Thursday, October 15, 2009

Your Little Foodie

Several years ago my husband and I stayed at a little boutique hotel with our 2 children, then aged 10 and 7. It was a wonderful place and we expected no less than the menu that was offered to us at breakfast next morning. Bircher muesli, porridge with banana and honey, poached eggs and sourdough toast, home made jams…… know the sort of thing! However my blood boiled when the waiter offered our children the ‘kids menu’ - coco pops, rice bubbles, white toast and vegemite!

My kids are more than happy to sample the offerings on the ‘adults’ menu and in fact are quite at home ordering from a whole range of culinary delights. Kids are more sophisticated than we give them credit for and restaurants need to know they are insulting the foodies of tomorrow by offering them the cheap and tasteless fodder of the typical kids menu.

Or will there be any foodies? How can children ever learn to value and appreciate good food if they are only ever treated as an afterthought? If they are time and again offered the oh-so-exotic fare of chips, sausages, nuggets, pizza and burgers and the bonus of ice cream for dessert!!(or coco pops instead of Bircher muesli!) A foray into the world of cheap fats, sugars, high salt and inferior flavours. All this while their parents are offered the pleasures and enjoyment of a cordon bleu meal at the same time.

To understand and appreciate good food now and for the rest of their lives, children need to be exposed to the genuine article as much as possible. That is, food that is fresh, delicious, appetizing and exciting to their taste buds. It is often wondered why kids don’t recognize, let alone want to eat, fresh food, or why they assume there is ‘grown up food’ and ‘kid’s food’. Yet given what is on offer most of the time it is totally understandable.

When I compare Australia with Europe, and their customs and traditions of unquestioningly including children at the meal table, I can’t help wondering why we are so inadequate at catering for kids. In France, for example, children just eat smaller serves of what the adults do - a ‘portion enfant’ of anything from terrine of rabbit, boeuf Bourguignon and exotic vegetables to pate de foie gras and a dozen varieties of cheeses. In Italy, the dining table simply would not be complete without the children.

We need to give kids the respect they deserve and acknowledge that even the most intractable junk food eaters can learn to dine well if given the chance. One of the suggestions I offer to families who want to stake their children’s claim for good food is, if you’ve never tried ‘real’ dining with the kids, start out slowly. Avoid sophisticated restaurants and try local cafes first. Many Asian restaurants - the local Thai, Japanese or Chinese for example - are often a good starting point, as they rarely if ever will offer ‘kids menus’ and have a wide variety of flavours and tastes to try. They are also less likely to frown or fret when they spy your children in tow.
Another good idea is to leave the ‘family’ restaurants, where children are usually offered cheap and flavourless meals, out of the picture altogether. Search for restaurants that offer ‘tasting plates,’ such as Middle Eastern, Spanish, Turkish and Greek. This is a great way to introduce new foods and flavours to kids and everyone sampling a little of everything is always fun.

Trying different cuisines can be enjoyable for kids and adults alike and a quick flick through restaurant guides in our major Australian cities produces an extensive list featuring a diversity of fare from around the globe. On offer is an A to Z of anything and everything from Afghan and African to Vietnamese and Sri Lankan. Recently we took our children to an Ethiopian restaurant where they were licking their fingers, and almost their plates, in delight! We shared an incredible platter of vegetable curry, creamy spinach, pumpkin, spicy chickpeas and lentils with steaming bowls of rice and heavenly bread and the kids loved it. No such thing as a kids menu here!

Taking the kids to ‘real’ restaurants, where they are acknowledged and respected and their palates given as much attention as an adults, can be the beginning of a life long love affair with real food and what better way to get the kids to eat their veggies!!

1 comment:

Baby Care Tips said...

Its useful tips to parents thanks to giving the valuable knowledge.