Travel the World at Home
by Sam Glyn Nava, B.S.Ed, M.S.CCC-SLP
Alphabet Kids Director of Education
 
Travel Night is a way to give your children a first-hand, memorable journey to another culture from the comfort of your home without having to board a plane, train, or even travel by car! With these "travel nights", you can surround your child with sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a new place that will remain in a special place in your child's memory forever. You may chose to do this weekly, or once a month, and you can fully immerse your family in the distant place and culture.
 
Here are six "cultural travel night" ideas with foods, key mealtime words, a movie, and a book you can read after dinner. You can expand on these using internet searches for other cultures. We hope you'll tell us your own "Travel Night" adventures. Bon voyage!
 
ITALIAN CULTURE
Eat: Pizza or Linguini Bolognese: Linguini pasta with meat sauce named after the Italian town, Bologna; try a healthy roasted vegetable plate including peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, tomato. Use spices like basil, oregano, along with a drizzle of olive oil for flavor.
Say: per favore (please), grazie (thank you), prego (you're welcome), Buon Appetito (said before you start eating, enjoy the meal), delizioso (delicious), buona notte (good night)
Watch: Totò Sapore
Read: Allegra's Apple Tree and Strega Nona
Interesting Fact: Most Italian meals include three courses, a first course - cold or hot appetizers, then a pasta course and finally a protein course. If you have time, try to model your meal around the traditional Italian meal; and then, follow it with a delizioso dessert , such as gelato (Ice cream) or sorbetto (Italian ice)!
 
LATIN CULTURE - Focus on Mexico
Eat: Tacos: tortillas, beans (black or refried), chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese, peppers, ground meat
Say: por favor (please), gracias (thank you), de nada (your welcome), buen provecho (said before you start eating, enjoy the meal), delicioso/que rico (delicious), buenas noches (good night)
Watch: Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico
Read: Elena's Birthday Surprise or Mexico, A True Book
Interesting fact: Tortillas are not just eaten at dinner or lunch time. In Mexico, tortillas are eaten with every meal including breakfast.
 
ARABIC CULTURE - Focus on Morocco
Eat: Tagine with cous cous: Named for the pot it is made in, tagine is a stew made with vegetables (squash, carrots, potato, tomato) and can include chicken or lamb, cinnamon and raisins. Cous cous is a rice-like starch made from wheat.
Say: afak (please), shocran (thank you), afwen (your welcome), bil hana wish shifa' (said before you start eating, enjoy the meal), hadshi bneen (delicious), tesbah ala kheyr (good night)
Watch: Aladdin
Read: Umar's Magic Oven or The Butter Man
Interesting fact: Traditionally, the tagine and cous cous are mixed together into a ball with your hands and popped into the mouth without utensils.
 
CHINESE CULTURE
Eat: Rice is a staple of Chinese food, usually the rice is steamed. An easy way to bring Chinese cuisine to your table is to make a stir fry using chicken and vegetables.  It is also common for to drink tea during or after a Chinese meal.
Say: ching (please), shey shey (thank you), bú yòng xiè (your welcome), ching siang yuong (said before you start eating: enjoy the meal), hao chyr (delicious), wan an (good night)
Watch: Mulan
Read: Yang's New Dance or Tikki Tikki Tembo
Interesting Fact: Much of Chinese food is cut into bite side pieces in order for the food to be easily picked up using chopsticks. Try to use chopsticks for your Chinese cultural dinner.
 
INDIAN CULTURE
Eat: Largely based on rice, stewed vegetables, lentils and beans, chicken, lamb or goat. The main spices used in Indian cuisine are curry and cumin. Cinnamon and nutmeg are used in savory dishes. Yogurt is an ingredient in many Indian dishes as well.
Say (in Hindi): Kripaya (please), Shukhriya (thank you), _pak_ sv_gata hai (your welcome), Bhog keejeeae (said before you start eating, enjoy the meal), swaadisht (delicious), Shubh raatri (good night)
Watch: Short Stories From The Mahabharata - Arjuna & Karna
Read: The Road to Mumbai
Interesting Fact: Most Indians rinse their hands, legs, and face before eating a meal. Indians usually eat with their hands, and it is considered polite to eat with the right hand and not the left hand.
 
GREEK CULTURE
Eat: Start your meal with dips and flat bread, a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and feta cheese and follow it with either skewered lamb, pork or chicken, Souvlaki or a ground meat/eggplant/potato casserole called Moussaka.
Say: parakalo (please/you're welcome), efharisto (thank you), parakalo (you're welcome/please), Kalí óreksi (said before you start eating, enjoy the meal), nostimo (delicious), Kaliníkta (good night)
Watch: Hercules
Read: D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths
Interesting Fact: It is said that the Greek cuisine found in Greece today has not changed since ancient times; it's still based on the fresh fish, meats, and vegetables and cooked with local Greek olive oil and oregano.