I’ll be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about kids or what they’re into these days. I don’t really hang out with many and the few that belong to my friends are still babies and toddlers. But I’ll tell you one thing, I learned all sorts of things about Cambodian kiddies in the two weeks I volunteered teaching them English.
One of the things I found most fascinating was the snacks they ate during recess. I’m used to kids at home eating candy and cookies, or if they have health-conscious parents, fruits like apple wedges, grapes and bananas. But not the Cambodian students I had. They ate all manner of unusual snacks and super sugary, brightly colored energy drinks (which for the record, turned the portion of class after recess a wild rumpus room.)
A few times, the kids ate strange fruits purchased from bicycle vendors and the ramshackle shop across the street. I didn’t know what they were and the kids weren’t much help either in explaining what they were. The couple of times I tried what they were nibbling on, they were bitter or sour, and not anything I could imagine my 8-year-old self eating.
One snack I was able to identify was green mango, a tart version of its sweet, juicy, ripe counterpart. Cut into wedges and strips, my kids dipped it in a salt and chili pepper mix that made them pucker their little faces and fan their mouths from the spiciness. Again, how many little kids do you know that would pack ask for that in their lunch boxes?
One kid made me laugh one day when he pulled out a whole corn on the cob and chomped away at it during break. I feel ya, little guy, I like corn on the cob, too.
Another snack they couldn’t really explain— but I was able to figure out once I got my hands on it— was sweet sticky rice. Adults eat this too, though, and street vendors sell it from little push carts pretty much everywhere. Sometimes it comes wrapped in palm or banana leaves, or in the case of the little girl I saw eating it at school, in bamboo, which then gets peeled back and the rice inside pushed out, kind of like a Push Pop.
Travel’s great like that, in that it opens your eyes to all the things you don’t know, in this case not just what another group of people eat but what its youngest eaters enjoy as well.