March observes National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme, “Celebrate a World of Flavors,” gives us the opportunity to try new cuisines, and learn from other cultures. Whether planning a trip across the world or just across town, we can expand our palates with new and exciting flavors of the world.
Many people identify with the phrase “food is culture,” so when trying someone else’s native foods, we also share in their cultural history. You may become worried about trying new foods for the first time, so to avoid the stress, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, do your homework. Research the menu ahead of time and know what types of foods you tend to like or dislike. For example, if you dislike fish, then raw fish sushi may not be a good first choice for Japanese cuisine. With a bit of menu preparation, you may be able to find a vegetarian sushi option that you would prefer.
This next suggestion may feel like a contradiction, but you must be willing to try something new. If you do not have an open mind, then you cannot expect to find something new to enjoy. When tasting new foods, you may not immediately find something you like, but don’t get discouraged! The art of food exploration is to use food as a medium to better understand other cultures. We can appreciate what another culture eats without necessarily preferring the same foods.
With the relationship between food and culture being so strong, it is no wonder that millions of people travel every year to festivals that celebrate food and traditions. Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, features traditional German food such as kielbasa, spaetzle and wiener schnitzel. Closer to home, Minot’s Norsk Høstfest is North America’s largest Scandinavian festival and features foods such as rømmegrøt, lefse, lutefisk and much more. Even theme parks get in on the action with Disney World’s EPCOT International Food and Wine festival showcasing cuisines from six continents.
For sound nutrition, remember to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, experiment with different grains, choose low protein foods, and complete your meal with dairy. Consume sugary desserts in moderation. For more information visit the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics website at eatright.org/national-nutrition-month.
Something new to try at home: Bubble Tea
Bubble Tea is Taiwan’s most famous culinary export. A relatively new confection since the 1980s, these drinks are now found all over the world. Traditionally prepared as a mixture of milk, tea, and tapioca pearls, many variations exist for this treat. For less sugar and calories substitute skim milk, Splenda, and reduce amount of added tapioca pearls. Enjoy!
• 1 cup of tapioca pearls
• 4 cups freshly brewed black tea
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• ½ cup whole milk
Mix together and serve cold with oversized wide straw. Recipe above serves 3-4. For added challenge, prepare your own tapioca pearls at home as well.