Experiencing the food specialties of other countries is a way to understand and appreciate the people and culture of the country. Amalia, one of Lae Lae's friends in the book, is from Colombia. In the activity section of "Cooking Fun", where I include simple little recipes that children can make, I have recipes from Colombia among the recipes from the United States. The Colombian Arepa is one of the oldest and most well known foods of Colombia (and Venezuela as well). It is a simple little cheese and corn "pancake" and it can be eaten many different ways. They are eaten almost daily in Colombia. Many times when I read my books with children we will do one of the activities included in the book that we are reading. As we were reading "Cooking Fun"
and Amalia was from Colombia, we decided to make arepas.
We divided the class of 25 boys and girls (first graders) into smaller groups and we had them "clean up" to cook. After they had washed their hands, we then let them measure all the ingredients (1 cup corn meal, 1 cup water and 1/2 cup grated Monterrey Jack cheese) for the arepas into a big bowl. They stirred it well as the corn meal tends to settle to the bottom and the cheese tends to clump. We had to remember to do this several times during the pouring.
The two adults poured the batter onto the griddle and made the little "pancakes". Then the children got to do their part again, selecting the toppings from the toppings bar....organic strawberry spread (with no aded sugar), organic honey, powdered sugar or parmesan cheese for the finishing touch to their arepas snack. It was so much fun and the children made a very easy little treat of areas finished out with their own tasty variations.