Several weeks ago we were having a playdate with blog-friends turned friends when Tony began preparing dinner for his daughter.
“Fishsticks. Is that okay?” he generously offered.
“Um…” I hesitated, not eager to confess to the embarrassingly slim range of foods that pass Thalia’s lips. “Probably not. I don’t think she’ll eat that.”
“Oh,” he said. “Can I get her something else?”
“Got any couscous?”
“Couscous!” Thalia repeated, delighted. She settled for an apple.
Recently the New York Times published a much-discussed article about kids’ menus in restaurants and how the ubiquitous chicken finger/grilled cheese/hot dog selection is keeping kids in a culinary box.
I only wish my daughter had even one pinky toe in that culinary box. Then she might actually eat something besides the contents of the bread basket when we go out for dinner.
Instead Thalia has created her own box, one comprised of meals not ordinarily in the American toddler repertoire: Couscous. Quiche. Pesto. Her latest request is “sushi,” although her version has nothing to do with raw fish and everything to do with dunking a chopstick into some soy sauce and licking it.
It’s not so much what she eats that concerns me but what she doesn’t eat. And I don’t mean leafy green vegetables. Lord, what I’d give just for her to eat one damn McAnything like the normal kids. In desperation we once bought her some Chicken Nuggets at a Florida highway rest stop, but she only nibbled at the batter for a brief moment before burying the rest of it in the crevices of the car seat.
(I can’t entirely say I blame her.)
Needless to say, childrens’ menus are not our friends. Thalia will feast on the fries but not the grilled cheese. She’ll have the peanut butter but not the jelly. She’ll eat the ketchup but not the burger. And a hot dog is only as good as the bun. Kraft singles? Won’t touch the stuff. Although last week she discovered a taste for the Italian Prosecco-washed goat’s milk cheese that her foodie grandfather set out as an appetizer.
Her behavior is downright unamerican. Next thing you know she’ll be thumbing her nose at baseball and telling me that when we travel to other countries that we should bother to learn the language.
What confounds me most is that Thalia won’t even try the spectacularly delicious neon orange goop over overcooked elbow macaroni that passes for dinner in millions of households with children. Thalia’s prefered pasta preparation is a liberal dousing of virgin olive oil, a sprinkling of pignoli nuts, cracked pepper, and sea salt, and then a good amount of “yummy cheese”–or fresh Reggiano-Parmigiano ($12 a pound!) grated tableside as if she’s some European VIP at da Silvano. Yes, she actually insists on the tableside service. I’m surprised she doesn’t demand that we move her highchair a little further away from the kitchen, maybe something near the window, and hey, is that Drew Barrymore over there?
Please Thalia, please, just once, be like the other kids. Eat something fried and crappy. Eat something totally devoid of nutrition and steeped in transfats.
Eat something on a kids’ menu. Please.
You’re starting to worry me.
Find Mom101 cross-posted at Time Out NY Kids every Monday, along with great NYC-area stuff to do with your family. Including restaurants with kids’ menus, although don’t count on finding us at any of them.