Children’s menus are the death of civilization

At least that’s what one NYC restaurateur recently told The New York Times he thinks every time someone asks for the kiddie menu at his Gramercy Park enoteca.

Although my own children have ordered off children’s menus many, many times, and we’ve all been grateful for the ease and speed with which they get their meal (not to mention the low price), I have to agree—at least in principal. Putting aside for a moment the lack of nutritional value in the usual kiddie fare (hot dogs and hamburgers, chicken fingers and fries, slimy cheese pizza), these menus discourage kids from  trying anything new. It’s just something to give them so they’ll be quiet and you can enjoy a millisecond of adult conversation and sip your wine (not that there’s anything wrong with wine).

But why bother taking kids out for dinner (okay, yes, there’s the fact that the fridge is empty and you really really don’t feel like cooking tonight…) if we don’t give them a chance to try new foods and practice being civilized?

Unlike my own waffling on the matter, I love the definitiveness of the restaurant owner in the NYT article: “If you don’t ask your children to try things, how will they ever know what they’re capable of?”

I think the same question could easily be asked of food service and education administrators who claim that children won’t eat healthy food in school cafeterias.

(On a related note, Jackie Schneider, mom/teacher/blogger/school dinner activist in the UK has written an interesting piece challenging the very notion of  “children’s food”—whether it’s in the shop, at home or in restaurants. Check it out here.)

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