Wednesday Wade-Through (5/30/07)

It’s Wednesday and that means the nation’s papers published their food sections today. Normally, I let the aggregator blogs do the work of a Wednesday wade-through–linking to the best stories, etc–but today there’s plenty to link to and talk about, so I thought I’d get into the game. Click ahead to join the conversation.

(1) David Kamp’s NYT article about children’s food–“Don’t Point That Menu At My Child, Please”–is a fascinating read, even if you’re not a parent (and I’m pretty sure I’m not). Why do we feed our kids fried chicken fingers and greasy french fries as opposed to the food we eat ourselves? As I pondered this subject, I had lunch at a local sushi joint and saw something wonderful: a little girl asked her mother to order her octopus. A 7 year-old eating octopus! But then the little girl, after taking a bite, said she didn’t like it. “Mommy doesn’t like it when you waste food,” said the mother. The girl had chicken teriyaki instead and enjoyed the edamame that came with it: “Look mommy,” she said, “there are peas inside.” Kids are naturally curious and if you can make shopping, cooking and eating a surprising, delightful experience I bet your kids will eat well. Except when they scream and throw a tantrum because they want a Happy Meal. How do you deal with it, parents who read my blog?

(2) Frank Bruni reviewed Katz’s deli today and the Eater oddsmakers had me nervous, guessing he would give the place zero stars. Well, he gave it one star and I suppose I should sigh a sigh of relief but, really, reviewing Katz’s Deli is sort of like reviewing your grandmother’s skills at grandmothering. Not only is it unnecessary, it’s irreverent. But Bruni had a reason: there’s fear the place will close (the owners acknowledged they’d sell it for the right price) so Bruni wanted to ensure its continued existence. Very well then, but still–maybe a feature story would’ve been better, not a review.

(3) Meg’s declared it Heritage and Heirloom Day on her blog. I totally get what she’s saying: I walked passed the new Whole Foods on the Lower East Side the other day, and seeing the produce through the window it all looked so pristine and polished and perfect, I pined for the less beautiful but more real looking food at the farmer’s market. There, the asparagus isn’t as green or as perky but you know it was in the ground just hours earlier. To me, that makes all the difference.

(4) Oh, so I come to Oakland and get tapas, but Clotilde comes to Oakland and gets a magnificent feast? Shame on you, Derrick. For shame!

(5) Adam Kuban responds to the Shake Shake diss in the New York Post. I think I like Shake Shake mostly for the communal experience of standing in line and then eating a burger in the park. The burger is very good, but for me the atmosphere is the biggest draw. (The same is true, actually, of The Burger Joint in the Parker Meriden. That’s Craig’s favorite burger joint, because he loves the environment.)

(6) Michael Ruhlman talks about molecular gastronomy and then poaches an egg with asparagus in a dish that rivals my own. He also has really nice things to say about a certain book that’s coming out in three months. My eyes are burning!

(7) Regina Schrambling has a surprisingly tasty story about quality airport food (yes, you heard that right)–a subject that makes me a little queasy (I, like many, truly hate airports) but which does indeed inspire hope that while watching a grainy broadcast of CNN and re-reading last week’s New Yorker for the thousandth time as you suffer through a three-hour delay, you might actually find something good to eat. Maybe.

(8) NYC Nosh visits Perilla, the new restaurant from Top Chef winner Harold Dieterle. (Once out with a famous food blogger who had Harold’s number in her phone, I tried to get him together with my roommate–but my matchmaker instincts were thwarted when Harold cancelled at the last minute.) Nosh calls Perilla’s food “precociously sophisticated” and predicts that “Harold Dieterle won’t need another 15 minutes of fame to keep this business afloat.”

Phew—that was quite a wade-through. Happy Wednesday!

14 comments

  1. “How do you deal with it, parents who read my blog?”

    I rarely took my children out to eat. They ate food we grew or got at the farmer’s market, heavy on vegetables, beans, and grains.

    When we did eat out, it was at buffets like Heritage House with extensive salad and vegetable choices, or restaurants that didn’t have a children’s menu (I would call in advance and prepare the staff for the arrival of children, and coached the children on proper behavior). The ones we visited were happy to offer smaller portions for the children, and not offended if we asked that the food be prepared for take-out if the children didn’t like it. Any food they didn’t like in a restaurant was taken away to give to someone who would eat it, so they learned the virtue of sharing.

    I encouraged them to sample new foods, at least one bite. They had to retry the food at least once a year, in case their tastes changed. They learned that their tastes did indeed change as they got older.

    I was never a routine cook, which may have helped. I rarely served the same dish more than once in a month and was always offering up new dishes, either new foods or new ways to prepare old foods. They learned to cook very young. If they cooked it themselves, they were more likely to try new foods, and would eat it even if they didn’t like it much.

  2. My kids (3.5 y and 10 m) are decent eaters, but they have their moments, too. I do my best to avoid trans-fats and HFCS in their diets. But as healthy as I would like their diets to be, I need to maintain my own sanity, too. So I keep good stuff around, and I keep a package of chicken fingers hidden to avoid the occasional big fight with my three-year-old over dinner. When we go out, we give him the menu and let him pick. He still picks chicken in some form about 50% of the time.

  3. Adam dearest, we can’t pull off dinner parties midweek. Derrick & I promise to feed you if/when you visit again over a weekend.

    …Though truth be told, we were merely repaying a delicious dinner Clotilde cooked for us a couple of years back.

  4. “How do you deal with it, parents who read my blog?”

