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Jan 12, 2010 10:05 PM

Giving little kids expensive food -- am I off base?


I'm really and truly all for exposing kids to all sorts of tastes. But I also have to confess that I'm almost frantically frugal sometimes. That doesn't equate to cheap: I don't mind spending big bucks when it's going to be worth it.

But I simply can't stand it to lay out good money for food that won't be eaten. (Or appreciated, for that matter. I have a few friends who are just fine with Cracker Barrel cheddar, and I don't condescend at all, because I like that kind of cheese sometimes too -- but I'm also not going to break out the $40/pound artisan stuff on them, because they don't care about it.)

But several times recently, people in my sphere have served very young kids (under six) adult-sized portions of very spendy foods, some of them supplied by yours truly. We're talking lamb, lobster, caviar, even real truffles. In some cases, the kids ate them. More often, they either picked at them, or completely refused to sample them.

Confession: I don't have kids, and don't really like them that much. I realize this colors my perception.

But especially for someone who really has to think hard about whether that asparagus that looks so good could possibly be worth $6 a pound, this is a big-time issue for me.

What kind of monster am I?

  1. I'm with you on the not really liking kids thing - but I'd rather see a child have the chance to try something than see an adult not eat expensive (or indeed any) food I'd made and see it go to waste.

    1. When I have kids over, I make sure to have things like chicken fingers or quesadillas available, then if they want to try something more sophisticated they can. But they usually don't.

      5 Replies
      1. re: coll

        I just want to point out that this is a very slippery slope. I don't know when or why Americans decided that it is critical to condition children to believe that they can't, won't or don't eat the normal foods served at a gathering but it does put pressure on children who eat normal food to take kid food - particularly if, like me, you have encountered hosts who do not want children to eat the grown up food because they haven't prepared enough for that. I have taught my son that when we are guests he needs to choose the Kid Food because I've seen people go bananas if someone's child takes a shrimp.

        1. re: Kater

          The company my dad worked for used to have company dinners. Sometimes it would be adults only at a restaurant but, occasionally, they would have a family dinner. We went one time. It was at a park and they had a cookout with steaks for the adults and hot dogs for the kids. My parents were livid! I hated hot dogs. They fed us separately from the adults and there was nothing else to eat besides chips and other junk food. Like you, I don't understand the need to condition kids to eat what be considered "kid food". I'm glad we don't go any place with our children where people expect that. Even at home, I don't give them much of a new food until we see if they like it. I hate food waste!

        2. re: coll

          "When I have kids over, I make sure to have things like chicken fingers or quesadillas available, then if they want to try something more sophisticated they can. But they usually don't."

          Of course they don't, when there are chicken fingers and quesadillas on hand. Even my houndy kids will pass up things they would otherwise eat if there's "kid food" to be had.

          1. re: mamaciita

            a blanket statement like that cannot really be true. my kid would jump over a thousand trays of mac and cheese for a piece of salmon.....

            1. re: thew

              I agree with thew. I wouldn't exactly say my daughter has sophisticated food tastes, but she loves roasted garlic and olives and is relatively interested in bland, starchy "kid foods."

        3. I think it's important to expose children to new ideas, food, travel. And it's impossible to measure the long term impact of this exposure. I know children who would prefer sturgeon to chicken fingers. Exposure and waste need not be part of the same experience. Also there is a social skill developed in learning and trying. Laying out money for food that won't be eaten is quite different from serving a child something cheaper because they are only children. (I don't always love them that much either.)

          1. Full-disclosure: I have kids. I don't believe in having a "kids' menu" when I have a dinner party. But neither do I believe in waste. So I try to have some things (plain pasta perhaps?) around that even a really picky kid will eat. But I do expect that they will be offered, and hopefully try, anything that's on the table. That's the way we are with our kids. But I don't think it's inappropriate to cut some "sample sizes" that might be offered first, before a full serving is offered. And parents really ought to be cognizant of perhaps giving them a little off their plate as a trial before taking a full size piece for the kid.

            1. You never know what kids might like. Interestingly enough, I really can't stand lamb now, but when I was really young I loved it and looked forward to the nights when my mom served it. I never got an adult portion, but I never got served something different because I was thought to be too young to appreciate it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: queencru

                Same here. I was a late in life child so my parents and siblings were older than average and it was in general an adult atmosphere and I was expected to adapt and not the other way around. I remember going to my Dad's Ship Reunion and the following night my parents, brother and me going for a fancy dinner and me wanting "monster fish" (Lobster) like my brother had. They ordered me a lobster tail (I was 5) and I fell in love.