the Nonchalantdad: The Kids Meal

Some time ago I was reading an article in the New York Times by writer David Kamp concerning the topic of Kids Meals
at restaurants. I'm not sure our friends abroad might understand the concept, but as Mr Kamp explained, it was one of those inventions designed in the USA to cater to children while out dining in a restaurant with their parents. It is nothing new, and I'd be surprised, if you live outside the USA, you haven't heard of it, or experienced while traveling with your children. Anyway, it is not really my point to give a history lesson on the subject. I was intrigued by Mr Kamp's article because it brought to my attention what I had already known: the Kids menu, no matter what kind of restaurant you were in, always seemed to offer the same thing for kids. He went on to point out that the menu always seemed to be centred around chicken fingers and french fries:
"I noticed that accommodationist chefs were making chicken fingers available in Italian, Chinese, and Japanese restaurants, where chicken fingers aren't even justifiable. I perceived that my children's chicken-finger meals outside the home were informing their eating habits inside the home....... In short, I came to the realization that America is in the grips of a nefarious chicken-finger pandemic, in which a blandly tasty foodstuff has somehow become the de facto official nibble of our young." I suppose because of the classiness of the restaurant, we could fool ourselves many times into believing that our kids were eating well. Nonetheless, a lot of the kids menus are not much better than if you were to have purchased them from a fast food restaurant. By the way, I also read recently in Contemporary Pediatrics, that those fast food meals for kids..... surprise surprise... still are not healthy.

But, continuing further on what Mr Kamp brought up. I also have found that the average kids meal ordered off the kids menu is growing LARGER AND LARGER each time. My wife and I have now established a plan to get around that fact. We just order one plate for our kids and then divide it. We just can't stand to see the food wasted otherwise. And why the hell do our kids need such a huge portion to begin with.... wasn't the original idea to provide a meal that wasn't supposed to be the same size as the parents? Are many of these kitchens staffed with people who have no relation to children?

Anyway, these days we have learned our lesson. We glance at the kids menu and usually skip it. We prefer to order an adult meal and split it amongst the kids - thus getting them a better meal choice. Or, so that we can bypass the usual french fry option, we order veggies off the side dishes and make up our own kids meal. Many times, it seems the only way to get around Mac and Cheese, Pizza, Chicken Nuggets, or Hot Dogs....... And, like Mr Kamp suggests, it is the only way you might get an opportunity to present your children with a diversity that you might enjoy when eating out.

Now, I know that there are restaurants out there that have re-invented the children's menu - but they are, in my opinion, few and far between. What's with this trend towards blandness and large quantities? What does it say about us? Are we really becoming that lazy?

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