From the Archives: Cora Cooks Pancit

While I'm on vacation, I'm re-posting some favorites from last year. This was originally published in May of 2010. I made pancit again yesterday, which inspired me to repost.

We live in a rural town in Southeastern Massachusetts. One drawback to living here is that it isn't particularly diverse. That is, most residents are caucasian, middle class, Christians. For a parent who is dedicated to raising children who are comfortable with people of different races, religions, and cultures, this is a challenge. We have a variety of friends, but the reality is that in our day-to-day lives of work, school, and home, our world can be very white. For many of you, this may be the case, too. Or maybe you are a person of color and nearly everyone in your neighborhood looks like you.

So, what is a parent to do? There are many ways to introduce different cultures and religions to your children. Of course, nothing is better than interacting with real live people (as I promote in this blog), but there are other steps you can take. Today, I'll give an example of how I used a particular book for that purpose.
While reading Shen's blog, I learned about Cora Cooks Pancit, a picture book about a young girl who "longs to be a cook" like the big kids in her family and cook pancit (a Filipino noodle dish) with her mom. After I picked it up from my library, I left it laying on the coffee table as I often do to spark my kid's interest in a book. As usual, my four year old daughter saw it and asked me to read it to her.

My daughter enjoyed reading a story about a girl who is like her- the youngest in the family who wants to be like the big kids. The great thing about this book is that the last page includes a recipe for pancit with clear instructions for how to cook it. So, what do you think my daughter asked to do upon finishing the book? You guessed it- she wanted to make pancit. So we did. She had to wait a couple of weeks until we were able to get the correct noodles from Kam Man in Quincy, MA, but it was worth the wait. We planned the meal for a leisurely Friday night and the whole family got involved. My son opened the cans of bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and baby corn while my daughter soaked the noodles like Cora did in the book. Then both kids and Daddy shredded the chicken, just like Cora, while I chopped the vegetables. It was time consuming, but we worked as a family to get the job done, and enjoyed each other's company. The results...delicious!

The strange thing is, I lived in the Philippines as a teenager and loved pancit. Yet, I have never cooked it until now. What was I waiting for? What are you waiting for? Get this book and have a go! I hope you enjoy the opportunity for family bonding, learning about another culture, and good eating.

If you want to know more about Filipino cuisine, check out Burnt Lumpia. To learn more about Filipino culture and to learn some Tagalog words with your child, read Filipino Friends.

What do you think? Would you try this with your family or students? Do you have a favorite book about another culture that includes a recipe? Please tell us about it.