Saturday, July 9, 2011

Little Foodies in the Big City: or Why Toddlers Should Eat More Foie Gras

Getting ready to partake in NYC's gourmet food truck craze: Wafels and Dinges.

My kids are tiny little foodies in the making. Last year when I made bacon ice cream, instead of crinkling up their cute little nose at it—because after all, bacon doesn’t go in ice cream!—they simply gave it a try (and loved it). Ask them what the best poultry is and they will give you the correct answer (duck). When I bake desserts with my middle daughter, we make chocolate soufflé and crème brûlée and other French-sounding things with funny little marks over random letters.

So they are pretty fun to travel with. On our recent trip to the mainland, we made a plan to cover as many different restaurants as possible with stops in Columbus, Atlanta, Tampa, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and New York City.

In the past, our typical road-trip fare has consisted of a lot of fast food. However, my little foodies-in-the-making have come to a point where they actually groan if you tell them you are going to take them to McDonalds. So we aim a little higher. For example, in Atlanta we went to Flip Burger Boutique, a burger joint owned by Richard Blaise (the winner of Top Chef All-stars). Instead of a Big Mac, we got a burger with blue cheese, frisée, caramelized onion, and red wine jam. Instead of bright orange cheese-like substance, we got Swiss cheese foam. Instead of fries, we got caramelized Brussels sprouts. And for dessert, we got three milkshakes (burned marshmello-nutella, Krispy Kreme, and Captain Crunch) made with liquid nitrogen.

Sounds fun right? And it is. But here is the problem. How much money is too much to pay for children who 1) may not have a broad enough culinary experience to really appreciate great food, and 2) may not remember the meal? Did my kids like the crispy pork belly and watermelon salad that we ate at the Fatty Crab in NYC? Sure. Did they realize how spectacularly special that dish is? Maybe. But maybe not. So was it a waste of money to feed it to them?

My wife and I both value great food and consider eating one of the main purposes for travel (and life, come to think of it). So we are willing to spend fairly significant amounts of money on good food. But are we/should we be willing to spend significant amounts to feed our kids? We could have done our summer trip much cheaper had we just fed the kids fast food, Chinese take-out, and pizza. Was it worth it to feed our kids good food?

After some discussion, we have come to the conclusion that it is worth it. Our children would not have been happy eating cheap take-out food for the whole trip because we have taught them what good food is. Did the kids appreciate the food as much as my wife and I? Probably not. Are they learning to appreciate good food by partaking of it? You betcha!

That is the kind of education we will splurge a little for.

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