I think kid’s menus are stupid (man, I’m gonna hear it about this post). Kid’s menus represent the dumbing down of food for people (little as they may be) who, it is assumed, cannot discern the difference between frozen and fresh foods. In most cases the menu is not even the same food found on the ‘adult’ menu, but rather a selection of boxed and frozen pizza, fish sticks, chicken strips, and macaroni and cheese. The problem I have found at restaurants is that if I want a child’s portion of food (they are smaller, you know?), you have to order from the kid’s menu, thus having to subject your kid to this inferior food. Why can’t restaurants offer a child’s portion of the regular menu’s offerings?
Part of the problem stems from the parents themselves (wow, I’m really gonna get it now). Let me offer an anecdote. The other night my wife and I visited a landmark restaurant here in San Antonio, known for their New American, somewhat eclectic menu. A couple with two kids (both about nine years old) sat next to us and I overheard both kids demanding pizza from their parents (Under normal circumstances I’d say “right on!” Pizza, as a matter of fact, is my favorite food – it comprises all of the food groups, so its very healthy for you). After looking over the menu for a few minutes and eating the complimentary bread, the couple told the waiter they would be leaving to go elsewhere since the children did not feel comfortable there.
Its unfortunate that the waiter did not try to rescue this table. However, that is a different issue. Now, understand that this restaurant has no kids menu, and therefore, no pizza for these ingrates (did I just say that?). What throws me is that the parents succumbed to their children, and left this great establishment to appease these kids. I’m probably right in guessing that this is not the first time this has happened. This family probably cooks separate meals at home, too. One for mom and dad, and some mac & cheese for the rugrats.
How will our children ever begin to appreciate diversity in food if we continue to be led by a ring in our noses by our children? Our family’s philosophy is simple when it comes to eating: eat what I serve you or don’t eat at all. We have exposed our children to a variety of foods and we don’t allow them to not try something just because it looks weird. This philosophy has created three awesome children who love to eat, and know when they are being served crap from kid’s menus. It has been more than once that our kids have complained about the lack of flavor (or outright nasty flavor) from the kid’s menus. My oldest child, now nine, refuses to order from the kid’s menu. Yes, it costs a little more when we eat out, but this youngster can discern the quality of food (on a side note, he can eat as much as I do, so no sense in limiting his intake either).
My children enjoy Indian food and Thai (as long as its not too spicy), and they love going to eat Vietnamese. Two of my kids love mushrooms (especially grilled Portobello), and they can all make a meal out of broccoli. They might not like everything that is served to them, but they will all try things at least once. They have been trained to never complain about food when we are guests at other people’s homes, and they almost always finish everything on their plates there. If I were to offer them a snail or octopus, all of them would at least try it (at least one of them would probably love it). I’m going to come home one day with chapulines (dried grasshoppers) and make tacos. I can bet you everyone will like them (I’ll comment on this post when I do).
Kids have to be trained to eat healthy and enjoy food. They have to be disciplined to appreciate what is served to them, no matter what. It is our job to excite them to try new culinary experiences and to look forward to them. Parents: this starts with you at home (c’mon, bring on the comments).
Restaurants should eliminate these crummy kid’s menus and encourage youngsters to try something new. Can it be that difficult to cut a chicken breast in half, season it, grill it, and serve it with a side of seasoned rice? Can you bring my kid a small portion of the seafood pasta sans squid, for example?
You know, if that couple at the restaurant would have just asked the kitchen to make some kind of pizza, I’m sure they would have obliged. The restaurant makes their own bread and has at least two handfuls of specialty cheeses on hand. At least it would have tasted more interesting than Totino’s.