Get ready to spice things up – May is National Salsa Month! Today, we use spice to enhance flavors and satisfy our palettes. Long ago, spices were used strictly for medicinal purposes and were a highly valuable commodity used to barter or exchange. Add more flavor and enhance your current activities with the activity ideas below.
SALSA TASTE TESTING – Kick off National Salsa Month with a salsa taste testing party. Work with your dining team to create a variety of mild, medium, hot, and sweet salsas. Alternatively, purchase a variety of salsas from the grocery store. Serve participants individualized samples, including complimentary tortilla chips. Let participants vote for their favorites and be sure to label each salsa according to spice level.
CINCO DE MAYO – Although a relatively small holiday celebrated in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a commemoration of Mexican heritage and culture in the United States. Invite members to a celebration of Mexican culture. Consider hiring a mariachi band. Serve Walking Tacos and non-alcoholic margaritas. Decorate with sombreros, maracas, and red, white, and green streamers. Use the event to build excitement for this month’s cultural corner (see below).
CULTURAL CORNER – Continue the Cinco de Mayo celebration by learning more about Mexican history and culture. Borrow history documentaries or travelogues about Mexico from the library and feature one each week. Teach participants a few basic words or phrases in Spanish. Encourage members to share memories about trips to Mexico. Invite members or staff who are Hispanic, Latino, or Mexican to share a little information about their culture and what traditions are meaningful to them.
HISTORY OF SPICES – Head over to the McCormick Science Institute for a wonderful outline of the history of spices. Share tidbits with your group or create your own spice trivia game using the information on their site. Use the trivia at the end of this blog to help you get started.
SALSA DANCING – Add more flavor and spice to your next fitness class by incorporating a few salsa steps. The basic salsa step is a walk-shuffle, forward then backward. Participants can mimic this movement while seated by simply shuffling their feet forward and back. Use egg shakers or maracas as props for arm exercises, such as shaking out to the side, in front, switching from hand to hand, or passing to a friend. Of course, play upbeat Spanish music to motivate participants to move.
CANNING REMINISCENCE – Spices were originally used to help preserve food. Reminisce with your group about canning and food preservation. Bring spices, mason jars, and vintage cookbooks as props. Reminisce about preparing fruits and vegetables to can, growing a garden, what participants enjoyed about the process, and what they dreaded. Ask participants what their canned goods tasted like later in the season, or about the meals they made with their preserved foods.
GARDEN STARTERS – It’s not too late to kick-start your community garden. Invite participants to help you plant starter seeds that you can transfer to your garden later in the season. Pick up starter kits from your local garden nursery, or create your own using cardboard egg cartons and dirt. Plant herbs like basil and thyme, or vegetables like cherry tomato and small peppers. Be sure to water and place in a sunny location. Once the seeds have sprouted, transfer to your garden or plant in a pot.
HOME REMEDIES – Reminisce more with your group about various home remedies that used spices as a way to cure various ailments. For example, ginger is often used to help treat nausea. Cinnamon is often used to treat sore throats. Turmeric can be used as a teeth whiener and to relieve inflammation. Pepper can help clear congestion and improve digestion. Ask participants to share their own home remedies and concoctions. Where did the remedy originate? How effective was it?
SALSA TEST KITCHEN – Turn your next cooking class into a salsa test kitchen. Provide participants with a variety of salsa ingredients, such as peppers, tomatoes, onions, avocado, canned beans, corn, spices, and oils. Encourage them to work in groups to create their own salsa. If necessary, dice vegetables ahead of time and place in bowls. Set a time limit and invite three staff members to act as judges. The winning recipe can be featured at your next social event.
CHICKS & SALSA – Check out the book Chicks and Salsa from your local library and invite a local preschool for a fun reading activity with your members. If possible, check out several copies and pair participants with two-three preschoolers. Start by reading the book. Then, invite participants to share stories about raising chickens or farm life. End by making your favorite chick craft with the preschoolers.
GUESS THE SPICE – Test participants’ olfactory skills by inviting them to guess the spice. Blindfold participants using a bandana. Place a spice under their nose and ask them to inhale the aroma. Then, ask them to name the spice. Alternatively, write the spice name on the bottom of the jar and remove the label. Stick to popular or common spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, chili powder, etc. For a bigger challenge, select a few unique spice blends, such as saffron, cardamom, or peppercorns. As the smells evoke memories, give participants time and space to share with the group.
VISIT A SPICE SHOP – Take your group on a trip to a local spice shop. Call ahead and ask the owners to give your group a private tour or taste-testing. Give participants time to linger and enjoy the aromas. Purchase a unique blend to use in your cooking or baking classes in the future.
SPICE IT UP RESOURCES
Stock up on some of our favorite ElderSong products to help keep your programs spicy.
Everyday Life Photos: A Grown-Up’s World – Item #532. Regularly $24.95. Online sale price $18.70.
Take your group on a sentimental journey with Everyday Life Photos: A Grown-Up’s World. Share one of the 20 vintage photographs with your group, then use the companion guide to prompt discussion and encourage reminiscence. This is a great resource to use while enjoying time with your group outdoors and requires little preparation. This set includes a photo of two women canning food.
Say It With Music, 2nd Edition – Item #P123. Regularly $13.95. Online sale price $10.45.
Need to spice up your music or sing-along groups? Check out Say It With Music. This product contains music trivia games, music games, and other fun music activities that will be sure to keep your group engaged. This newer edition includes music references from the 1940s through the 1970s, so there’s sure to be something relevant for your group members.
Skits for Seniors, Volume 3, Reminiscing Plays – Item #P235. Regularly $11.95. Online sale price $8.95
Spice up your reminiscing groups with Skits for Seniors. Volume 3, Reminiscing Plays. This volume features 14 witty skits with conversation that will elicit memories of the past, including memories about spring and summer. Group members can take turns in the spotlight, as each skit features 1-7 characters. No props or costumes are needed and the script is printed in large-print, with alternating bold print for easy reading.
SPICE IT UP TRIVIA
- Which spice is derived from cilantro and is also referred to as Chinese parsley? Coriander
- Which spice is the third-most expensive spice in the world: rosemary, cardamom, or lemon grass? Cardamom
- Which herbaceous flowering plant is widely cultivated for its root stalks and can be found in a soda made by Canada Dry? Ginger
- Which spice is used in egg nog, apple pie, and snickerdoodle cookies? Cinnamon
- Made from ground and dried bell peppers, which red spice is most commonly used to add color to a variety of dishes? Paprika
- Which spice is typically used to add a little heat to a meal, especially the popular spicy meat and bean stew that shares its spice name? Chili powder
- Which popular seasoning from India is actually a combination of several spices: Garam masala, mustard seeds, or curry? Curry
- Which flavoring of spice is obtained from the pods of the plant’s seeds and is usually added as a teaspoonful to cake mixes? Vanilla
- Which edible seed has a nutty flavor and is generally found sprinkled on top of a hamburger bun? Sesame seeds
- Which spice is always used to flavor Italian marinara sauce and pasta dishes, becoming popular in the U.S. after WWII? Oregano
SPICE IT UP THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“The secret of happiness is variety, but the secret of variety, like the secret of all spices, is knowing when to use it.” ~ Daniel Gilbert
“Spice It Up” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2020 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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