Monday, August 30, 2010

The Kid's Menu

When the topic turned to school lunches, I kept quiet, fidgeting with my napkin, feigning interest in the people outside. Bologna sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly, Chips Ahoy, and finally I blurted out, "my girls don't eat kid food". It was time, I'd danced around the topic for too long hoping my silence would not reveal the horrid truth; Mary and Kate eat grown up food. The other moms handled it well, they asked questions, they didn't judge, I might be asked back.

It all began quite innocently, and selfishly. Jack and I, with no babysitters and no desire to stay at home for 10 years, took the girls with us whenever we went out. A nibble of naan, a morsel of morel, a pod of edamame, and they were hooked. There would be no nugget on these plates, they liked what we were feeding them, and we liked that they were hungry.

Recently Jack and I had a conversation with a friend who, while her children do eat chicken fingers, recognizes that the choices on the kid's menu are generally unhealthy and awful. But it's easier she reasoned, and so she continues to select for them from the small box on the back of the menu that, even in better restaurants, offers hot dogs, cheese pizza and macaroni and cheese.

We skip that box, because to me it makes no sense at all to feed my child a hot dog in a seafood restaurant, or macaroni and cheese in an Italian restaurant. For us it was not a healthy choice driven decision but a hope that the girls would develop a taste for complex flavors, and an understanding of culture through food. Knowing that they wouldn't starve and understanding that they won't like everything, we continue to present them with choices. Indian food, we have tried countless times and haven't yet found anything that appeals to their five year old pallets, and so their meal now consists of naan and basmati rice. We are on an Indian food moratorium, a family agreed upon hold, until we do some research and find something less spicy that might appeal to Mary and Kate. The Southern Indian dosai has been suggested and so a trip to the Indian neighborhood, and Udupi Palace, is on the schedule for September.

They like shumai and pho, sushi and gyoza, but not American cheese. In fact Kate will send back, or ask us to, a sandwich that appears with what she calls plastic cheese. Offered this when she was two by a good friend of ours in her home, both girls handed it back to us, and then we knew, cheese snobs. Not so great when you know you are heading into the years of play dates and school outings, where, with certainty, they will be offered plastic cheese sandwiches, and your child is going to be the one asking for hers with a mature English cheddar. Also problematic, Kate imploring her friend Rachel to "just try it, it's good" when Rachel has no interest at all in Kate's hummus and tapenade. My children have requested tamales, quesadillas and guacamole at their upcoming birthday party, will they be the only ones eating?

Twins have actually made eating out easier; knowing that we could either buy two things from the children's box, or one adult entree to share, made our plan financially more feasible. Until now, until this past year when different opinions, and the ability to read the menu, forced us to two entrees. Tonight's stir fried vegetables came with chicken and rice for Kate, tofu and noodles for Mary, and the leftovers came home. Most of our favorite places graciously allow for a half order, meaning that Mary can have gnocchi with marinara and Kate, farfalle with chicken and mushrooms, and everyone is happy.

Acceptance is the first step, palak paneer comes next.


Marie said...

My kids will enjoy the menu at Mary & Kate's party! (Provided the salsa is mild.) Although L & S don't have quite the palates of M&K, I empathize with you. We were recently at Uncommon Ground and I was so disappointed in their kids menu. I really expected so much more from them.

I just don't understand why Americans expect their kids to eat food with such simplified flavors. Other cultures don't do it, and I know my parents didn't get fed "kid food" as kids. How did we get here?

OJS said...

This begs to as the question, "What do Indian children eat?". Possibly the reason why there are so many starving children in India.

MandyE (Twin Trials and Triumphs) said...

I just happened upon this post from a couple of years ago. I am so thankful to be in the non-kid food camp, too.

We went to a birthday party a couple of months ago. I told the girls there would like be pizza there. Instead (for three-year olds, mind you), there was a huge tray of chicken nuggets, potato chips, and juice boxes.

Because it was supper time, and they were playing hard, I got our girls a plate with chicken and chips, thankful I'd brought cups of water from home.

They wouldn't touch any of it! :) For "supper" that night, they had water and some birthday cake. They were almost in tears, as I promised we'd have fruit and cheese when we got home. It was bedtime for them by that time, but they each scarfed down an entire banana, some cheese, and a huge glass of milk.

When we go to restaurants, I always tell the hostess that we don't need the children's menu. Oh, and don't bring the crayons, either. We don't play with toys at the table. :) :)


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