Warm and fed for the holidays

With Thanksgiving just past, a bite in the air, and the first scattered snowflakes falling in Atlanta yesterday, conversations at home and school are turning to food and warmth.

With Thanksgiving just past, a bite in the air, and the first scattered snowflakes falling in Atlanta yesterday, conversations at home and school are turning to food and warmth. Bill and Igey and their parents spent last weekend coat shopping, and at ICS, teachers and counselors are trying to round up lined, waterproof winter coats for the many kids still showing up to school in thin fall jackets.

Meantime, 8-year-old Igey's new project is even more ambitious: learn American food.

With the tastes of a typical picky first-grader, compounded by his parents' unfamiliarity with many foods available in America, Igey subsists at home largely on bananas, breakfast cereal, bread, chicken, hotdogs, candy - and a recent discovery, yogurt. School lunches have more variety, and his mom makes traditional dishes that she learned with the few ingredients that were available in the refugee camps where she grew up.

But Igey's wary of these strong tastes. From morning to night on Thanksgiving day, as many in his city piled on the gravy and mashed potatoes and pie, and his dad was at a friend's house eating fufu and fish, Igey ate: a peanut butter sandwich, chips, bread, chicken nuggets, rice, and soda.Dissatisfied with this culinary limbo, and on a quest to understand "American" things, Igey's been avidly following the food people eat on television - and pumping friends, and me, for information. Pizza and quesadillas have particularly captured his imagination and palate, but he's curious about everything he sees on TV - especially name-brand candy.One day last week, he and Dawami and I went grocery shopping together at the incredible DeKalb Farmers Market, an Atlanta institution and the most diverse market I have ever seen. Its staff and food come from every corner of the globe. Dawami used to work there, until too much time in the freezers caused her health problems. On our visit, she ran into some old friends in the fish department, where she ordered her tilapia with authority.

As we loaded up opposite halves of a cart for our respective families, we marveled at each other's choices. Dawami was curious about the spinach angel hair pasta I picked up, and my eyes bugged when she marched up to a counter and ordered five pounds of goat meat.

Igey, meanwhile, rode on the foot of the cart, hopping off to follow me down the aisles: "What's that? What's that? I want that!"

"How do you cook five pounds of goat?" I asked Dawami.

With tomato sauce, she said. How did I fix spaghetti?

"Also tomato sauce," I said.

Dawami flashed that wonderful grin of hers. "Wow," she said.

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