Saturday, April 9, 2011

Are (some) Kids Idiots About Food? In Defense of the Children's Menu

The summer I was seven and my brother 10, my parents took us to France. We spent two weeks in Paris and a month on the island of Corsica. It was an amazing trip. I'm sure we had amazing food. But on our very last night on the island, when my mom, brother and I were staying at a hotel near the airport (my dad had returned a few weeks earlier), my brother could find nothing to eat on the hotel menu. He hemmed and hawed and couldn't make up his mind.

"Do you want a haahmboorgeeerrr?" sneered the waiter.

My brother really, really wanted a hamburger. He really, really didn't want anything else. Did that make him an idiot?

This past Wednesday night, on the Top Chef All Stars Reunion Show, Antonia, whom I love, announced she hated children's menus because they treat children like idiots. Well, sometimes when it comes to food, I'd say my kids are not, let's say, engaged. My son, every so often he tries a new food. Just last week he saw me eating egg and cheese on a roll and could not resist its siren call. But he won't try sweet potato. This is a kid who lives for sugar and he won't try a food that has the word "sweet" in its name. Then there's my daughter. We tried a new food chart for her. One day maybe last summer, she looked at her chart, she said firmly, "Next time, my new food will be a poppy bagel." I know from my psychology class that according to Piaget Helen suffers her cognitive stage when she's thinking about bagels -- that is, she can only think about one quality of the bagel at a time. She can't help it. It's part of pre-operations, where she apparently is, and when her brain moves into the next phase, concrete operations, she'll see that a poppy bagel and everything bagel are both BAGELS and one does not count as a new food.

Now, my brother's kids, all four of them, eat everything. They always have. I say, "mazel tov." Readers of this blog know very well that my kids do not eat everything. And, therefore, I'm grateful for a children's menu. Paying six bucks for a plain bowl of buttered pasta, the dish for which I don't have to wash? I love it. Is it idiotic to like what you like and refuse to try anything new? Maybe. Maybe if my brother had tried something new that night in Corsica he would've had a transporting gustatory experience. Then again, he'd spent the last six weeks doing new things. Maybe he was tired. Maybe he wanted something familiar. Maybe the only thing in the world he wanted was a hahmmbooorgeerrr. Putting aside the question of how that beef got into that patty, is that so bad?


marjorie said...

WHY do Lou's kids eat everything? I too rely on the kids' menu, and I feel bad about it. (I love Antonia, and her comments hit me where I live.) I still feel that I've catered to my kids' whims too much...but on the other hand, I don't want food to be a battleground.

Robin Aronson said...

Why do Louis' kids eat everything? I have no idea, but I did, too, so maybe it's like a brain thing - righty-lefty, lefty-righty. I suspect he's also a little harder care about eating what's on the table, which is easy to do when your kids will eat what's on the table. I have a friend who's older son eats not much more than cheese sticks and hot dogs and younger son eats just about anything you put in front of him. All of which is to say, that like you, for me, keeping the battles away from food feels like the better choice even if a Tiger mom would roll her eyes at us.