Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Don't Let The Kids Hold The Menu Hostage

The other day, Late Blooming Dad said, after justifying the choice of a certain restaurant for Sunday brunch that didn't have much in the way of kid fare, "I'm not going to hold the family hostage to kid food."

So off we went to this place, even though the few kid items on the menu didn't fall into the usual list of foods acceptable to Thing 1, aka The Picky One.  Thank goodness Thing 2 has a broader palate and can be more easily assauged.  Thing 1 doesn't go much beyond dry cereal, muffins, pancakes, French toast, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, plain roast chicken and potatoes, cucumbers, pizza, grapes, pears, and only two forms of mac n' cheese:  Koo Koo Roo's or the Annie's kind that comes in the shape of Arthur.  Not a terrible diet, but a dull, dull, dull one if you're not a small and stubborn being.

At first the meal went pretty well.

That was thanks to the "house muffins," mini blueberry muffins provided on the house, while we waited.  Thing 1 is a muffin fiend, and it was hard to limit him to just two.  Then he ordered a crepe, the restaurant's version of pancakes.  He'd already had pancakes for breakfast, but there was simply nothing else on the menu he found acceptable.

Then the food arrived, and suddenly Thing 2 began to raise objections.  She was supposed to split an order with me, of scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and a crepe, all things she's eaten happily before.  But she was having none of the bacon OR the crepe, the latter tainted by vanilla yogurt, even though she'd have eaten yogurt separately.  She just can't mix her food groups.  Then the bananas in the crepe, which I'd removed as objectionable -- yes, Late Blooming Mom has some picky habits left over from childhood -- got transferred to her plate.  She rebelled against them as "mushy." 

But at least she ate the eggs.  Her brother, Thing 1, quickly turned thumbs' down on the crepe, which was filled with melted butter, sugar and cinammon.  Mind you, I think he might've devoured the whole thing had it been served up at, say, IHOP, where he's been before and where he feels he's in his comfort zone.  But at grown-up brunch restaurant, it was deemed icky, and that, my friends, was that. 

I wound up feeding Thing 1 a snack of peanut butter jelly and crackers at home later, and Thing 2, never one to be left out of a good snack, joined him in the crackers at least.  But there, she put her foot down:  despite her more wide-ranging tastes, she draws the line at peanut butter, which she deems "too sticky."

My meal wasn't bad, save for the bananas, which I'd specifically asked to have left out of my crepe, and the wheat toast that was ordered and never arrived.  Dad's was pretty good (some kind of breakfast croissant sandwich).  And the bill, thanks to a gift card from a friend, was actually reasonable, so we didn't waste too much money on uneaten food.  The kids were happy when a surprise came with the check:  complimentary tootsie pops.

But I confiscated those to hold out for a later date, because there were home-made treasts to be had:  lemonade, and fresh chocolate chip cookies.  I don't do a lot of baking or lemonade-making, but the kids adore this stuff, and I'd rather they have it made fresh at home than store-bought and loaded with preservatives.

Thinking back on Sunday brunch, we did have a nice experience dining out at a grown-up restaurant, except for the kvetching when the kids didn't like their food.  But next time, I might choose a different place to avoid the kevetching.  Still, by different place, I mean one with a few more kid options, NOT a kiddie chain restaurant or fast food joint.  We don't do CHUCK E. CHEESE in this family, at least not yet (thankfully there's no convenient one nearby), and we avoid fast food chains where the food is pre-cooked or frozen; rather, if it's cheap and kid-friendly food we want, we head for the fresh Mex mini-chains, like Poquito Mas and Wahoo's Fish Taco, or Souplantation, where the muffins and frozen yogurt consumed are somewhat balanced by freshly made pizza, chicken soup, salad and fruit. 

But we also take the kids to real restaurants sometimes, even if there's going to be some food kvetching.  We like a nice meal nicely prepared.  We're not about to foist our kids on a serious, white tablecloth place, or at least not very often.  Happily, there are lots of moderately priced real restaurants around, serving fresh and even pretty healthy food, where our kids will actually sit for the better part of the meal.

Late Blooming Dad has made a stand, and I, as a foodie and a mom who needs a break from the kitchen sometimes, stand with him.  Don't let the chicken nuggets dictate your choice of dining out.  Food is too important, not just as nourishment.  What's also important to teach kids -- well, my kids, anyway -- is the civilized pleasure of a well-prepared restaurant meal, on those occasions when we can afford it.  A nice meal out is a worthy thing to learn how to enjoy.

1 comment:

William V. Madison said...

Your concluding paragraph neatly sums up the French Philosophy of Meals: I second the motion.

But two items in this account really stuck out:

1) Is Thing 2 secretly keeping kosher? She doesn't want to mix her foods, you say, and bacon is the worst kind of trayf, after all. This precocious display of intuition impresses me mightily.

2) You can get macaroni and cheese in the shape of Arthur? We live in an age of miracles. (And I presume that's Arthur the Aardvark and not King Arthur or Arthur "Scud Stud" Kent, either of which would be too easy.)