Comfort Food Series: Quebec Poutine

Comfort food at it’s finest — the Québécois knew EXACTLY what they were doing when they invented Poutine… Or maybe they didn’t 😛 ?!

The origin of Poutine remains unclear.. but according to some sources, it all started in a restaurant called Le Lutin qui rit, in Quebec — with a customer and the restaurant owner. Upon the customer requesting for some cheese to be added to his fries, the owner exclaims “Ça va faire une maudite poutine!” or, “That’s going to make a dreadful mess.”

While the source(s) remains questionable, what is very clear that Poutine is definitely a ‘mess’, or a hot ‘mess’ as some would argue.

This random mix of fries, curd cheese, & gravy blends so well together, it’s now known as the bourgeoisie of Garbage Food. Try it for yourself!

Authentic Canadian PoutineWhat You’ll Need:

For the Gravy:

  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 20 oz beef broth
  • 10 oz chicken broth
  • Pepper, to taste

For the Fries:

  • 2 lbs Russet potatoes (3-4 medium potatoes)
  • Peanut or other frying o

For the Toppings:

  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups white cheddar cheese curds (Or torn chunks of mozzarella cheese would be the closest substitution)


  • Prepare the gravy: In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water and set aside.
  • In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes, until the mixture turns golden brown.
  • Add the beef and chicken broth and bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Stir in the cornstarch and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Season with pepper. Taste and add additional salt, if necessary, to taste. Make ahead and re-warm or keep warm until your fries are ready.
  • For Deep-Fried Fries: Prepare your potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch thick sticks. Place into a large bowl and cover completely with cold water. Allow to stand at least one hour or several hours. When ready to cook, heat your oil in your deep fryer or large, wide, heavy cooking pot to 300° F.
  • Remove the potatoes from the water and place onto a sheet of paper towel. Blot to remove as much excess moisture as possible.
  • Add your fries to the 300°F oil and cook for 5-8 minutes, just until potatoes are starting to cook but are not yet browned. Remove potatoes from oil and scatter on a wire rack. Increase oil temperature to 375°F Once oil is heated to that temperature, return the potatoes to the fryer and cook until potatoes are golden brown. Remove to a paper towel-lined bowl.
  • To Prepare Poutine: Add your fried or baked fries to a large, clean bowl. Season lightly with salt while still warm. Add a ladle of hot poutine gravy to the bowl and using tongs, toss the fries in the gravy. Add more gravy, as needed to mostly coat the fries.
  • Add the cheese curds and toss with the hot fries and gravy. Serve with freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately.

Bon appétit!


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10 Benefits of Learning a New Language

Although learning a language can be difficult, there are more pros to learning than cons! Today’s society is interconnected and interdependent, and learning a language can benefit you in the long run with how you contribute and engage with the global economy.

Here are the Top 10 Reasons to Learn a Language!


One of the most rewarding aspects of the human experience is our ability to connect with others, and being able to communicate with someone in his or her language is an intrinsic form of connection. Bilinguals have the unique opportunity to communicate with a wider range of people in their personal and professional lives.


Language skills can be a significant competitive edge that sets you apart from your monolingual peers. They are among the top eight skills required of all occupations—no matter your sector or skill level—and the demand for bilingual professionals is rising exponentially. As an added incentive, in many instances, language skills also lead to hiring bonuses and increased salaries.


The cognitive benefits of learning languages are undeniable. People who speak more than one language have improved memory, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, enhanced concentration, ability to multitask, and better listening skills. If that weren’t enough, as we age, being bilingual or multilingual also helps to stave off mental aging and cognitive decline.


Language is the most direct connection to other cultures. Being able to communicate in another language exposes us to and fosters an appreciation for the traditions, religions, arts, and history of the people associated with that language. Greater understanding, in turn, promotes greater tolerance, empathy, and acceptance of others—with studies showing that children who have studied another language are more open toward and express more positive attitudes toward the culture associated with that language.


While monolingual travelers are capable of visiting the same places, travelers who know more than one language are more easily able to navigate outside the tourist bubble and to connect and interact with the place and its people in a way that is often inaccessible to those without the language. Learning a second language also opens additional doors to opportunities for studying or working abroad.


In a world of more than 6,000 spoken languages, we sometimes require translation, but speaking at least one additional language empowers us to access information that would otherwise be off-limits. For example, individuals proficient in other languages are able to navigate the Internet as genuine global citizens—consuming and assessing foreign media and entertainment.


Not only does learning a second language improve communication skills and multiply vocabulary in your first language, but research also shows that it makes picking up additional languages a much easier feat, especially among children. That’s because when you learn a new language, you develop new brain networks that are primed and ready when you embark on learning a third language.


Any language learner can attest to making his or her share of mistakes while discovering a new language—often in front of an audience. It’s a necessary part of the learning process! Learning a language means putting yourself out there and moving out of your comfort zone. The upside is the amazing sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when conversing with someone in their native language.


Studies show that decisions made in your second language are more reason-driven than those made in your native language. Contrary to popular assumptions, when we deliberate in a second or third language, we actually distance ourselves from the emotional responses and biases deeply associated with our mother tongue. The result? Systematic and clear-headed decisions based on just the facts.


