Fish and chips, nuggets and chips, pasta bolognese or napoletana, ham and pineapple pizza, magharita pizza. If you are a parent, you know the stock standard double spaced and centre aligned kids menu. How rich would I be if I printed these items on a piece of paper and sold them for 10c each, 20c each for laminated ones.
So why does it seem that children’s tastebuds are so often ignored? And why do so many restaurants assume that all they want to eat is pizza and pasta? And why, oh why do their meals have to come with chips?
The $10 kids menu – what a bargain so let’s just give them the usual.
Keep reading even if you don’t have kids because
- You may have them in the future;
- You are having dinner with friends and their kids who will all love you forever when you announce “I know this fab place that makes fantastic food for kids;”
- You may now or one day run an establishment that serves food for kids;
- All of the above.
I admit it. I have done it, so many times. Order chips for the kids because we know they will eat them. It’s easy, there is no fight and it keeps them occupied for the few quiet minutes we crave.
So all kids like chips. All adults I know like chips too. But why do the adults get the choice of organic double/triple/beer battered fried chips and the kids get stuck with the skinny frozen variety?
So it begs the question, are kid’s menus just a Western invention? I don’t recall ever seeing one at a Chinese restaurant or any Asian restaurant for that matter. Although oddly enough, I have come across “western” kids menus at one or two Chinese restaurants which really is inexcusable. I do, however, love a good crumbed fish and rice. The Asians have done this for centuries.
When travelling in Paris a few years ago, we ordered our son a kid’s steak and chips. The steak was a bit rare which made me wince, mainly because I don’t eat meat that’s still mooing. However, thinking back, maybe that IS how French kids eat it so why shouldn’t my son if he likes it? He was four years old at the time.
I wonder are kid’s tastebuds different to adults? The answer appears to be yes.
Michael Berry writes: ‘Just as many folks start out with 20-20 vision in their youth and wind up wearing tri-focals come retirement, your senses of taste and smell changes over time. The average adult reportedly has approximately 10,000 taste buds, but children have more, including some dotted along the inside of their cheeks. Infants seem to arrive hard-wired to react to bitterness and sweetness, though the ability to detect saltiness takes six months or so to develop.’ (http://www.sff.net/people/mberry/taste.htm)
Dr Kutner says: ‘Their taste buds are generally more sensitive and may be overwhelmed by the spiciness of a dish that their parents would consider intolerably bland. Young children especially avoid bitter tastes, such as those found in dark green vegetables.’ (http://www.drkutner.com/parenting/articles/picky.html)
How about Indian kids? Are they filled with spices from an early age? Do their tastebuds detect spice more than say an Australian kid who eats plainer food? Does a mum who eats spicy food while pregnant and breastfeeding have a child who enjoys these foods more? I have read that many parents begin by giving their babies blander food then gradually add spices as they get older as long as their bodies can tolerate it.
I have a son that will try everything for which I am so grateful for. He really doesn’t have much choice being around my husband and me. If he doesn’t like it, he will screw up his cute little face muttering “yuck” or he will spit it out, not on his plate or hands of course, but mine!
But it doesn’t mean if their tastebuds are different to ours that they won’t like foods other than chips, pizza and pasta.
So finally, there is some good news. Times are changing and we are coming across more places that are showing an interest. Hallelujah!
Four such establishments are:
- The Tramway Hotel in North Fitzroy. This place creates amazing burgers. And what’s even better, you can take any one of those amazing burgers and request a kid’s size for $10. They take the patty, split it in two and serve it with salad if you wish. To top it off, it comes with good portion of their delicious homemade fries too. The only thing missing is the bun. So technically, it’s not a burger, it’s just a patty. If I didn’t eat bread, it would be a big enough for me. But my dilemma is this – the bread so fresh and divine that I must order the adult version.
- The Terminus Hotel in Clifton Hill. They offer the littlies meals that include calamari with aoli and a mini version of their beer battered fish and chips. Like many pubs in Melbourne now, the staff are so refreshingly accommodating with the kids. The only thing my son complains about is the dim lighting!
- The Melbourne Public Bar in South Wharf. This spacious, warehouse style pub embraces the emerging trend of food grazing and sharing dishes. Mini burgers, crumbed (real!) chicken tenderloins, lamb koftas, pork belly and the obligatory beer battered fries. Probably not the type of place you take your children on a Friday night but on a lazy Sunday afternoon after playing tourist in the city, perfect.
- Babble in Prahran. They take something as simple as a babycino and make it special. Some places have the audacity to charge $2 or more for a bit of froth and a sprinkle of chocolate on top. Babble serve up the best babycino, dare I say it, in the world. Perfect froth with a smiley face and two marshmallows. What more could a kid want? And it comes free with the adult coffee. What more could an adult want? Did I mention their scrambled eggs? We have combed the city of Melbourne for the best ones and nothing, so far, has matched Babble’s. Creamy, buttery, soft beautiful eggs on sourdough. Half servings for kids if you ask.
There will be many other places such as these. If you dare to venture beyond the local Italian, I am sure you will find some gems that care about serving great meals for kids. Nothing wrong with kid’s menus; I happen to think they are a great idea. But it’s great to go to places where they have put some thought (and good ingredients) into them.
So, let’s not forget about the kids.