Almonds and pistachios, cinnamon, mint, feta and Haloumy cheese, cucumbers, pomegranates, dates, grapes… there are so many kid-friendly ingredients in Egyptian cuisine that are easy to incorporate into daily snacks. Kids learn about Egyptian pyramids, the pharaohs, hieroglyphics, and a myriad of other ancient Egyptian topics- but sometimes we forget to talk about contemporary Egypt, and other modern societies around the world. I think it is important for kids to realize that kids around the world are going to school, playing sports, listening to music, and sharing meals and snacks with their families. Learning about our similarities and differences helps broaden our kids’ minds, and make them aware that they share this world with millions of other kids. An after-school snack can turn into a mini-lesson with an added benefit: continuously providing a wide variety of healthy foods to even picky eaters will help them make better choices and they’ll be more willing to try new foods the more they have been exposed to. So stimulate their palates, and don’t be surprised if they start to like the new tastes.
Egypt, the land of the Nile River and its fertile basin, grows a lot of its own produce and grains. In Cairo, the capital and largest city, fresh fruit from the farms is abundant, and many kids have it for dessert since local, seasonal fruit is always available. In the summertime in Egypt the markets (suqs) and small local grocery stores sell cantaloupes (battiikh), peaches (khukh), plums (berkuk), and grapes (anub). In the winter it is more common to see bananas (mohz), oranges (burtu’aan) and dates (balah). Throughout the year roasted nuts (goz) such as hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios and dried seeds (mohamas) are roasted on the streets and sold as snacks from pushcarts all over Egypt.
For breakfast, kids might eat beans or bean cakes, and eggs, or pickles, cheese and jams. In the early afternoon (around 2pm) most families eat a large lunch, with meat, bread and a lot of vegetables or salads (salata). Around 5pm some families have a light snack with their tea, and finish their lunch leftovers at a light dinner later in the evening.
- 2 1/2 cups of Greek-style plain yogurt
- 1 smaller English cucumbers
- 1 clove of minced garlic (you can omit this the first time if your kids do not like garlic- slowly add a little more each time you make it!
- a handful of mint leaves, chopped
- olive oil
Drain the yogurt of any liquid every time you use it, to make it as thick as possible. First slice the cucumbers into very thin slices, and then dice them. Place them into a shallow bowl and sprinkle with salt. After an hour, you will see that the salt will have drawn out the liquid. Drain it, and combine the cucumbers, yogurt, garlic, mint, and finally the olive oil. On a hot day, this is cool and refreshing with pita breads, or over kebabs.