    My 3 year old eats what we eat. He is required to have one bite of everything on his plate. We cook almost every night from a wide range of cultures – particularly Asian as of late. When he was under the age of 1 I tossed fresh basil with his pasta – I made sure his food tasted like SOMETHING (I just don’t get this obsession with eating food that tastes like nothing – I swear my mother lives on chicken breast). When we eat out, sometimes he eats from the kids menu, sometimes he doesn’t. Chicken fingers are out of the question because we are all vegetarian right now. He has had a number of grilled cheeses and pizzas, but I don’t think that is too bad. As far as McDonald’s goes, we don’t go there – especially after reading Pollan’s research on McNuggets in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Apparently McDonald’s thinks a bit of poison can’t hurt our children every once in a while. UGH!

  5. I’m not a parent, but the top story does remind me of being presented with kids’ menus when my parents took me to dinner as a child. I absolutely loathed it. At every restaurant, I followed the host’s movements with daggers in my eyes, waiting for him to reach for those terrible paper menus… working up the courage to ask, in my pipsqueak voice, for “the real menu.”

    And all this despite the fact that I *was* a pretty picky eater… I couldn’t abide by vinegar or other pungent things, but if anyone tried to sell me on a boring old hamburger when what I really wanted was a braised rabbit loin… well, then God help them.

  6. I’m not a parent, but I used to wait tables in a semi-upscale seafood/sushi restaurant in NYC, and I was constantly impressed by the adventurous little eaters that would come in with their parents. On the rare occasions when we had kids at our restaurant, I would normally approach with the line “And we don’t really have a kids menu, but we can do things like chicken fingers – ” and more often than not I would be interrupted with “Oh, that’s not necessary” and the kids would fire off a pretty impressive sushi order at me.

    I was amazed every time. I guess mainly because at that age all I ever wanted was Hamburger Helper.

  7. Hey Adam,

    Your blog is the best. I enjoy it a lot. But it is time you understood that for many Americans, anything and anyONE French is the best. Anything and anyONE European is always better than things American but the French is the best. So what that you have an unpretentious blog like yours? So what that Heidi publishes a great cookbook? American things are always shoved away as inferior, as lacking in refinement and quality. But French stuff? Oh-la-la, this is ZE BEST! We hang our heads in shame that we are not French. Face it, if the French blogger showed up at Derrick’s mid-week, I bet they would have a feast for her too. I bet she didn’t pay for her meal with these friends. People here are so enchanted with the French. Too bad it is a fallen empire where car burning is an everyday thing. Sadly, the US is on the way there too.

    Be proud of your blog. Do not think that it is inferior to anything French, be proud, Adam.

    Britte

  8. As a parent I deal with it this way, I tell the waiters, “Don’t even come NEAR us with those children’s menus. I usually order appetizers for Izzy and I am very thankful to restaurants that offer half-portions which are perfect. So far we have kept chicken fingers and other foods of that ilk out of Izzy’s realm. He is four and I will keep that up as long as possible. He eats what we eat.

  9. I am the parent of three boys (11, 8, 5) who eat everything. The oldest now chooses his own meal from the adult menu when we go out. The younger two usually like to look at the children’s menu, particularly for the coloring or other time-consuming activities. They prefer to choose their own items from the children’s menu; however, if I don’t like the choices, I’ll steer them towards appetizers or sharing something from the adult menu.

    I don’t have a problem with the kids eating chicken fingers occasionally. I don’t let the boys choose them at every restaurant meal, however. The same is true for macaroni and cheese. Interestingly enough, some restaurants mac and cheese is naste, and my boys won’t eat it.

    BTW, my kids eat octopus and love it: sushi, sauteed Greek-style, or in Central American seafood stews. They take after their mom!

  10. My kids eat just about everything my wife and I eat.

    I cook and I tone back the spices in some of their food a little, and things like sushi are too good (and expensive) to waste on children.

    I have never understood parents who stuff all kinds of crap into their kids’ mouths and then wonder why they get fat.

    They insist that kids simply can’t handle adult food with lots of flavor.

    Or vegetables.

    Uh, what do kids in most of the world eat?

    Parents to be, do yourselves a favor: Insist that your kids try everything, and if children don’t clean their plates, they get no dessert.

    Everywhere my family goes, people say things like “your kids actually eat their vegetables and order salads?”

    Of course they do.

    To them, that is dinner.

    A Happy Meal is a rare treat.

  11. Maybe it’s because I’m Chinese, where each person has their own bowl of rice and then picks at the dishes in the middle of the table, but I basically ate what my parents ate, just in smaller portions. It also helps that most (if not all) Chinese restaurants don’t have kids menus either. We rarely ever went out for fast food; when we did it was usually if we were out shopping and that would be a lunch thing. Even now the idea of having a sandwich for dinner is weird.

    It’s funny because now that I’m away from home at school (studying nutrition, no less) I go home and I’m like, “I grew up on this stuff?” but I think as long as the parents themselves have good habits things should turn out ok.

    To the comment above, people are starting to say it’s not good to force your children to clean their plates because they start losing the ability to recognize when they’re full, which may be a part of the obesity problem. Although I guess if the kid can’t clean their plate they’re probably too full for dessert anyway.

  12. We have photos of my daughter at each Christmas from ages 4 to 22 with the tentacles of calamari hanging out of her mouth. My other two only eat it fried, but they are all adventurous eaters, consuming sushi, Indian, all types of fish, lobster, oysters, clams, Greek, etc. We just ordered it and they ate along.

    I think nothing is more revolting than being in a beautiful restaurant and having to order chicken fingers with fries. Ye-uw!

  13. John F. Rogers, If they don’t clean their plate they don’t get dessert? That doesn’t sound right, either. My kids don’t get dessert as a matter of course, and they certainly don’t get it as a “reward” for cramming down the rest of their food.

  14. Kate:

    Most often, “cleaning their plate” means eating all of their vegetables.

    I don’t consider that “cramming down” their food.

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