As we explore a new language and culture, we naturally draw comparisons to what is most familiar. Learning about another culture sheds light on aspects of our own culture—both positive and negative—we may not have previously considered. You may find a greater appreciation for what you have, or you may decide to shake things up!

Find out more on how you can learn a language with one of our programs TODAY:

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Comfort Food Series: Shawarma

A Levantine dish whose name originates from the Turkish verb ‘çevirme‘, to spin/turn, with a Turkish heritage, ‘Shawarma’ is a classic comfort food which can also be made at home. Serves over pita, rice or salad, shawarma is must-try for this weekend!

Ingredient for the chicken :

  • 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • Cooking spray
  • One large onion, thinly sliced

Ingredients for the yogurt sauce:

  • 1/2 c. Greek yogurt
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • Salt
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

For serving:

  • Pitas, warmed
  • Chopped romaine 
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Cucumber, thinly sliced

Follow this recipe & don’t forget to let us know how it turned out! Sahtein!

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Conversational Practice & Language Learning

“Learning a language is intimidating. It is a long process with no shortage of complications, even without considering verbal communication. However, just like anything else, the more a student practices speaking, the more comfortable it becomes…”

According to the article by the University of Texas student Maggie Lazaroski, authentic conversational practice allows learners to use language in a way that is meaningful to them & accelerate their learning process.

And that’s exactly why NaTakallam was created! In fact, NaTakallam works with dozens of US universities to bring conversational practice to students while supporting displaced persons.

Find out more about our school programs here to immerse yourself & your class in a language:


Travel Tuesday: Angel Falls, Venezuela

Located in Bolívar, Venezuela, Angel Falls or “waterfall of the deepest place” in the indigenous Pemon language, is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall.

Angel Falls, or Salto Ángel is considered one of the most important natural sites of Latin America. It is named after the American aviator, Jimmy Angel who discovered the site when he landed in the region in 1937.



Comfort Food Series: Afghan Bolani

Crispy on the outside, soft & flavor-packed in the inside, spice up your weekend with some Afghan Bolanis!

A must-try comfort snack with many different fillings, flat-bread bolanis can be as mild or spicy as you like — perfect as a snack, appetizer or side dish. Bon appétit, or as you say it in Persian (Dari), noosh-e-jaan!

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (580g)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil (I use canola)
  • 1 1/4 cups water (300g)

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 1 1/2 pounds potatoes (680g)
  • 2 cups, packed sliced green onion (140g)
  • 2 cups, packed cilantro (60g)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper (60g) or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Additional oil for shallow frying (e.g. canola)

For a step-by-step recipe with visuals, we recommend this easy-to-follow recipe.

P.S. Don’t forget to serve with a refreshing yogurt-herb dip!


Travel Tuesday: Monaco

Surrounded by France on three sides & the Mediterranean Sea on the other, Monaco is the second smallest country with a population of under 40,000.

Despite being so small, Monaco holds and combines the lavish flavors and lifestyles of the French and Mediterranean, which results in a beautiful canvas of the country (one that you can walk across the width of in 56 minutes!)

Monaco is the land of Francophones. As the official language of Monaco, don’t forget to polish your French skills with our conversation partners!

P.S. Before you get your tanning oil ready, be aware that there’s no airport in Monaco! Most travel into Monaco through train, helicopter, or yacht. The nearest airport is Cote d’Azur Airport in France.



Comfort Food Series: Colorado Enchiladas

Spicy, rich & filling, Colorado Enchiladas are the ultimate comfort food. Perfect for a crisp autumn day, try out this recipe and invite your friends for a colorful & flavorsome feast!


  • 2 Ancho dried chiles
  • 4 New Mexican dried chiles
  • 1/2 onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • thin piece of dark chocolate
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 3-4 cups water
  • 8-10 corn tortillas
  • Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3-4 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • Mexican Crema (optional)
  • Cotija cheese (optional)

For a step-by-step recipe with photos, try out this recipe here!

¡Buen provecho!

PS: Did you know that “colorado” means red-colored in #Spanish?



Listen to Indigenous Languages on Google Earth

Ever wondered how people greet one another in Cherokee? Or how a lullaby sounds like in the Bamum language of Cameroon? Find out with Google Earth’s fun new feature here!

“Many of the world’s 7,000 languages are in danger of disappearing; according to the United Nations 2,680 Indigenous languages are at risk.”

Google Earth is tackling this problem by using technology. Thousands of indigenous speakers have had their native tongues recorded and is now widely available to listen to thanks to Google. To date, the efforts have accumulated up to 55 endangered languages.

“No culture has a monopoly on human genius, and we never know where the next brilliant idea may come from,” David Harrison says, chair of the linguistics department at Swarthmore College. “We lose ancient knowledge if we lose languages.”

It is important to raise awareness of language preservation. When we stop practicing languages, we lose more than just words. We lose culture. We lose values. We lose identity.


Travel Tuesday: Maharloo Lake, Iran

We know what you’re thinking, but this image is not photoshopped! Maharloo Lake of Iran is a major tourist attraction for its breathtaking pink & red color during summertime- courtesy of algae & minerals!

Approximately one hour from the city of Shiraz, the home to distinguished Persian poet Hafez, Maharloo Lake is a great location for a picnic & a stroll!

Before heading to see this natural beauty with your own eyes, why not revisit your Persian with one of NaTakallam’s conversation partners?

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