Written by: Anna Hull, Family Support Services Supervisor

For most people, there’s nothing better than a home cooked meal after having been away from home for an extended time. The familiar people, smells, and tastes all come together to send a message of comfort, the signal to relax now that you are home and safe. As you prepare to bring a child into your home, food can play a big part in your bonding process. The ability to eat a familiar meal can go a long way in showing your child that they are home. For internationally adopted children, this can mean learning recipes native to their country that you can cook at home. For other children who have been adopted domestically at an older age, this can mean taking them to the grocery store and having them pick out a type of food that they always liked.

With the abundance of food blogs and recipe sites on the internet, finding simple recipes is easier than ever. While the idea of cooking foreign food can feel daunting or unnecessarily complicated for some, I promise that each native cuisine has their share of go-to dishes that are just as easy as mac & cheese! Many bloggers have already taken the steps to convert their recipes to slow cookers or the Instant Pot, making these recipes even easier! With a willingness to experiment and a little practice, you can find new recipes that remind your child of their former home.

If you struggle to find an ingredient at your grocery store, substitutions are easy to find on Google. Most cuisines center around a handful of specific spices and sauces, so once you identify them, getting the basics is easy and will not take up a lot of space. If certain vegetables or foods are hard to find or not to your family’s liking, these too can be easily substituted or left out. While incorporating your child’s culture into your lives is important, parents also know that they must balance this with their children’s (and spouse’s) sometimes picky tastes! It’s also okay to start small – grains for breakfast, fruits and cheeses for dessert are all reminiscent of many cultures that are also simple to implement into your daily lives.

You don’t have to wait until your child is home to start; experimenting with new recipes is an excellent way to prepare during your long wait to bring your child home. Eating has long been a communal activity that allows people to get together to fill themselves up, both literally and emotionally. By learning to cook recipes that reflect the culture your child has come from, you have the opportunity to honor their culture and ensure your whole family remains actively connected to it.

As a note, while mealtime can be an excellent opportunity to strengthen your ties with your child, for some adoptive families, food can also be a time of great stress. For tips on making difficult mealtimes easier, we recommend you read Clinical Director Deann Borkowski’s blog post, Feeding Issues & Adoption.

Sources for International Recipes:

AllRecipes

The Spruce Eats