By Alexia de Theux
It has been a little over 3 months now that I put my suitcase in Albania, in Tirana, for a 6-month nutrition mission.
It all started with visiting several centers, hospitals and schools to establish a first contact, to understand their needs and try to set up a collaboration in which I can transmit my knowledge as a dietitian. At present I work with several of these beneficiaries with the primary objective of nutrition education.
If I had to go back to a specific project of this mission, I would speak of the week of October 7, which was a special week; it was the “week of taste”. For this occasion, the French school of Tirana offered me to participate in their activities and to intervene in each class on this theme.
I then created small workshops on taste, adapted according to the age of the children.
For the children of 2 classes of kindergarten, we did an exercise of tasting a pinch of sugar and salt to distinguish the two different tastes. Subsequently, they received a small piece of different foods. The goal of the game was to guess what food it was and to classify it as sweet or salty foods. During this tasting they could taste: a piece of apple, orange, olive, potato, carrot, cucumber and pepper.
For the four primary classes and the twenty or so college students, the workshop focused on the same principle but in greater depth. After quoting the 4 tastes that can be found in foods (salty, sweet, sour and bitter), they observed a diagram showing the different places in our tongue where our taste buds detect these different tastes. They then each received a plate with the four flavors in small quantities: a pinch of salt, sugar, a drop of vinegar and a piece of dark chocolate. The tasting was to make the distinction between the 4 flavors and be attentive to the place of our tongue that reacts.
In a second step, they tasted several small pieces of food blindfolded. The goal was to recognize the food and then classify it as salty, sweet, sour or bitter food. They could do the test with: cheese, bread, yogurt, honey, lemon, candy, …
This exercise allowed them to know and distinguish the different basic tastes that food transmits to us, to see how they are attracted and for some to realize that they appreciate the food once blindfolded!
In parallel with these workshops, the school organized a magnificent tasting buffet on Thursday lunchtime. The goal was to introduce them to different types of cooking. We guided them as best as possible in composing their plates so that they are to the most extent balanced, something that is not always easy and on which I will work in the coming weeks.
The children also had the opportunity to taste several typical dishes specific to the country of origin of each child, which could only strengthen the taste of different things, open their curiosity and awaken their taste buds!
Thanks to these workshops I was able to realize the interest of starting nutritional education in children, at the age where they are thirsty to know and learn new things while having fun. For my part, this only reinforces my desire to concretize the various nutritional education projects for children in the different centers where I work.