“Which Country Tonight?”

“Which country are we going to tonight, Grandma?”

I heard that question every day recently when I stayed with my grandchildren while their parents were away. Why? Because during my six-day visit, the children and I took a culinary and cultural journey through six countries.

Each night, we ate an ethnic specialty from a different nation. Since the children are young—ages three to twelve—I kept the foods basic. For instance, when we “visited” Mexico we had tostadas; England, fish and chips; and Italy, spaghetti. Desserts, too, followed the pattern: we enjoyed Neapolitan ice cream on our Italian evening, sherbet with our French quiche, and fortune cookies with our Chinese chicken and rice.

During dinner, the children provided information about each country we “visited.” My five-year-old granddaughter pointed out the country on a map, and the seven-year-old identified its capital. We looked at its flag—drawn and colored earlier by the seven- or nine-year-old. (After dinner we taped the flag to the oven door, where it remained for the rest of the week.) The older children researched each country and shared facts such as its type of government, monetary system, and official language. We also discussed each country’s history, culture, and traditions.

The children thought our week-long “journey” was interesting and fun. I found that it encouraged learning, good table conversation, and peaceful meals.Emily L. Morden, Woodland Hills, California

Family History Goes to the Movies

“Romance, humor, adventure, inspiration—this movie has it all!”

“A story of true heroism.”

“Uplifting and thought-provoking.”

What is this movie that draws such favorable reviews? It’s your family history, on videotape! Making this kind of movie is relatively easy and inexpensive and can educate and entertain your family for generations to come. (Some of the following ideas may also apply if you choose another format, such as family history photo albums or audio cassettes.)

Getting Started

Decide who and what you want to emphasize in your production. You might make a chronological history of a family member’s life, a record of a special family event, a demonstration of a person’s hobby, a record of someone’s years of association with a particular Church or civic group, or a pictorial genealogy. The possibilities are endless.

After you’ve chosen your subject, make a brief outline of what you want to include on your videotape. This outline can be modified at any time during the production process. As you proceed, expand the outline into a working script of your narration.

Gathering and Organizing Your Resources

Look through your closets, attic, and garage to find films, slides, photos, maps, documents, and artifacts that pertain to your subject. Ask other family members to do the same.

Once you have gathered your resources, categorize them. Make a log for each category and double-space your entries so you can insert additional items, if necessary. In each entry, record a number, a description of the item, and the place it is located. Put a copy of the log in the container where you are storing the materials and another copy in a three-ring binder along with logs for the other categories.

Write your name and address in a conspicuous place on each container in which you store your materials, then label it with a chronological date or sequential number. You can get small round or oblong stickers in various colors at a stationery store; you may want to assign different colors to different classes of items. It is also helpful to mark on each item, in pencil, a date, place, and name, if possible, and to identify each item sequentially with a small removable sticker.

Producing the Movie

If you don’t have a video camera and recorder, find a store that rents the equipment or ask a friend with a camera to help you create your masterpiece. You can film documents, pictures, artifacts, and interviews at home, but transferring moving film to videotape requires special projectors, so you will need to have that done professionally.

Photographs, slides, and documents come in all shapes and sizes, but with careful planning and filming you can make your visuals match the format of a television screen. A standard screen is three units high and four units wide, so if your visual is vertical, shoot a closeup of the center of interest in the picture in those proportions. If your image is horizontal, match the three by four proportions by framing it with a mat made of construction paper, wall paper, wood, or fabric, or have it matted electronically with a special effects unit at a video production facility.

Including Titles and Graphics

To ensure readability, limit titles to the center 80 percent of the screen. Rub-off letters, purchased from an art supply store, work well for making titles. Hand printing and calligraphy are also acceptable, but it is difficult to reproduce cursive writing in a video image. Use no more than twenty-four characters per line, and no more than eight lines per page.

Putting It All Together

Once you have transferred your materials to videotape, it is time to start the electronic editing process. Some colleges provide courses in video production that can teach you electronic editing. But many beginners find it better to seek professional assistance. You can find sources in your telephone book under “Video Production Services.” It takes about four to six hours of editing time to produce a one-hour show.

Record your narration from your prepared script onto an audio- or videotape before you start putting your visuals together. It is easier to make the pictures match the narration than it is to make the narration match previously recorded pictorial information.

Using your logs and original source tapes, the editor will make a master program tape. For example, with your help, he will select a scene from your movie tape and put it on the master tape. Then he can select three slides from your slide tape and add them sequentially to the movie portion. Next, he can add a picture from your photo tape, another clip from the movie tape, and so on, until the master tape is complete. At various points during the show, he can superimpose titles over the video information or cause the image to fade in or out to denote passage of time or change of location. He can also add music to a second audio track on the tape after he completes the scene selection and narration.

Sharing Your Creation

If family members and friends would like copies of your tape, you can make them yourself if you have two VCR units. However, you will probably obtain more consistent copies if you have them done professionally. Make sure family members agree to the price before you make the copies.

Now, sit back and relax. You will enjoy this particular videotape more than any in your library. After all, look who’s starring!Kenneth K. Kaylor, Woodland Hills, California

Spicing Up Your Food Storage

“Spicing it up” is important, especially when you’re cooking with basic food storage items. So once you acquire grains, legumes, nonfat dry milk, sugar, oil, and salt, start gathering a year’s supply of spices and flavorings.

Beef, chicken, or ham bouillon granules or cubes are excellent secondary storage items. Rice takes on wonderful new flavors when cooked in bouillon, as does barley and even some wheat dishes. Bouillon is also a base for many soups, sauces, and casseroles.

Soy sauce is another excellent flavoring to store. It adds saltiness to stir-fry vegetables and fried rice, as well as to some stews, chicken, and fish. Other flavor enhancers for main dishes include red and black pepper, paprika, turmeric, vinegar, dry or prepared mustard, Tabasco sauce and Worcestershire sauce.

Aromatic herbs like marjoram, thyme, oregano, dill, basil, and sage can lift soups, casseroles, salads, and sauces out of the ordinary. Seasoning salts and spice blends like chili powder, curry powder, poultry seasoning, and celery, garlic, and onion salts make legumes tastier.

The aromatic seeds—anise, caraway, celery, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, poppy, and sesame seeds—are especially good sprinkled over home-baked breads and rolls and stirred into salad dressings.

While you probably have some “sweet” spices on hand—cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, allspice, and mace—you may want to store a wider variety. Although “sweet” spices are not actually sweet, because of their flavor association with sweet dishes, they give a sweetening effect to breads, puddings, and cereals, even when no sugar is added. Simple rice pudding, for example, is dependent on such spices for its flavor. And you can enhance the simplest cookies and cakes with these favorite flavors. Vanilla, almond, lemon, and maple extracts are also good for storing.

To supplement nonfat dry milk, store cocoa, sweet cocoa mix, or a cereal drink. Punch powder flavors not only water, but also puddings and pie fillings.

Note: For long-term storage, keep unopened boxes, cans, or jars of spices and herbs in a closed plastic container or bag and store in a cool, dry, dark place. Once spices are opened, keep them sealed in a second container to maintain their flavor and aroma.Josephine Newton, West Jordan, Utah

[photos] Photography by Craig Dimond