A Little Background…
This week, we decided to try something new. Every Wednesday, we are going to take a “vacation” to another country. Technically we are going to go on a literary and virtual vacation to our destination.
Every Wednesday, we will explore another country. We are going to read a traditional folktale from the country, cook a traditional dish (when possible), listen to some traditional music, do a craft project or coloring sheet, read about the chosen country, and watch a short video about the country.
I will document our journey around the world here. When possible, I will include links to the resources we use for this project, so that others can embark on a similar learning journey.
To begin our global journey, we decided to start with Brazil.
The Folktale – Domingo’s Cat
We located a short Brazilian folktale online called Domingo’s Cat. It was the perfect folktale for a child because it was concise. The language used was also straightforward and easily grasped by a child.
This folktale introduces the reader to two main characters: Domingo, a poor man, and his cat. Domingo was so poor that he ended up giving away practically everything but his cat. The cat rewarded Domingo generously with gifts. By the end of the story, Domingo is living in his own castle. He is married to a King’s daughter.
This is an extremely succinct version of the folktale, because I do not want to ruin the surprising twists and turns the story takes. I will reveal, however, that the rest of the story involves a giant, bacon, and trickery.
Prior to selecting this folktale to read to my children, I read several others. Domingo’s Cat was easily my favorite choice though. Other Brazilian folktales you might want to explore are How the Toad got his Bruises and Why the Lamb is Meek.
If you are interested in Brazilian folktales, I encourage you to check out the links included at the end of this post.
Feijoada: a Delicious Dish
We decided to cook feijoda, a well-known Brazilian dish, as part of our Brazilian learning adventure. Prior to cooking this dish, we wanted to first do some research about its origins.
Based on our research, my kids learned that there are conflicting opinions about the origin of Feijoada. It seems that traditional stories describe this dish as being rooted in slavery. It is rumored that the slaves created this dish using scraps of meat from their master’s tables. Today, academics contest this narrative and argue that it was actually the European settlers that introduced this dish to Brazil.
Regardless of its origins, today feijoada is a beloved dish in Brazil. Just what is feijoada though?
While there are endless regional variations of feijoada, the dish is frequently prepared using black beans, salted pork, and beef served over rice with orange slices. Other popular additions to this dish are smoked sausage, cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, chorizo, and blood sausage. In some regions, red or brown beans are substituted for the black beans.
The dish required a lot of steps, so I handled a lot of the cooking. Despite having several steps, the dish itself was relatively easy to prepare. I seared several cuts of meat which I then let the kids put in the slow cooker. The kids then poured in chicken and beef broth, sprinkled in spices, and added the diced onion and garlic. We left that mixture in the slow cooker for several hours. Afterwards we browned sausage and chorizo, cooked white rice, and crumbled bacon. We added the sausage, chorizo, and canned black beans to the slow cooker. After everything was mixed together, we served it over rice with orange slices.
The verdict: my kids actually liked the dish, which is astonishing since they are picky eaters. My husband decided to eat three plate fulls in case I never cooked the dish again. I decided to write down what I did so that I could add this to my regular recipe rotation.
To begin our journey learning about Brazil, we started out reading a country profile of Brazil that was on the National Geographic Kids website. It was the perfect website to teach the kids some basic facts about Brazil. The website provided information about Brazil’s geography, people, government, economy, and wildlife. I liked this website because it was fast facts that are great for elementary age children. I did not want to kill my children’s enthusiasm for this new idea by boring them with endless facts.
After I read the National Geographic Kid’s country profile for Brazil, my kids and I watched three short YouTube videos about Brazil. I like to keep the videos we watch to ten minutes or less, otherwise I know my kids zone out. My kids are at the age where they love everything digital, so integrating YouTube into our virtual vacation was a must. I included the links we used at the end of this post.
The kids colored in pictures of Brazil on the map and also the Brazilian flag. Next week, I will try to be more creative and come up with a more exciting craft project, but for this week, coloring sheets worked.
Exploring the Music of Brazil
A preliminary Google search of traditional Brazilian music quickly revealed a diverse rich history of musical styles. To try to simplify our project, we decided to pick three different styles of Brazilian music to listen to on YouTube. Specifically, we focused on Samba, indigenous music, and chorinho (more commonly called choro). My kids decided we should also watch some traditional Brazilian dance videos on YouTube as well.
Summarizing our Brazilian Journey
Overall, I think we had an amazing first day of trying something new. This was easily the most successful method I’ve tried for getting my kids interested in learning about other countries and their culture. In the past, we have tried reading children’s books about different countries but just reading a book did not seem to actively engaged my kids as much. I am excited to see where we go this year with our journey to learn about other countries around the world.
Now I just need to decide what country we will explore next week. 🤔
Here are some of the links I found useful for this project:
Links to Brazilian folktales:
Links about Feijoada (recipes included):
Links to free Brazilian coloring sheets:
Useful YouTube links to child friendly videos about Brazil:
Useful YouTube links to child friendly Brazilian music:
https://youtu.be/Zes9yQaSwQk (Choro music)