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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Math of Food

Ask anyone in the education field and they would agree that cooking is a great way for children to learn mathematics. There's counting, measuring, adding, working with fractions, pattern making, etc, etc...
However, in my personal experience, the height of the arithmetical learning process doesn't occur in the kitchen, but at the table: Nothing teaches kids about numbers--and life--better than dinner time. They don't only learn how to count, they learn how to negotiate, estimate, calculate probability, make predictions and to understand the essence of the human psyche.
You might think I'm crazy (and you might be right), but I'm not wrong, as I've proved my theory over and over. I conduct the same science experiment every night and it always works. I offer my children a balanced, nutritious, wholesome dinner, made keeping in mind (mostly) their food preferences (which I might say are complete opposites between the two of them), and it always has the same result: I have to start bargaining about how many peas they still need to eat, how many more pieces of broccoli should go into their mouths, how many more spoonfuls of soup, so they can finally eat their dessert. I make an offer. They calculate, analyze, feel the territory. They add, count a bit more, subtract, and empirically discover the beauty of fractions. They give me a counter-offer. Our numbers go back and forth until we reach an agreement.
I know...this is wrong for a million reasons, and I should be in charge of stopping it: food treats should not be a prize, no negotiating should take place with kids, etc, etc. But I can't put an end to it, because if a square of chocolate, a cookie (or yes, one cherished Jellybean saved from a party favor bag) will motivate them to eat more veggies, I shouldn't oppose to them learning math in the process. Right???
The following recipe is based in one I originally found in an issue of Gourmet back in 2001. While I'm still mourning my favorite food magazine, I'm glad the recipes are still available online. So here's the link to the original version that I ended up changing a lot for this post. The one at Gourmet is a bizarre sounding combination of a soup. When you read it, it looks more like a smoothie recipe, but it's surprisingly delicious. I'm skipping the banana because my daughter cannot tolerate that fruit and she can feel it even if I disguise it in soup with curry, so I decided to experiment with parsley root. Also, I had a lonely carrot hanging out in the fridge, and I threw it in. I really liked the final result.
The soup is called "One-of-Each Soup" because it uses one of each ingredient, feel free to play around. As for the math, as long as you can count to 1 you can prepare this soup. The numbers that will follow at dinner time are up to your kids and might be harder to calculate....

ONE-OF-EACH SOUP (my version)

  • Vegan
  • Free of: eggs, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy and soy
With a slight Indian flavor but at the same time a delicate taste, this interesting soup is good at the first spoonful and keeps getting better and better as you eat more of it. It has an interesting quality for becoming yummier at each mouthful.
With a variety of vegetables and fruits, the curry spices and the greet tea, this dish is full of vitamins, fiber and powerful antioxidants.


  • 1 large organic potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 organic celery heart (inner pale stalks with leaves), coarsely chopped
  • 1 organic Granny Smith apple, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 parsley root*, peeled and coarsely chopped, reserving leaves for garnish
  • 1 organic carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 pint (2 cups) brewed green tea, cooled (plus more for thinning the soup if necessary)
  • 1 cup unsweetened rice milk
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more to finish the soup
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (5.46 oz) can coconut milk
*Since parsley root is some times hard to find, you can switch it for its identical looking impersonator: parsnip.

In a medium saucepan, bring cold brewed green tea, vegetables and apple to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, until tender.

Stir in ric and coconut milk, 1 tablespoon olive oil, curry powder, and salt and heat just until hot (do not boil).
Puree soup in a regular on immersion blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Thin soup with more green tea, if needed.
Finish soup with a swirl of olive oil and garnish with the reserved parsley leaves. 
Serve hot.

Freezes well.

Serves 4

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