On my mother’s most recent visit to check on the progress of my young son, as well as my parenting style, we all decided to head out for a twilight dinner at one of the area’s better restaurants. The menu was impressive on paper; with all matters of carefully selected ingredients to accent premium cuts of meat and wild fish. So as my eyes darted from wine list to appetizer options, I stumbled over what was labeled the “child’s menu”: A spiritless collection of starch-laden sustenance better suited as bar food than a meal for a growing child.
Selections were as follows:
Chicken Fingers with French Fries
Grilled Cheese with French Fries
Pasta with Butter and Cheese
Now, I do understand the importance of “fun,” approachable foodstuff to keep the children from starving and cutting parent’s meals unnecessarily short, and I am not such a killjoy that I cannot appreciate the generosity of a free pack of crayons and disposable placemat. That said, why do restaurants, and the general population, repeatedly set the bar so miserably low when it comes to menu items for children?
I will not even address the obvious nutritional deficit that comes from plates piled high with deep-fried items like chicken fingers, and French fries. Instead, I will simply call foul on this seemingly indirect attempt to deaden my child’s developing palate and generally dumbing down the expectations of junior diners. I have seen children happily and ravenously inhale plates of calamari, bok choi, seaweed, blue cheese, venison, and grilled onions (not all in one sitting, mind you), and truly believe that children have the potential and ability to appreciate unique and highly nuanced flavors and textures just as much (if not more) than most adults do. They are a culinary tabula rasa, with likes and dislikes–sure, but without the ingrained gustatory prejudice that many adults hang onto for dear life.
By relegating our children to the Kiddie Menu ghetto, are we making it easy on everyone (child, fellow diners, pocketbook, restaurant owners, etc.?) or are we winding down a cynical road that will eventually dead end at a destination of possible obesity, health problems, food neurosis, and general bad taste?
My recommendation: Check out the kiddie menu, and then order your kid the grilled octopus. It is a lot more fun than a fist full of chicken fingers.
For more information, check out Fat Still on the Children’s Menu.