Saturday, April 16, 2011

Geography Fair

One of the things that our homeschooling community does each year is sponsor a Geography Fair, in which each participating family puts up a table about a particular country, with a Science Fair-type board, display items, and our favorite item--FOOD!  This is a multi-age thing, rather than just a middle school age thing.  However, it is something that we have done for years, and which I think I still valuable.  It is one of those things that is interesting to do over time, because it does really demonstrate the evolution of our  children over time.

I can't remember all the countries we've done, but I know the last two ones we did--Congo and Chile---were chosen by my son based on animals or environmental factors.  However, this year we did Ethiopia.  My son chose that country because he did a report on Ethiopia for his 19th Century History Coop, and discovered that among all the nations in Africa, Ethiopia was the only one that really was able to remain independent in the 19th Century after the Berlin Conference of 1884, when Europe decided to divide up Africa between them as European colonies (disregarding what the Africans might have thought about the idea, of course).  So I see that as a middle school development--no longer choosing his country on the basis of animals or rain forests, etc., but on the basis of a historical/political fact.

However, it did break the rule I had set after our experience with the Congo, which was NO MORE GEOGRAPHY FAIR PROJECTS FROM AFRICA!  Now, this is not because Africa is not interesting nor valuable, because it is.  But a big component of these displays is food for people to sample, and African food is....well, let's just call it challenging.  (For the Congo, it was not just challenging, it was the pits.   Believe me, we tried, but every Congo recipe we made that didn't have things in it that we were allergic to was pretty much inedible. )

Ethiopian food, however, is quite spicy and enjoyable.  Unfortunately, it is quite hard to fix at home, especially in the South.  The food is made in a barbare sauce, which requires about $50 to buy about 12 spices....which I reduced to $8 and two spices, especially because I didn't want to make it really spicy for all the children who would be attending.  It is served on a large sourdough and spongy flatbread called injera, which is made out of a type of wheat that is only grown in Africa,   So instead, I just used tortillas.

So, really, it wasn't anything like real Ethiopian food.  But I did explain about how the Ethiopians eat without utensils, but just tear off bits of their platter bread (the food is served on top of a piece of injera that can cover the entire table) and scoop up the stew-like food.  Thus, the students got to have an experience of eating kind of like the traditional Ethiopians.

Here is our dish, which is an Anglosized version of Doro Wat:

Of course, much of the evening is spent going to the other tables and learning from the other displays (this year, each child had a "passport" where they wrote done relevent facts and got a stamp to demonstrate that they had visited).  Below is a selection of the wonderful table displays:

It was a really fun and educational night.  We appreciate everyone who put so much time into their displays and their food.


  1. The cheapest spices are at the World Market store on Chatham. They have quite a few national mixes too, so you don't have to buy each spice separately. I am not sure about the mix you wanted, though!

    We keep wanting to participate and it keeps coinciding with some major deadlines.

  2. That's good to know--thanks for the tip.

    It's a really fun evening. Maybe next year it will work out for you!

  3. My faverote food was the scottish shortbread!

  4. My favorite food was Miss Angela's Arancini from Sicily--little fried balls of rice with cheese in the center. Delicious!