Thanks to my parents, I can eat almost anything. On the other hand, I don’t advocate the “clean-plate club.” Those who are 50-ish or older know what that means. “Clean your plate or you don’t leave the table.” Or you’d go straight to bed, wouldn’t get dessert, or be threatened with inheriting your siblings’ chores for the week.
Being raised by first- and second-generation Italians, I was eating escarole, eggplant parmesan, stuffed artichokes or peppers, and gnocchi as soon as Mom decided it was time for me to leave the breast.
Some people have old pictures of themselves sitting in high chairs with cake smeared all over their faces. Somewhere in the family photo albums, I have a picture of me with a dismembered artichoke.
My parents did me a big favor. As an adult, I can go anywhere and not be afraid to eat certain things. I don’t have to peruse entrees at shows or parties for fear of onions, garlic, or anchovies. I don’t break into a sweat at dinner parties, afraid of hurting the feelings of the host or hostess because they may have put an ingredient in that will mentally make me sick.
After all of this, you’d think I’d have learned and passed this on to my daughter. I didn’t. To parents of young children, take my advice—feed them real food from the start.
Because of my occupation and schedule, I eat out almost every day of the week. Instead of asking what’s for dinner, my daughter asks, “Where are we going for dinner?”
I don’t know who invented the corn dog, deep fried nuggets, or grilled cheese sandwich, but somewhere along the line, these items became staples on the “kiddie” menu.
Because it was fun, cheap food for a tiny appetite, I’d let her pick from the tot menu. It’s a wonder that today she doesn’t resemble a fried chicken strip.
Parents listen up and repeat after me: “I do not have to order from the kids’ menu for my child.”
There are other options. One, share your meal with your child. Restaurant servings are usually huge and you won’t miss the few bites you put on another plate for your child. When I do this, I offer to pay a sharing fee whether the restaurant requires it or not. After all, it’s more work for the server, yet cheaper than a kid’s meal.
Second, you can scope out restaurants that feature “real” food on the kids’ meal menu. Don’t forget to substitute green veggies for French fries.
The third thing you can do is tell the manager you’d like to see more low-fat, “real-food” items on the kids’ menu.
Follow these three rules and as an adult, your child will not have a juvenile palate and will think of you and thank you when they’re at a dinner party and see another guest turn their nose up at onions.
Nibbles: Copacabana Cuban Cafe, next to Goblin Market Restaurant, is due to open this month. They are located at 320 Dora Drawdy Way in Mount Dora. Louisiana Seafood House, formerly Woodies Chopping Block, is opening soon on Main Street in Leesburg. JJ Fin’s Dockside, formerly Nates Dockside, is opening on Hwy 441, in Tavares. In The Villages, Fratelli Pizzuli is open or opening soon. Pauly’s Pizza recently opened a third location in The Villages at Palm Ridge Plaza. Bagel Buzz & More in Colony Plaza on 466 has closed. More information on these restaurants in future issues.