmer while you prepare the bread and cheese cubes, and place a handful of bread cubes, cheese cubes, and a sliced egg in each person’s soup bowl. Mix the sour cream, garlic, and the flour. Working quickly, whisk the sour cream mixture into the soup, whisking rapidly to prevent lumps (don’t worry if there are a few). Stir in the milk,horseradish,  salt & pepper to taste, and the marjoram. Taste and correct seasonings as needed. Pour into the waiting soup bowls with the bread, cheese, and egg slices. Serve with a green salad. Serves 4. Yum.

Math: 1-10 in Russian

5 06 2010

Russian is another language I was looking forward to one-to-tenning with Floppy, because at one time (high school) it was a language that I (sort of) knew. So instead of hunting up one Internet and down the other youtube, I just taught him myself. Also, we made a Russian dinner. We had tea in glasses with a spoonful of blackberry jam in the bottom, pirogue s kapoustoy (a sort of cabbage pie),  and a blackberry compote. The tea and compote especially took me right back; if I had sliced up a cucumber with some dill to go with all this it would have been right out of my memories of obyet in Minsk.

Here’s the dinner. I wish I had brought out my Russian table linens to serve all this. Shame I didn’t!

Here’s the compote I made, which is a delicious vegetarian alternative to fruity jello, and which I adapted freely from this recipe:

Russian-style Blackberry Compote

1 12 oz. package frozen blackberries

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

3 tbsp cornstarch

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Mix the dry ingredients together. In a saucepan simmer the water with a small handful of the frozen berries for about 3 minutes. Then drain the cooked berries, reserving the liquid and returning it to the saucepan. Put the cooked berries in with the rest of the still-frozen berries in a smallish bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients into the berry water in the saucepan and stir until smooth. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly, and boil and stir until the mixture becomes very thick (a minute or two). Then stir into the bowl of berries along with the vinegar. Chill until cold. Yum.

After dinner, we read from Mama’s 1990 Russian/Byelorussian trip journal. Floppy thought it was boring, and poorly written besides, and a lot of it was totally embarrassing in that return-to-your-youth way, but I was surprised to see how much of it I had actually written in Russian. And the parts that were in Russian, I often could no longer understand! A nice trip down memory lane, as well as a counting lesson.

A Trip To Mexico

5 06 2010

Continuing our journey through the countries South of our own, we visited Mexico.  The Putumayo book gave us some context about the country, and we turned to youtube for Mexican styles of music from mariachi to son jorocho to sappy rancheras to scary corridos. We had a delicious meal of tacos with refried beans, sour cream, cheese, spiced chicken, and lettuce in homemade tortillas.

Everyone enjoyed it.

We learned vocabulary words like chilpayate, orale, and quihubo, and looked up new musical instruments such as the guitarron, the ocarina, and the jarana. We also talked about holidays celebrated in Mexico, such as Cinco de Mayo (which actually I think is probably a bigger celebration North of the border, but whatever), Dia de los Muertos, Mexican independence day, and Las Posadas. We also saw pictures of animals that live in Mexico, such as the Quetzal (such a gorgeous bird), the Gray Whale of the Baja peninsula, and of course chihuahuas. Our friend Sue’s sometime chihuahua, Bambi, had just come to visit, so that was good timing.

Finally, we made a pinata. Because I am an idiot, I got very stuck on our household’s lack of balloons (which I intended to use for papier mache). After a distressingly long time, it occurred to me that I did not actually have to make our pinata out of papier mache and balloons. Working only with materials on hand, then, we assembled Senor Guapo, whose base is two King Arthur Flour store bags, covered in leftover wrapping paper, craft supplies, pictures, cereal box bits, and tin foil. Voila!

With his fedora and wingtips, he is indeed guapo, don’t you think?

Here is how Floppy recorded our trip in his passport:

Math: Twi 1-10

16 05 2010

Childcraft suggested that we learn to count 1-10 in Ashanti, which we learned, after a little Internet research, is not actually a language (or at least, that’s not what it’s called now). The Asante people of West Africa speak a language called Twi, which we’re guessing (but couldn’t confirm) is the language our 1-10 is written in.

We did find some cool Twi language tutorials that taught us other words. You can download a free trial of this Twi language learning software (or an iPhone Twi phrasebook) here, which will teach you how to say hello, the names of some foods, and the names of some other items, although not numbers.

We also set up a little Ghanaian social spot, with wonderful music, ginger beer, kelewele, and roasted, salted ground nuts (or peanuts, to we Americans). Here’s a satisfied customer:

Math: Cheyenne 1-10

8 05 2010

There were no videos I could find on the Internet to help with learning to count 1-10 in Cheyenne as Childcraft suggested, so we were left learning and memorizing the old-fashioned way, out of the book. Our meal from Cheyenne culture was a compromise. Fresh-caught brook trout would have been a good choice, but we don’t eat the fish out of our local waterways, since they are too contaminated. (Don’t look at me like that. I live in rural New Hampshire. Have you checked the fish advisories for your own area lately? I dare you to do it without shuddering.) Instead, we ate Cheyenne Batter Bread with butter and maple syrup and fish cakes with homemade tartar sauce. Pretty good evening all around!