One of the cornerstones of Christian education should be the teaching of empathy – especially in relation to serving others and sharing our faith. Instead our attempts, if any, seem to be closer to teaching pity. Empathy involves the ability to really and truly understand as much s possible what life is like for another person. Many times empathy is difficult. How can our children care about what happens in a country they may never visit?
I am always looking for new resources to help children develop empathy. Recently, I was given an opportunity to review a book entitled, In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Grandmas Around the World by Gabriele Calimberti. This book is a dream come true! It is rare to find a somewhat affordable coffee table book which is also useful. The author has not only managed to capture beautiful photographs, but also introduces us to grandmothers all over the world and their signature recipes.
Each section features a photo of of a grandmother in her kitchen with the ingredients laid out beautifully. The accompanying photo is of the finished dish. Turn the page and you are treated to a short summary of the grandmother’s life and circumstances. The fourth page in each section has a recipe you can try in your own kitchen.
The thing I love about this book for teaching kids about empathy is that it doesn’t just highlight the differences in the various grandmothers around the world. While it points out the unique environment in which they live or the foods they enjoy, it also points out the similarities of all grandmothers. Much of empathy education focuses on the differences between two groups. Studies have shown this increases the perceived distances rather than narrowing them. Instead, knowing that in spite of any visible differences, all of these women love and adore their families builds bridges between cultures.
The recipes are a lot of fun. Many are kid friendly – both to cook and eat. A couple of the recipes – fried worms and iguana soup require a more adventurous palate than most children possess. A few recipes have unusual ingredients and the author often attempts to provide suggestions of substitutes which are easier to find. A few exceptions were memorable. One recipe called for a shark, which is illegal to eat everywhere except in that country. The substitute? Sting ray meat! Haven’t seen that in my grocery lately, but maybe I need to take a closer look.
I am privileged to review quite a few books every year for this blog. I think this is perhaps my favorite of the dozens I have read in the last few years. It is beautiful, touching and excites the mind about the possibilities of travel, service to others and missions. If nothing else, you will have a few interesting recipes to try on your international nights.
Look through it with your kids. Talk about the women and their lives. Try their recipes. Discuss how your children can make a difference in the lives of people in those countries (including their own). It’s a fun resource for learning about others and how to serve them and share our faith.
This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is provided for your convenience.