May 26, 2010
Looking Past the Children's Menu
I read this article in the NY Times yesterday. It's essentially an interview with a restaurant owner, but he talks about how important the family time associated with having dinner is to him. He has vowed never to have a kid's menu at his restaurant, and he has always made his kids try new things. The article struck close to home.
I have always complained about children's menus. Although they can be convenient and less expensive, can't they come up with something a bit more imaginative than chicken fingers? I don't like to be wasteful, but they could also at least offer some real fruit or vegetable. Some kids actually do eat fruits and veggies. Or perhaps offer a smaller version of regular menu items.
When we went on vacation to Puerto Rico, it was a challenge to find decent food for the big boy, but the best meals he had were at restaurants without a children's menu. We went to Morton's, and he split a lobster tail, broccoli, and mashed potatoes with me. Now that's a meal! As my husband and I like to say, the presence of a children's menu is not what makes a restaurant kid-friendly. Any restaurant can be kid-friendly at 5:30. Morton's didn't have crayons or plastic cups or even small plates, but they had no problem serving us, and we enjoyed a nice meal.
It's interesting how everyone has a different philosophy about food. I am sure it goes back to the way we were raised. I very clearly remember holding my nose while taking my required "just one bite" of beets. Man, I hated beets! But now I'm happy my mom made me try them. I am determined to avoid having super picky kids, and of course I want them to be healthy, so I work really hard to provide a good variety of foods. Sometimes the big boy gobbles it up; sometimes he crosses his arms and looks at me like I'm crazy. Usually it's somewhere in-between. My rule is that he just has to try everything on his plate. If he doesn't like it, he doesn't have to finish it. Every night is different, but I just keep trying. It's not easy, but we've made a ton of progress, and now my three-year-old is eating a pretty wide variety of foods. I am confident that he'll grow up to enjoy different tastes and textures; and even if he doesn't appreciate it now, I am also confident he'll grow up to thank me for having him try.
All of these pictures are from last Summer. It was a vacation week at home with my sister and brother-in-law visiting, and we were particularly adventurous in our cooking. We had lots of really great meals. In the second picture, the big boy is excited about mussels! That one surprised me. He was fascinated by the lobster, as we all were. I've found that involving him in the preparation really helps, too. He's so much more likely to want to try something after he's helped prepare it.