The Sprouts: A Journey Around the World… Starting with Japan

We eat a wide variety of foods including different ethnic cuisines. It has sparked lots of discussions, explorations, and will hopefully serve as a pathway to future travels. While it is just a natural part of our life, I thought it would be fun to take a more intentional trip around the world stopping along the way to read, eat, create and enjoy whatever else comes our way.

To start the adventure, we hung a map of the world to mark our destinations. We also read a few books from the library⎯ painting a picture of how our family is one small part of the big world around us.

To Be a Kid by Maya Ajmera and John D. Ivanko
Captures the spirit, wonder and playfulness of children across the globe as they play ball, paint, share stories, dance and enjoy life. The beautiful photographs especially appealed to my three year old.

Somewhere in the World Right Now (Reading Rainbow Book) by Stacey Schuett
This book is perfect for sparking an interest in geography but also introduces the concept that as we are getting ready to sleep, other people are starting a new day. It starts with a baker in London and ends with a child going to sleep in Boston, with jaguars gliding through the jungle in between. It was also a great book to read just after the time change. It explains how daylight savings came about, the reason for the International Date Line and why it's crooked!

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World (Dragonfly Books) by Marjorie Priceman
All you have to do to make an apple pie is go buy the ingredients at the store, right? What do you do if the market is closed… take a trip around the world in search of the ingredients! Since we are eating our way around the world, this was a great way to start. We found seminola wheat in Italy, a chicken (for its egg) in France, bark from the kurundu tree in Sri Lanka for cinnamon, sugar cane in Jamaica, and apples in Vermont. A tasty journey indeed!

Me on the Map (Dragonfly Books) by Joan Sweeney
This book introduces maps. It begins with "This is me" and uses a simple drawn map of "my room," "my house," and then moves to "my street," and on to town, state, country and the world. Then she works backwards until she concludes with "...everybody has their own special place on the map.“

We were ready to travel; the question was, where should we go first?
It didn’t take long to come up with an answer. Our journey to Japan began about three years ago upon discovering the book Yoko by Rosemary Wells. Yoko is a fantastic children’s story about trying cuisine from different cultures. After reading the book, O who was 2 ½ at the time wanted to eat sushi. My husband and I had eaten quite a bit of sushi when living in Salt Lake City and during various travels. Having moved to Duluth, MN, limited our possibilities. We got creative and discovered a few sushi options. O’s palate began to grow. Then when Skoogie was an infant we bought the board book, First Book of Sushi (World Snacks) by Amy Wilson Sanger to prepare her for things to come. My favorite line is, “’Miso in my sippy cup, tofu in my bowl.” With great luck, Hanabi opened in 2009. Now whenever we have cravings for sushi we pack our kids' chopsticks (Quick Sticks Starter Chopsticks) and head on our way. My 5 year-old son usually eats more raw sushi than I do, but this is melt in your mouth good!!! The chefs and much of the wait staff moved from NY, and we are SOOOOOOOOOOOO HAPPY to have such an incredible restaurant in Duluth!!!

During this week’s travels we discovered a new book, I Live in Tokyo by Mari Takabayashi. The bright and detailed illustrations drew the kids in as seven-year- old Mimiko gives an overview of the traditions, celebrations, and daily life within the calendar year of Japan. O especially enjoyed the top ten favorite meals, the sushi and the characters of the Kanji writing. While Skoogie liked learning about sado, or the tea ceremony since she enjoys having her own pretend tea parties.

As we re-visited the book throughout the week, Pete & I thought to ourselves, with all the cooking we do, why have we never made our own sushi? Several ideas came to mind…not a lot of access to fresh fish in the Northland… it’s a lot easier to go enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labors. But cooking is also part of the eating experience, so we decided to give it a try this past weekend.

We were able to easily find all of the tools and ingredients. A basic list for sushi (vinegar rice) prep is as follows:
A bamboo rolling mat (Makisu)
Plastic wrap
Cutting board
A sharp knife…we learned the importance of this when cutting our first roll!
A wooden spoon or spatula
Bowl of water
Medium grain or sushi rice
Rice vinegar
Nori Seaweed or soybean paper (for rolls)
Fish, seafood, and /or vegetables as desired
Wasabi (Japanese horseradish mustard)
Gari (pickled, thinly sliced ginger)
Soy sauce
Seasame Seeds

We made California rolls with crab, avocado and cucumber and bought sashimi (fresh, raw fish that typically is just [lightly] dipped into sauce and then eaten) from Hanabi to make salmon and tuna rolls. We cut the salmon and tuna sashimi into smaller pieces for the rolls. To get the kids excited about helping, we watched a YouTube video on making inside out California rolls. O’s comment, "there’s a lot of steps!" But oh, was it worth it! As Pete tucked O in he said, "Dad, the sushi was REALLY GOOD!"

Visit next week's The Sprouts when we share our miso soup recipe, try yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers), experiment with gyotaku⎯Japanese fish prints (we got creative) and more! Sayonara.

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