Ancient China for Kids – Food, Family, and Memories

I really like Chinese food.

When we learned about ancient Greece I sucked it up a endured a trip to a Greek restaurant. This last week, to help us get a better feel for Chinese culture we went to a Chinese restaurant. We are going to learn about ancient Rome next and my son asked if we were going to go to an Italian restaurant.

I said, how about we just go back to Lucky 5 and get some more Mongolian Beef?

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You know what? He was good with that.

I have a feeling that ancient Romans pretty much just ate what ancient Grecians did. (There was no marinara sauce in the BCs and early ADs in Rome. Tomatoes are a treasure from the New World.) I’m not getting any more Greek or Greek-ish food for a long time.

So, onto the good stuff…

I really think the person who wrote the following book meant it specifically for homeschoolers. This book is fantastic! Who else writes a book about ancient Chinese fairy tales, includes lessons about Chinese culture within the story, instructs the reader in the mechanics and characteristics common to the tales thus improving writing style and literary comprehension, then gives a Chinese proverb in Chinese characters AND English, and the translation with an explanation for westerners to understand.

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And a recipe to match each fairy tale. So you can make and eat actual Chinese food while you learn about reading, writing, culture, tradition, and Chinese philosophy.

I don’t know anyone, besides homeschoolers, who would actually take the time to do all that.

You know what? I didn’t even do all that!

It’s me. I’m just a little mediocre sometimes. And not ashamed one bit.

But we did read the entire book, cover to cover. The stories were so fun! There was a lot in them that helped us understand what it was like to live in ancient China – and even more modern China since all the stories weren’t just about ancient times.

And because I don’t get excited about cooking, I splurged and bought those awesome Ling Ling potstickers from Costco!

To. Die. For.

And all my kids agreed. Out of all the things we did for our mini unit on ancient China up until that point, I think they liked this book and the potstickers the best.

Those things you see the kids using are not actually chopsticks. They are bamboo shish-kabob skewers. But whatever. This one I will call creative problem solving. When you just really need some chopsticks but there are none to be found…

They were pretty excited about the potstickers. But then I took them to a Chinese restaurant. I love that I can take my kids out to eat and claim it is for educational purposes. (Honestly, I would never take my kids out to a restaurant for any other reason. And this may be the last time we do this for awhile… well, until we get to ancient Japan. I have a soft spot for good sushi, too! Eating out is just too expensive and honestly, its just impractical for a family of 7. And certainly unhealthy as well. I can appreciate that there are people who get to enjoy that lifestyle, but I haven’t made it up to that tax bracket yet and don’t plan on ever getting there, either.)

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We had to make the distinction that the ordinary every day peasant in ancient China most likely did not dine on House Special Lo Mein, Sesame Chicken, Mongolian Beef, and cream cheese Wontons. And frankly, I have no idea if people in China actually eat those things at all, or if they are just Americanized versions of similar culturally authentic food. (Like pizza here and pizza in Italy – or even worse, “American style” pizza in Germany. It had corn kernels on it. Ew! People! We don’t do that! Corn is a vegetable and the average American doesn’t eat those, ok? Sorry, but it’s true.)

The restaurant was a little empty, and I’m not sure if that was good thing or not. It was definitely a good thing when my 3 year old punctured his water cup and we needed a good mop up. Or 5 minutes later when my 5 year old full on dropped his water cup from the far hard-to-reach side of the booth and I had to get someone with a mop to come clean it up. (I did offer to do it myself if they could give me a towel or two, but the server was smarter and just grabbed a mop before I could insist on cleaning it up on my own.) A little background noise would have been nice, however, to help drown out my kids’ laughing and laughing while trying to figure out their fortunes from their fortune cookies. All I remember is the 3 year old is “full of grace,” the 9 year old is “demonstrative with her love,” the 10 year old tried to switch with the 7 year old because he didn’t want to be “full of energy and always on the go,” but being “effective in business deals” sounded pretty good. I had good health. Yes, the one with the incurable autoimmune disease. Whatever, I’ll take it, I guess. But that offended the 5 year old who only had “the ability to sense higher truth.” So we tried to explain to him that he could just sense his own good health and then he was cool with it.

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His new pastime is randomly telling us how our health is doing, you know, according to what he senses when he is around us.  He senses my husband always eats all the cookies when the kids are in bed, and therefore, my husband has been labeled as one with bad health.

I’m not convinced that knowledge will curb his cookie cravings.

And we finally got some chopsticks.

For the first time in my life, even, I was actually able to use them. Up until I got to the rice, but you know, it’s still good.

Despite the noise and the mess (and the kids’ insistence on calling the shrimp in the Lo Mein “crustaceans” which just made them a little less appetizing – we had just come from the aquarium after all) it was a really, really fun time.

Did we learn anything?

We all learned that we really like Mongolian Beef and Sesame Chicken. That may be about it. At least that may be all we got from our restaurant experience.

But as we were climbing back into the car, my 3rd grader shouted out, “Hey! We just made a great family memory! Woohoo!”

And she’s right! And even though that isn’t the ONLY reason I homeschool, it certainly wouldn’t have happened at all if they had all been sitting at their desks in classrooms on the other side of town.

I feel so blessed to be able to do this. I feel so blessed to have these sweet children. I am grateful for this opportunity, even on the really awful, horrible, loud, disastrous, and homeschoolmomfail days, homeschooling is a blessing to me and my family. I hope you feel that way, too.  I hope your good days outnumber your bad days, and that your peace overshadows your stress. I hope you know in your heart that what you are doing is right and good and so beneficial to not only your children and yourself, but to every person who will cross your child’s path in life. We are devoted to raising, nurturing, and teaching happy and loving children, and they will bless the world.

And if you don’t feel this way right now, just stop what you are doing and go get some potstickers and a fairy tale book. Curl up on the couch, and stab those suckers with some skewers.

Chinese food and reading makes everything better.