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Using Technology To Encourage an Open-Minded Palate

Ethiopian foodI love food. I love trying new things, and I enjoy sampling cuisines other than the standard fare most of us eat on a regular basis. One look at me, and you won’t be surprised. I. LOVE. FOOD. Really.

So, as I drove home from work today, looking forward to heating up some left-over Indian food for my dinner, I reflected on how diverse my school’s student population is, but how . . . un-diverse? non-diverse? limited? . . . some of the students’ epicurean experiences are likely to have been.

For example, one of my all-time favorite cuisines is Ethiopian.  In case you don’t read my blog much, you may not know that I am a white American of British and Irish ancestry.  I grew up in New Jersey, where Italian food was the most common ethnic cuisine, and Chinese food would be perhaps considered exotic.  (I was in high school before I had ever had Chinese food.  I know! Right?)  But now I live in California, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and one thing moving here has done is opened my eyes to a world of new and exciting foods.  I had never tasted avocado or artichoke before moving here. (I love both.)  I had only eaten Indian food in England when visiting family.  I was not very adventurous in trying new foods.  It took moving across a continent, developing some self-confidence, and making new friends to expand my culinary horizons.

So, back to my students.  Many of them are Americans of Asian descent: Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian, Filipino, etc.  They’re all very familiar with their own cuisines, and perhaps the cuisines of some of their friends.  But there’s a whole world of food out there they may have never tried.  We live in California, so most of them have had Mexican food (not counting Taco Bell here).

So I got an idea.  I love Yelp.  I use it on my iPhone and laptop to find restaurants whenever I travel.  I think I might offer my students an extra credit opportunity that goes a little something like this:

Expand your horizons! Try new things! Use technology to help you!

Using www.yelp.com, get together with your parents to find a restaurant to visit together.  Find one that sounds good and has gotten good ratings.  The one requirement is that it has to be an ethnic cuisine that none of you has ever tried before.  (Or at least that the kids in the family have never tried before.)  Read the reviews to find out what sounds good, and see if there is a link to the menu and/or the website for the restaurant.  Have in mind what you think you might order when you go.  Take some pictures if you can at dinner.  After your meal, write your own review (for me), and include pictures of your food, plus a flag of the country or some other symbol of the country represented by the restaurant’s cuisine.  In your review, answer the following questions:

  1. What were your feelings before going to the restaurant? Were you nervous? Excited? Apprehensive?  Why?
  2. Why do you think you have never had this kind of food before?
  3. What did you order? What did other members of your family try?  Did you try each other’s food?
  4. Did you like the food?  How about the other members of your family?  What did you like?  What did you not like?
  5. Would you go back for this kind of food again? Why or why not?
  6. Would you recommend this restaurant or this type of food to other people?  Why or why not?

 

Image by Flickr user DavidDennisPhotos.com, some rights reserved, Creative Commons.

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