We visit France every year, either we are just driving through or holidaying there. We enjoy French food and we eat as locals as much as possible and absorb the way the French do it. Including the way families treat their mealtimes in restaurants.
I never was keen on the idea of children’s version of menus in restaurants – all have more or less the same stuff, boring and not healthy. You know what I mean: chicken nuggets, spaghetti, sausages, chips, french fries etc. The kind of food we hardly eat in our home (well most of it anyway), it implies as well that children can eat only limited type of foods and anything outside comfort zone will cause the riots and spoils the family meal.
I wonder why and when it crept in; is it the way our children eat at homes or schools rather? Why restaurants do not or stopped offering smaller plates of adult meals? Or are we lazy adults who don’t bother to offer kids wider array of foods that could be fun and tasty, because it is work?Children are often branded fussy eaters! Well, they could be, but they’ll warm up to things seeing you trying it out, cooking variety often and being adventurous while eating out.
I admire how French take their cuisine so seriously, the meal is sacred time and it should be real food. So school meals are not the same affair as the school lunches in the UK. And so we found out the French kids menu are not the same story as across the Canal La Manche.
Firstly, we in our family do not pay any attention to the children’s menu, even when insisted upon by waiters. We usually choose a couple of things to share with children and extra plate if needed, sometimes specifically asking for a smaller version of the chosen dish. In that way, the children eat the real things and develop their own particular preferences. Of course we do take into account what children like or do not like, but we do not shy away from challenging their taste buds. Our offsprings are not perfect, they might moan or be not so happy about the choice but in the end, they are usually happy to eat what’s on offer. And in the most cases, they end up liking it a lot.
On our last trip to France, our big son found us a lovely restaurant situated between fields, by a lake, in an old manor house. We sat out on the lovely terrace basking in the evening sun. Madam who runs the restaurant kindly offered us the children’s menu to consider, which in the first place we rejected.
Having gone through the menu and specials, I cast my eyes on the children’s menu and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. No chicken nuggets, but a real chicken fillet served with seasonal vegetables. It seemed like a good option for the youngest one. And no, no French fries on offer!
What arrived on the plate, was an even lovelier surprise. A proper size, real chicken meat adorned by vegetables mushed and shaped into a vegetable bed, with chunky asparagus, carrot, beetroot, mange tout, pepper and turnip playing the part of plants. It immediately held the children’s attention. All of it was freshly prepared and disappeared in their bellies quickly. I fell in love with the way the meal was served to cater for children’s natural need of play. They would dissemble the vegetable beds, asking what particular pieces were, before sliding them into their mouths.
That dinner was a pleasure and fun, very memorable. Again, French proved to me that family meals are serious matter, where the real food is a must and no one is excluded of a pleasure because of their age. That you cannot expect adults to develop the taste for a variety of dishes and foods if you do not expose their young taste buds to it. Bon appetite!