The Global Table Experience
At some point in the day, nearly every day, I call to my kids, “Everybody grab a chair!”
Each of my three little ones grabs a chair and drags it to the kitchen island. I pull apples or oranges out of the refrigerator and peanut butter, graham crackers or chocolate chips out of the cabinet.
“What are we going to do today?” they ask. My kids are so used to using food as part of learning, they don’t assume it’s simply a snack.
We use food for sensory play – running fingers through Cool Whip or feeling the difference between dried fruit and fresh fruit. We use food for learning numbers – counting out 10 chocolate chips from the bag and then gluing them on a cracker using peanut butter. We use food to practice dexterity – using dull knives to cut grapes in half. And when it’s done, we of course eat our work.
Using food as instruction can be done at any age and at any level. Anyone can do it on a small scale, as I have. But no one can do it quite like Sasha Martin.
A few months after her daughter, Ava, was born, Sasha started her blog, Global Table Adventure, where she cooks, eats and explores food from every country in the world. Sasha started her adventure more than three years ago, and the experience will soon come to a close. From her home in Tulsa, she’s alphabetically cooked her way around the world, beginning with Afghanistan and soon to end with Zimbabwe.
On Oct. 12, the Philbrook Museum of Art will present the Global Table Experience, with world music and free samples of food from around the world. It’s a celebration of Sasha’s project and her upcoming memoir, The Spiced Life, to be published by National Geographic in 2014.
Sasha’s daughter, Ava, has been part of the experience, tasting food from every country in the world, since she was 7 months old. Ava was, in fact, Sasha’s inspiration for starting the blog.
“When Ava came along, my heart cracked open. I saw things in the world and on the news – it broke my heart that she was brought into a world with famine, disease, war,” Sasha said. “As a mother, my sensitivity shot through the roof.”
Sasha wanted to teach Ava about the goodness she could find across the globe. When it was time for Ava to begin solid foods, Sasha decided she would feed her a meal from everywhere in the world.
It’s not just about food for Sasha. It’s about peace and understanding through food.
Ava has learned much about world cultures and cuisine. She eagerly eats Japanese sushi, naan from Tajik and beef suqaar from Somalia.
She doesn’t love everything and, especially in her early toddler years, turned up her nose at some foods. But, Sasha said, the more she’s involved in the cooking and preparation, the more likely she is to eat it. Ava didn’t like sushi at restaurants, but the day they made it at home, cutting a roll into little rounds, Ava popped it in her mouth, and has loved it since.
One of Ava’s favorites is this baked pasta from Ukraine.
Baked Lokshyna (Ukranian Pasta Bake)
- 6 cups of cooked egg noodles (about 1/2 pound uncooked egg noodles)
- 8 slices bacon
- Cheese sauce:
- 2 cups cottage cheese
- 1/4 cup half and half
- 2 eggs
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/3-1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- Find a cozy kitchen in the heart of Ukraine.
- Cook the noodles until al dente. Run cool water over them to stop the cooking and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl, mix together the cottage cheese, half and half, eggs, and seasoning. Plenty of pepper gives the pasta bite. Stir in the cooked pasta. Set aside.
- Cook the bacon, then chop when cool enough to handle. Add the chopped bacon and any accumulated bacon fat into the pasta mixture.
- Pour into a buttered or oiled 3-quart casserole. Stir it together with some breadcrumbs until the mixture resembles wet sand. Sprinkle on top of the casserole and bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling.