What are the Ottawa Foodies Teaching Their Children ? [Cooking]

2008 Feb 16
I do sometimes wonder where our society , especailly in the west, is going.

What are we, as foodies, teaching our children ?

When my kids were young, they thought that meat came from a showcase in a store and the meat always came a white styro-foam base. Until we started to bring them to the Experimantal Farm.

They also thought money came from a bank machine and you just show up a reataurant and they feed you. And with a swipe of a plastic card or leaving behaind some of that paper from the bank machine , you left.

I like David Suzuki's take on this (and I don't always agree with David Suzuki).
He points out that we, as homosapiens (especailly in the west), are truly disconnetced from nature, mother earth or whatever you want to call it.

Our reckless consumption, brought on by greed, has made us loose sight of the fact that not only can we freely take from 'nature' but we ignore the responsibilty for it's stewardship.

I try to teach my kids about this stewardship and not get caught up in all the "Green Hype". And boy, there's lots of that out there


Looks like no one commented on my rant about the new PC product aimed at kids, the Deep fried Mac and Cheese. So I'll do a refresh here.


Yes, marketing fat, salt and sugar (the website suggests dipping the 'nuggets' in sugar ladden ketchup)to kids works ... look at McDonald's and Big Box Restaurants (Like Montannas, Outback, etc.) and so on.

The name 'MiniChefs' .... does that imply that we can turn our children into mini-chefs by teaching them how to reheat PC products?

Lets's teach our kids to work their butts off so they can afford the Big Box Resto's and the boxed meats and the boxed frozen prepared foods.

Oh Boy....


"We may not be responsible for the world we inherited, but we surely will be held accountable for the one we leave behind."

2008 Feb 16
When I saw your post in the other thread I was thinking it would be funny to serve those as an hors d'oeuvre at my next gathering, trying to keep a straight face while I describe the dish in detail...

2008 Feb 16
Captain Caper, To be honest I didn't reply to your first post because I was in shock! Deep fried mac & cheese. Oh my god, I thought you had to be kidding. I actually had to look up this product on the internet, it really and truly exists. I guess President's Choice is buying it from Stouffers, because it seems to be a big seller in the USA. Please excuse me, while I...

As for the rest of your topic, I tried very hard to provide nutritious food to my kids when they were growing up. I made a lot of homemade things from scratch rather than buy the canned instant microwave versions (soup, chili, lasagne). I insisted everyone eat breakfast, and we ate together as a family almost every night (although as the kids became older with more activities it became harder and harder to resist take-out and convenience items). And Sunday Dinner was a family tradition. It was a time when we all gathered together to share our week. It was an easy tradition to implement, when the kids were little we'd do things as a family and come home to a nice dinner (usually a roast -- chicken, ham, beef or pork with the fixings). In the middle years it became a little more difficult, the kids were pushing their new independence... but it was always ok to bring a friend. By the teens the routine was in place, and besides by then they were somewhat fascinated by food, and starting to ask about the menu and suggesting their own favourites. I was always open to trying new dishes, and adding their requests. Dessert always made it to the Sunday menu, so that alone seemed to keep them coming back for more.

Today, the kids are out on their own. They lead very busy lives, and I know they don't always eat well. They fondly talk about Sunday dinners, and from bits of oonversations, I take it they too have implemented this tradition into their lives with their boyfriends / mates. I'm hoping that by the time they have kids of their own they'll fall-back to the basics they grew up with.

2008 Feb 16
Monty, you could present them as a croquette de pate... sounds fancy until the first bite ;)

Cap'n, like F&T, PCs move on the MiniChef line really didn't surprise me. While they (PC) do come out with some interesting food products, most of it in the freezer isle is brutal.

I suspect that children have a disconnect from food in general since they are increasingly being fed food from their parents that requires little to no preparation, hence, they don't see the food handling/prep/cooking aspect of it all. I say this due to the increase in take home dinners, frozen dinners, and dinner-in-a-bag dinners (like those slowcooker meals, ridiculous!). Also, as far as meat is concerned, I think that largely depends on where you come from, and how you're raised, what you're exposed to... in my experience, my city kid friends had very unrealistic ideas of where their meat came from and how it looked before it was slaughtered, cleaned, butchered, and packed for sale. I grew up in a hunting household and had to clean & butcher meat alongside my family, needless to say, I have a very "real" idea of where it comes from.

2008 Feb 17
Honestly, after watching the Jamie's School Dinners program (with Jamie Oliver), I felt a lot better about the thigs I see children eat in our country. In Britain, there are areas that are in such a poor state that there are routinely children that do not have a bowel movement for 2 MONTHS! In the schools that Jamie visted, children thought that strawberries were scary and disgusting, and could not identify very common vegetables when held up in front of the class. I was shocked - I know that many children here do not love vegetables, but I am fairy confident that most at least feel that juicy ripe strawberries are a treat, as I did growing up....don't they?...perhaps I am just naive as to the state of our own children's nutrition since I don't have children and don't see it on a regular basis? Anyways, it was an excellent program; if you have the chance to watch it, please make time to do so :)

2008 Feb 17
FOOD IS HOT... I watch a lot of lifestyle programming from both the US & the UK. I am amazed at how much JUNK people in these two countries eat! Not just the snack junk (pop, chips, candy) but also the fast food and fried foods. Absolutely no nutritional value. And more and more these are becoming staples in diets, where in America for example many people pick up fast food 2 or more meals a day, everyday.

I remember I read somewhere a couple of years ago that Canada is still a world leader in countries where food is prepared at home, although we are using more and more convenience items to round out the meal (microwave pasta / rice sides come to mind). But still we tend to have a more balanced diet, meat & veg & side.

Although most Canadian children I believe could identify the run of the mill veggies (peas, carrots, corn) I would bet that you'd be hard pressed to expand the list much beyond that. Sure, you might be able to add some locally grown produce (winter veggies) as they will always be cheaper, and readily available. But I do know a lot of kids (and they get it from their parents), who just don't eat many fruits or veggies. (I blame this on the years & years that canned veggies were considered "good nutrition". Canned veggies turned me off so many things, that I had to force myself to try these veggies "fresh" as an adult. Canned food just doesn't taste like fresh, unfortunately, some adults can't change their mindset). And we're not even talking anything exotic... brocolli, cauliflower, asparagus, tomatoes, brussel sprouts, turnip, all come to mind. Peaches, pears, plums, blackberries, these too are all grown here in Canada. Into this same mix try to introduce veggies like: peppers, mushrooms, lettuce, zucchini, spinach, and the list of food nixers will get longer. And we are still talking about foods that can grow here in Canada during the summer. Don't even think about southern greens, artichokes or kiwi. LOL

2008 Feb 17
Even though I feel that a lot of Jamie's School Dinners was Michael Moore-style documentary, I really loved watching the kids eat actual vegetables and liking them in the end.

See, because if you (as a normal adult human being) don't have a bowel movement for FOUR DAYS you're supposed to go straight to a doctor. Two months without? The kid'd be backed up to the eyeballs! And also dead.

2008 Feb 17
I think the main thing I'm teaching my kids is that foods don't come from a box. It's especially important now as my son's doctors have told me we have to change our eating habits as a family because my son is on a medication that causes crazy weight gain. A lot of developmentally delayed children have weight issues because of medications, and because food is sometimes used as a reward or motivator for these kids. They are also very vulnerable to the kind of heavy advertising that the fast food and sugary cereal companies tend to use.

My kids see me cooking a lot, usually on weekends and in the mornings since I do most of my dinner prep before work. They also like to help but this isn't always practical....you almost need eight arms to cook with Gordie as he likes to throw all the ingredients in at once! He loves cracking eggs and using the salad spinner. He also loves corn on the cob so he helps with shucking the corn too.

2008 Feb 17
I'm proud to report the following : a few weeks ago my boys (who have lunch together at school 3 days a week) had a substitute teacher (or 'surplus' or whatever the heck you crazy ontarians call them) in. She did not know they were brothers because one has my last name and the other my wife's. She commented to my wife's friend who was volunteering in the classroom "I wish all parents would send their kids to school with such healthy meals".

After my wife told me that, we chatted for a bit and we realised that we don't really have any unhealthy food in the house. We have microwave popcorn, I guess. And boxed mac-and-cheese, but neither get used very often.

We regularly have conversations with our boys about where food comes from, and even "which animals are yummiest".

Also, the vast majority of our meals are home cooked whole foods. Things that you can still recognise on your plate when you are eating it.

I agree it's a travesty that so many people today are so disconnected from nature. And I also believe that this will be our downfall if we don't do something about it. Even in the city we can be learning where food comes from.

2008 Feb 17
Anyone out there who wants to get their kids involved in agriculture let me know! I'm starting a youth farm apprenticeship camp this coming summer, which can be found under the summer programming for the Glebe Community Centre. Anyone between the ages of 11-14 can register.

It will include urban agriculture and rural agriculture, with hands-on animal husbandry and cheese-making. Check it out.

After reading the posts, I have to tell you that there are kids in Ottawa who don't know what a carrot is. I work with kids and food, so I've seen the gamut. There are also kids who've exclaimed in delight "Alright! Kohlrabi!". So there you go.

Don't forget the role of economics in this discussion. Food with little nutritional value is often the most affordable, and is a reflection of the quantity of processed foods, or "commodity" foods, vs food that is grown or raised with love and care, and prepared with the same attention. You get what you pay for, but not everyone is able to pay the real price of food. This is what truly needs to change, and I'm not talking about paying farmers LESS for their work, but rather re-elevating food to the level of importance and respect it is due.

This requires a cultural shift. That's what I'm ultimately working on.

2008 Feb 18
Feedme - I agree with you 100%, food choices should be based more on ethics than economics (or some harmonious balance between the two), something I flirted with discussing in another thread, and something I won't comment on any further since I'd be hijacking this thread.

Sounds like an interesting program, they no longer teach animal husbandry in school I take it? I remember having a farmer come in and explain how cows were "made"... it was pretty shocking material for a bunch of 7&8 year olds! ;)

2008 Feb 18
What parents eat, how they prepare their food and where they live impacts a kids' life A LOT. I would know. Being only 21 I grew up just outside of Ottawa in a pretty "farmy" land, and my mom grew up on a farm. I wouldn't change a thing.
Personally I think it is a very natural and beneficial thing to know the farming process and how really that meat got on your plate. I think it was because of this knowledge that food and where it came from was very important for me. 2+2=4, cow + butcher = dinner.
I find a lot of home-prepped meals very satisfying and tasteful because they aren't loaded with sugar or salt and have unique tastes. Even now that I live in the city I still have a little patch in the back yard where I grow some select vegetables.
Teaching children about food is SO important. You really are what you eat. Look at some stats and notice that this is the age where you're children will die before you and realize it all boils down to diet (diabetes, heart problems, obesity, etc). It is said that most North Americans eat food for the taste rather than for the hunger satisfaction and I see this as true because none of us are starving. I believe we can train these tastes to enjoy and prefer healthy home-cooked meals, and assume that this will benefit us so much more. If the taste of food is that important to us over the nutritional value (supposedly), then why don't we take the time to prepare something tasteful.
Learning about gardens and how things grow is fundamental. It's like math, we need to know it, at least the basics. .
Ottawa Foodies need to open their eyes and realize that a little prep here and there, a little less time checking e-mail, and you can have a delicious, nutritious home-cooked meal that your children will crave and thank-you for later.
This is a problem that I think we should all seriously approach. People don't seem to be recognizing that they are actually poisoning their children because PC keeps making killer greasy products that people snatch up to save time. Demand creates supply.
I can go on this forever... but I'll end with...
even buying locally, my family purchases 'half a cow' with another family directly from the farmer. First off, the cuts of meat are amazing, we are dealing directly with the farmer so there are no corners being cut and he's the businessman now. Selling you bad meat will lead to less business. As well, he skips the middleman. He makes more profit preparing the meat for clients like our families, than sending his cows the the grocery store. There are sooooo many rewards for everyone when buying REAL local foods.
A great suggestion for any Foodies who like to read: The End of Food by Pawlick. Fits right in with this topic.

2008 Feb 18
Well, I have to counter a couple of the points expressed in this thread.

Feedme, I basically agree with you except for when you state that fruits and vegetables are expensive...that is really a misconception. I buy loads of fruit and vegetables and it's still a fairly small part of the grocery bill. Breakfast cereals for instance, are probably more expensive by weight than most other things in the grocery store. And highly processed junk appears cheap, but isn't necessarily compared to cooking something yourself.

I have a bit of a problem with the part where you state that "Ottawa Foodies need to open their eyes and spend less time checking their email..." I'd be willing to venture a guess that most people on this site who have kids are putting a home cooked meal in front of them. I know I do. You seem a little preachy for a 21 year old.

2008 Feb 18
hehe... even my feathers got a little ruffled at the "Ottawa Foodies need to open their eyes" bit. But then I decided that she must have meant "food consumers in Ottawa" rather than "users of this site." ;-)

I think it's safe to say that the people who are interested in food so much that they hang out on Ottawa Foodies are the very same people who will go the extra mile to ensure their children get real food!

2008 Feb 18
Mousse - I agree with you on the counterpoint re: fruit&veg being inexpensive, relatively speaking.

I'll run on the same assumption as you FF with the O.Foodies needing to open their eyes bit. Though, it's not to say I don't enjoy a decent hotdog & KD once in a blue moon... nostalgia I tells ya...

2008 Feb 18
So I guess I'm the only one who's tried the deep fried mac & cheese balls then? :)

Pretty tasteless, which is the big crime here -- if I'm going to eat junk food it had better taste good.

Agree that the marketing is cynical.

2008 Feb 18
Thanks for the feedback everyone.

In terms of the education system, at least in Ontario, there is no animal husbandry in the curriculum, nor agriculture, nor what was once "home economics." There is no comprehensive study of food systems, or the reality of contemporary farming practices (factory farming). In short, we are not teaching kids today a thing about food, other than the nutritional content and the Canada Food Guide.

If people on this site have found a passion for food, spread the love!

I think Sadie_Lady has the right idea by growing some of her own. It doesn't take much space -- just wander about the "Chinatown" section of Ottawa to see how the tiny front yards have been cultivated into vertical gardens of Asian beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs, squash.... there's a course in the spring on Gardening for Apartment Dwellers at the Sandy Hill Community Centre -- in other words, food can be grown in almost all conditions. You can make your own sprouts in a glass jar at the least!

These are all good things to do with your kids. Check out the Community Garden Network (or ask me) if you'd like to rent an allotment garden for the summer, and really sink your teeth into some fresh food!

Mousseline -- I know per pound fresh fruit & veg aren't all that expensive, and there is a monthly Good Food Box program anyone can sign on for to receive these items at wholesale cost. But per calorie, the processed foods with high contents of fructose corn syrup and fat, actually do cost less. It takes a lot of celery to fill someone up, and far less Mac & Cheese.

There's been a lot of research and studies of this sad truth, and at this point we now have multiple generations of families who have fallen into this "culinary" vein. Changing their eating habits by making fresh food more accessible is a challenge. It requires cultivating an interest firstly, by challenging a palate used to highly salted, homogenous food. Then re-introducing cooking skills. And getting fresh food back into neighbourhood corner stores, school cafeterias, and elementary school sponsored lunch days.

Just to give you an example of the big mountain in front of us: I met with the principal and parents at a high school, and offered to use their site to launch a pilot alternative student-run cafe, that would focus on fresh local products. The principal's big concern? "Don't touch my vending machine money."

Schools get a kick-back from coke and other beverage distributors from the sale of drinks on school property. Schools have come to rely on these sales to augment dwindling financial resources from the province (hence the dropping of costly programs like home economics, and the downsizing of art, phys. ed etc... these all go beyond textbooks and desks in terms of material costs.

So therein lies part of the problem. We as parents (mine are 9 and 12) are only responsible for what our kids eat in our houses. Most of the time they are beyond these walls.

2008 Feb 18
There are some interesting and valid points being made here about teaching kids to cook and where their dinner came from. Although we could teach these skills in school I believe this is something that could start in the home. I worked briefly in a school library in a former life and was alarmed at how much processed foods the kids bring for lunch. I realize parents are busy these days and don't have much time for cooking from scratch the way our moms did. But we could start by teaching our kids to prepare nutritious lunches and also give them some basic kitchen skills when they leave the nest. I would also like to see healthier foods in the cafeteria. The other caveat is that the students centrally located schools are often lured away by the food court in the nearby mall or by the fast food chains nearby. But if they are exposed to different tastes it might be less of a temptation. But that's just my $.02. One mom in one of the recipe chains I'm in says she has pizza nights at home where she provides her kids individual pizza crusts then she puts out bowls of pre cut veggies and whatever else she has in the fridge. She says she noticed since she started doing this her kids are eating more veggies now and they are less likely to go for the less healthy options. I'm sure other parents could find ways of getting their kids involved in the kitchen.

2008 Feb 18
I totally agree with you Pasta Lover; I'm not personally that concerned specifically about the whole "teaching our kids where our food comes from" principle (though I do understand where others are coming from, it's just not my own personal plight - possibly since I don't have children), but I am definetly all for teaching children cooking skills, educating them to the wonders of culinaria, exposing them to a wide variety of foods, and teaching them that natural foods can be delicious. I think "try something new" is a very valuable message to instill in a child when dealing with food.

2008 Feb 18
I'm torn as to whether or not this should be taught in the schools. Ideally yes, but sadly I think far too many parents these days expect the schools - or in general "someone else" - to rear and teach their kids just about everything. And I don't buy the notion that parents "are busy" - they are as busy as they make themselves. I can easily get off onto another rant here, but the short version is that far too many people are too caught up in the 'bling' like big-screen TVs, iPod, the latest cell phones, and other toys (not necessarily all electronic), and spend far too much of their time in those pursuits and far too little looking after their own kids. But at the same time I find it sad that some (far too many) kids end up in homes like this through no fault of their own. I'm inclined to want to do something for them, but this in turn only encourages parents even further down that road. People have to take responsibility for themselves and their own.

Rant aside, build-your-own pizza is indeed at great idea and is something that we've been doing for some time now. Though the boys have settled into their standards so we typically make it for them. But we do the build-your-own when we have guests and their kids over for pizza.

2008 Feb 18
I couldn't agree with you more zymurgist! Although I don't have any kids of my own I did work for the school board for awhile and I agree totally alot parents these days seem to expect "someone else" to teach their kids. I also have a beef about all the "stuff" we have but for different reasons. I'm tired of people at my work complaining they don't have enough money but they have two cars, a flat screen tv, dvd player, etc, etc, etc. Do they really "need" all those things? I am happily living in the stone age but I can go on a trip, try a new recipe, or curl up with a book. I guess it depends on what your priorities are...

2008 Feb 18
Interestingly, after I read this topic this morning I was catching up on a blog I read written by American woman who is married to a French man and lives in Paris and Provence. This is an exerpt from her entry from Friday - very fitting!

"The first time we spent the day in Lourmarin we went to a restaurant for lunch, eating on the terrace under the shade of huge, graceful plane trees. I describe our meal because it pertains to the rest of my story. We chose the menu: the plat du jour. We began with a soup of pureed red pepper, followed by a main course of filets of white fish braised in white wine, and pureed sweet potatoes with Wasabi sauce. It was delicious. Shortly after we arrived, a young French family was seated across the way from us - the two little boys (I later asked) were ages 2 and 5. The adults ordered the same special as we did and the “child’s plate” for the boys. We were astonished to see that the child’s plate was not some version of chicken nuggets, fries, hot dogs or some such thing, but an exact replica of what we all were eating but in a small portion. It was a delight to see the little 2 year old with that gigantic French soup spoon, eating the red pepper soup ( all over his face as with any 2 year old) and relishing the potatoes with Wasabi! We got such a kick out of that. Now we know how the French develop such a sophisticated palate - they start young!"

2008 Feb 18
Thats a great exerpt that I think nicely sums up the discussion!


2008 Feb 18
Oh that drives me crazy about restaurants!!! "Children's Menu" is almost always complete shite food like hotdogs! I don't feed my kids that shite at home and don't want to either when we are out.

Grrrrr ...

2008 Feb 18
But parents order that crap for thier kids. I work at a restaurant right now that does have a "crappy" children's menu full of burgers and fries and chicken fingers (which everyone in the kitchen HATES making since we are a casual fine-dining establishment and it makes us shudder to have to produce ths crap). Even when we accompany the nachos with a fresh-made salsa instead of the bottled crap, we get a request come back to get a side of the bottled crap. We have a duck confit pizza, as well as a roasted vegetable pizza on the regular menu, however parents prefer to order thier children the pepperoni pizza off the childrens menu instead. We have a lovely homemade soup every day, but parents prefer to order thier children the chicken noodle soup off the children's menu. We have both a lamb and bison burger with interesting sides on our lunch menu, but chits for a regular hamburger inevitably come in for the children. Smoked slow-simmered BBQ chicken with dirty rice? Nope, it HAS to be chicken fingers. We would happily split one of our regular entrees for a younger guest, but inevitibly the chits that come up are all for this garbage. You can't entirely blame the restaurant - they are not forcing a parent to order off the children's menu. Parents even insist on ordering from the children's lunch menu when they bring thier children in for dinner - at a fine dining restaurant! It baffles me why people would bring thier children out for a fine dining experience when they are just going to insist on ordering them chicken fingers.

2008 Feb 18
FOOD is HOT... let me guess. Your soup of the day is $6, but the kids menu chicken noodle is $2. Your duck confit pizza is $15, but the kids menu pepperoni is $6 and comes with a drink and dessert. It's hard for parents to say no to lower prices, especially when there's no guarantee that the kids will eat it anyway.

I'd be happy to just let the kids pick food off my plate but I'm guessing most restaurants don't like that since the kids take up a seat. My kids like the meals at East Side Mario's but their parents have a hard time finding anything to eat there. So we often go to places that have food we all can enjoy... Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese. Thankfully, our kids enjoy real food.

When a restaurant offers a kids menu, I would assume they are encouraging children to visit. I wouldn't expect this to be the case for a fine dining restaurant, especially considering a good chunk of the patrons are paying a babysitter to get away from kids in the first place. ;-)

So I agree with everything you're saying except that if you *offer* a kids' menu, it shouldn't shock you that people use it. :-)

2008 Feb 18
We were at the only brewpub in Brampton the other night and the adult food was very good (with a cheap $7 burger!), but the kids' menu was an atrocity. Pizza would have been a godsend - especially pepperoni since they are guaranteed to eat it!

2008 Feb 18
I am not "shocked" that people use it, I just wanted to point out that if people stopped ordering off the kids menu, resturants would cease to offer it - this is a simple supply and demand issue. In my specific case, the restaurant I work at is attached to the Science Center of Regina, so we are constantly getting overflow from parents bringing thier kids to the kids-based science center. The demand is great during the day and parents constantly come in specifically asking if we have a kids menu. We do not offer a kids menu in the evening when the Science Center is closed, however parents who bring thier children for dinner insist on ordering from the children's lunch menu. I just find it rich that parents that are unwilling to shell out a few extra bucks so that thier children can eat real ingredients instead of frozen crap can then turn around and complain about the state of our children's nutrition and complain the restaurants should be doing more for them. A box of frozen hamburgers costs less than a made-from-scratch bison burger, and a frozen box of chicken fingers costs less than a box of real chicken, especially when you factor in labor costs and the possibility of expiration before the product is used - this is simple economics, so what do you expect? If parents are unwilling to pay more for better ingredients then they have no right to complain about kid's menus IMO.

2008 Feb 19
FoodIsHot... I hear ya, and I get what you are saying about Parents who expect one thing (a child's menu) when there really isn't one offered. YES, these types of Parent are a pain! But that said, I too see it as an issue of economics for the Parent (besides laziness, IMO). They want to go out, they don't want to pay a sitter (In my experience, they could afford a sitter, they just don't want to bother) so they bring along little Johnny. Unfortunately, Little Johnny doesn't want to sit still for 2 hours over a nice meal... so we have to bribe Little Johnny. And one way to do that is to say, "Mommy & Daddy are going to have a nice dinner, and you can have the Chicken Nuggets". That is so much easier and cheaper, for the lazy Parent than (a) leaving Little Johnny at home with a sitter, or (b) trying to get Little Johnny to sit still for 2 hours eating real food.

Unfortunately, by the time you get to my age, you've seen it all... and although I love kids, I know that kids are not welcome in all settings. But there are those who will never hear that.

In the end they sound just like Little Johnny at the end of a long day:
"NO, I Don't Have To!"


Things that also bug me about these same sorts of Parents in restaurants:

Kids who don't sit in their seats. Kids who throw things. Kids who run around the restaurant. Basically anything that imposes on other diners.

Right from Day One, when I took my kids out to eat be it McDonalds or a family sitdown meal, there were guidelines. Heck we even practiced at home. The story being, "If you don't know how to act here, you won't know how to act there" so eating out became a "treat" not so much an everyday thing like for many it is now. IMO, Eating out should ALWAYS be a treat, even if you can afford to do it everyday, afterall you are a guest (albeit a paying guest) of the restaurant and the chef. If more people (and employees) saw it that way the experiences would be better for both... the server, is not so much my staff, but a "host" welcoming me into their "home" to share with me a meal. Automatically, the service would be better, and in-turn my experience should be a better one.

2008 Feb 19
I cancelled my first reply to Food&Think's post above - and I'm much calmer now :-) Honestly ...

A few points :

- there are precious few circumstances where I cannot imagine not being able to bring my kids with me. Certainly no restaurant I've been to lately. Maybe a few fine-dining ones, but I don't go those anyway. Kids are part of life. If a person goes to a restaurant, for example, that provides high-chairs and/or booster seats, they should not complain about kids running around there. It is THEY who should not be there in the first place, not the kids. e.g. We were going to go out to a presentation / info-session for one of those bulk food organisations, but when they told us our kids were not welcome, we told them we were not interested in doing business with anyone who was not interested in doing business with (all of) us. We chose not to have sitters until our kids were old enough to talk well. Think about it. Furthermore, we have no family within 1700km, so we can't just drop the kids with someone. It's been pretty tough at times since we don't have the luxury of both getting out together without the kids. That doesn't make us lazy parents. In fact, in my not so humble opinion that makes us model parents who put our kids' needs ahead of just about everything else. Period. Far too few people these days are willing to do that.

- kids who cannot sit down at a restaurant? That pretty-much narrows it down to most kids best I can tell. At a certain age at least.

- kids being bad (i.e. being kids!) does not necessarily mean bad/lazy parents. Kids will be kids. They cannot reason until about the age of 5, and even then they do not reason well.

That having been said, our boys were such monsters that we went for about 2 years without eating out much. Fortunately they are better behaved these days, mainly because they've outgrown that stage. And even before then, we've always been smart enough to not set them up for failure - e.g. even if we'd been planning a night out for days or weeks, if one of them was having a bad day and/or didn't get enough sleep for whatever reason or was otherwise tired and/or cranky, then we'd cancel our plans. Period. Any plans, not just eating out. e.g. right now my oldest is passed out in his bed after having been sent to his room earlier. He has Judo at 6pm but he'll likely miss it. It would be just stupid of me to wake him for it since he's obviously sleeping because he needs sleep after a very busy weekend. If I woke him and took him to Judo, I'd be setting him up for failure and any misbehavior on his part WOULD be my fault. It would be selfish, inconsiderate, lazy, and bad-parenting for me to be hell-bent on sticking to pre-made plans with no consideration whatsoever for the mood, state and condition of my child. I think far too many people don't take the time to listen to their kids, and plan activities around their kids' moods / cycles. And even when you do take this amount of care - kids will still be kids at times and there isn't a whole lot you can do about it. And no, that doesn't mean they need to be doped up on ritalin, it simply means they are being kids for goodness sakes!

And no that does not mean my kids are spoiled. Anything but. Paying attention to their moods and cycles it a completely different thing altogether from pandering to their every desire, spoiling them with gifts and so on. That is something we most certainly do not do. Many adults cannot control their moods and emotions - for kids this is very close to impossible. Planning around this and being willing to change plans around this at the drop of a hat is simply taking the path of least resistance for everyone involved (including overly-judgemental people in public places). What I always say is : having kids will change one's life completely and totally in just about every way. If one is not prepared for that change, then they should not have kids.

2008 Feb 19
ug. apparently there is a size limit on follow-ups to forum posts, too. And I just lost a great deal of what I wrote. And my browser-back button doesn't bring anything up :-(


Let's see if I can recreate it.

IMO in the majority of cases a misbehaving child is in fact the fault of the parents, but not in the way that most people might think. It's not because of lack of discipline. It's because so many parents are hell-bent on sticking with their plans regardless of the mood / disposition of the child. e.g. dragging them along on a shopping trip when they clearly do not want to be there. That's setting the child up for failure, and it's being selfish and inconsiderate of the child's needs. And even in those cases that do not fall into this category - well - sometimes kids will just be kids and there is not much you can do about it. Life is short enough as it is, and the care-free life of a child is preciously shorter. The last thing I'm going to do is rob my kids of that time because of "what the Jones' might think".

And even aside from all that, there are a zillion things going on in every person's life which could easily explain (and excuse) such things. And on that note I'm going to go scan something in and post it, because I've wanted it in numerous circumstances over the past few years and have finally found the book that it's in ...

2008 Feb 19
From "7 Habits of Highly Effective People", pages 30 and 31 when talking about "paradigm shifts" and seeing things from someone else's perspective. While I never did finish this book, this section did strike a chord with me due to the similarities to Aikido, of which I am an avid practitioner. It puts a great deal of stress on others' perspectives, and using this insight for effective conflict resolution.

I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly - some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.

Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car.

The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.

The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people's papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.

It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, "Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn't control them a little more?"

The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, "Oh, you're right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don't know what to think, and I guess they don't know how to handle it either."

Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, and because I saw differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn't have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man's pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. "Your wife just died? Oh, I'm so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?" Everything changed in an instant.


Food for thought.

Things are rarely as clear as they may at first appear.

2008 Feb 19
Zymurgist - Please pass the crow.

Ok, I guess I wasn't as clear as you were, I was of course referring to Parents who do exactly as you said, they don't pay closer attention to others around them (including their kids) they are just hell bent on maintaining a their own lives / schedule.

My post was in reply to FoodIsHot's, I wasn't referring to Swiss Chalet, or other countless restaurants that market themselves as "family" establishments. I wasn't even referring to restaurants that aren't part of chain, but welcome kids with open arms. I was basing my comments on something more upscale. I assumed from FoodIsHot's post that her restaurant, was like that, afterall I haven't been to the Restaurant at Science Centre in Regina, I only assumed it was more upscale because (a) a lot of Museums etc. have upscale restaurants associated with them, (b) it was stated it didn't offer a kids menu after hours, and (c) it serves bison, sort of a more "foodie" item.

Oh well... Anyone know what I should drink with crow?

2008 Feb 19
F&T - apologies since I apparently misunderstood.

So my comments are obviously not directed at you - but I will nonetheless let them stand since I do stand behind them.

2008 Feb 19
Just to be clear, I was not trying to give the impression that I do not wish children to eat out in restaurants - even fine dining establishments; this thread is, after all about expanding a child's culinary education and palate - not about thier behavior in public places. In fact, I wish more parents would take thier children to a wide variety of restaurants instead of McDonald's all the time.

I was simply pointing out that it is not a restaurant's responsibility to ensure a child's nutrition, or culinary education. A restaurant is a business, not a charity; they are in the business of selling food, therefore they stock what sells - therefore if you don't like what a restaurant is offering your kids, blame those that continue to order it. To blame a restaurant for having a deep-fried laden kid's menu is passing to buck, much like some have been complaining that parents also pass the buck onto the schools. A restaurant does not force people to order from the children's menu - parents choose to do so for their own reasons - whether it be financial, bribery for good behavior, or a sense of feeling "welcome" with children.

2008 Feb 20
I think it can be simplified to simply the fact that the appreciation of some things requires experience. You don't teach your children to ride a horse by sitting them on the largest stallion and giving it a slap on the hindquarter. You start with a small pony, or an old tired nag. You teach them to handle, and appreciate the subtleties of the experience, and how to enjoy it, and not get hurt. I think fine dining can be considered the same. I don't think any 2 year old toddler (certainly none I've ever known) can properly appreciate the food, or environment of fine dining, and thus it is a waste to take them. By the time they are 4 or 5, I expect they are old enough to be exposed to the experience. If my 4 year old (he's not 4 yet...) is not able to sit reasonably still for the duration of a fine meal ( Beckta?), and can't refrain from yelling or screaming, then I would not take them, and I certainly would not expect the restaraunt, or the other patrons to put up with such a fuss. That being said, we've taken our son to a couple nice places, but we almost always go 'off hours', and are totally prepared to 'pick up and leave' if junior decides it's 'time to go'. So far.. has worked out really well!

2008 Feb 20
Yes, we've bolted numerous times in the past even at family restos. Seemed like the right thing to do ...

2008 Feb 20
I understand the whole supply and demand thing but I still believe that restaurants should offer healthy choices or smaller portions of adult meals. I don't have kids yet but I can tell you when I do I will not be ordering chicken nuggets for them every time we go out.

2010 Apr 16
I wanted to bring this topic back up to the front of the discussion and ask something that wasn't really mentioned earlier:

Do your kids cook or help cook at home and do you feel this imparts knowledge about food? To what extent? Is is something you've always done, or have done since a certain age?

I'm asking because my niece doesn't care for food with a high amount of nutritional value. I'm looking for ways that I can share with her knowledge about good food and healthy food, in a way that doesn't sound preachy and in a way that will interest her. I'm thinking that putting together a cookbook of many of the favourites that we have when she comes for dinner is a good start, especially if many of them are healthy, or can be made healthier.

2010 Apr 16

I think it starts with shopping (or better, picking at the farm). Get the kids invested in the ingredients and they will love whatever is made from them.

2010 Apr 16
LWB - how old is your niece? I find with my boys (6 and 8) just good old fashioned science works well. We've been teaching them for a few years now about food and nutrition, and it slowly winds them over. Makes them more eager to try things. But also it is an age thing. From 3 to 5 or 6, kids can be extremely fussy.

2010 Apr 16
She'll be ten this summer. Her mom pays lip-service to the idea of cooking and nutrtion (for herself as well as her daughter), but isn't really willing to put in the effort. We usually eat dinner with her twice a week, so we do have some influence over her life.

Hungry Hungry Hippo, I take your point entirely about shopping/picking and getting kids invested. I would like to, when I have my own kids, get them involved in what they are eating, but unfortunately that's something that my niece doesn't really get that much of. Perhaps a pick-your-own sort of trip would be good this summer.

2010 Apr 16
my guy is under 3, so i am still new at this. when we get home from work/daycare, the first thing we do is pick out veggies from the drawer. we wash them (so fun at not quite 3) and then i chop them. i leave a big plate of coloured veggies on the table before and during dinner. i don't make a thing about them, but i eat them like crazy and talk about them. he is very interested in talking about them and tasting, but not really eating them. i think this is a good introduction.

2010 Apr 16
I have a 10 year old and can understand this quite easily. Our daughter helps a bit, but certainly knows about what we eat, where a lot of it comes from since that is important in our family. Since you are seeing and eating with your niece so frequently and food is important to you, she may be picking up that information already.

If you wanted to have her help with the food (if time permits) there are several good kids cookbooks out there. A really good one is Honest Pretzels by Mollie Katzen (of Moosewood Cookbook). You could even see if you can take it out of the library first. It is written for that age group, has great explanations, comic style drawings and is easy to follow. You could make it a special day or spread it out over several visits. You may want to take it slowly as if she is anything like my 10 year old, all of a sudden forcing something on her may backfire.

Another big influence on her may be what happens at school and what her friends have. I can't tell you how many times lunch has come home because someone made some comment about the look or smell or colour of the food.

2010 Apr 17
My kids are 10 and 12. One of the way I try to get them interested in good food and cooking is by giving them some control. They help with the menu planning - they each plan one meal a week and help to cook it. It is amazing how much they enjoy cooking food that they like - and other less desired food can be served with it.

2010 Apr 17
I teach my nieces and nephews to eat healthy like lean protein, good carbs like veggies. Avoid cheap food which is all junk, bad carbs as they make you so fat fast. I enjoy working out a lot and I do sports and I definitely feel my performance and body failing, tired, and sick all the time when eating crap food. Your mind may get a high from the tasty fast food but it's regret. As a girl, I find I'm more even tempered and less moody when I avoid carbs, sugar and junk food. In fact I feel so much happier eating clean!

2010 Apr 17
Here's a book I ran across recently. I have not read it myself as I am childless, but it looked interesting. A lot of my friends children will eat nothing but hotdogs chicken fingers and fries.

Nancy Tringali Piho,
"My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus: Raising Children Who Love to Eat Everything"

2010 Apr 17
A two year old who eats octopus is not the least bit impressive.

A 6 year old who STILL eat octopus - now that would be something!

2010 Apr 19
My son would eat octopus no problem, just not carrots LOL! Good luck to anyone who thinks they can actually control their kids eating habits - the best you can do is gently nudge in one direction or another.

2010 Apr 19
I agree but disagree sourdough. On a micro level - i.e. what the child will eat RIGHT NOW, we have next to no control. But on a macro level - what a child likes in general, and eats in general (and how healthy their diet is) is to the largest extent in the hands of the parents. Kids with good eating habits learn it from their parents. Kids with terrible eating habits, also learn it from their parents. To the largest degree.

2010 Apr 19
Zym - to a point I would agree with you - however- I know lots of stories about kids whose parents taught them to eat healthy. No processed sugar sweets, lots of raw veggies, organic etc. This works ok, until they show up at a friends place and eat them out of candy/pop/whale blubber. Many true stories of such encounters. As I've mentioned I think its best to try and put some limits on the junk the kids eat, and try to let them be as adventuresome and part of the cooking/shopping as possible. Certainly if you feed your kids pop/candy/chips each day you are not doing your kid any favours.

2010 Apr 19
Feeding kids healthily in typical North America is not always easy. I have found that eventually they will eat well if they have been fed well at home. Children are hugely influenced by advertising (think McDonald's, Kellogs etc.) and also by their peers. So if your child's friends are eating "lunchables", "sunny D", and potato chips for lunch, your child may be highly likely to ask for them. I truly believe we are poisoning our children because it is so convenient. Interestingly, healthy foods are often banned (justifiably due to allergies) in classrooms but junk food is allowed! And high school cafeterias have terrible choices-talk (or complain!) to your local board of education trustee if you are not happy. If enough tax payers complain we may be able to change things!
Kids live what they learn. Eat as healthily as you can, expose them to good quality nutritious choices, a variety of foods -including ethnic-and they may surprise you. Avoid processed foods, offer a wide variety of foods-especially vegetables and fruit and they may be less likely to become "picky" eaters. Let them help in the whole process-shopping, preparing, cooking and presenting. For some picky eaters it's all about texture-so offer raw and cooked (steamed, oven baked, stir fried) before you give up. Some kids love salad and others would rather eat steamed carrots and beans. And try not to have to much, salt, fat and sugar-but do allow some treats in moderation.
Lastly remember-in those growth spurth times they might eat anything-a few months of limited choices may not be forever. And make meal and snack times pleasant-not a battle field! Good luck-I've rambled enough.

2010 Apr 19
Yup, I agree completely WC. We got rid of TV shortly after our first-born arrived, largely because we did not want our kids brainwashed (the way I very much was as a kid). You are right that they are also influenced by their peers - which is another big reason in the Kraft Dinner thread that we give our kids the Annie's All Naturals from time to time - because their friends are always talking about this stuff (the KD version) and so they want it. The other night we even gave them "real" KD because even though they were getting "rabbit noodles" (Annie's - has a rabbit for a logo) from time-to-time since as long as they can remember, they still wanted "the real KD" because that is what their friends get. We'd always resisted buying it but then noticed the new whole wheat stuff so picked it up as a treat for them.

2010 Apr 19
I stood my ground with my kids. Made them try things and enjoy foods from different cultures even during the "tough, picky years". We used to have theme dinners and I would do different things "carrots" if you will, that related to the meal or country in question, such as a Pinata after a Mexican dinner. They would help me make our weekly homemade pizza on Friday evenings...we tried to make food fun. They got right into it. Not that there was never any resistance mind you! My kids (now adults) are now 23 and 27, both love to cook and cook very well, eat healthy, as much organic as they can afford, and enjoy all types of food. In fact both of them have thanked me for that.
I never made K.D., hot dogs or other favorite kid foods taboo though. That is a big mistake. Just makes them want to have it that much more. I just didn't want them to depend on that food...not exactly healthy eating.

2010 Apr 19
I don't find that giving them the odd bit of KD or hotdogs makes them want it all the more. But I agree with what you wrote about "standing your ground" - we do that too and find it works.

Just this evening my 6 year old was drilling me about various things and whether or not they are healthy - truly concerned about it and wanting to make sure that he was eating healthy. And this was just out of the blue he started asking me.

2010 Apr 19
To clarify...I certainly did allow them to indulge in hot dogs or KD. What I meant was that making it taboo actually makes them want it all the more.
You are well on your way if your 6 year old is talking that way already!
Fact of the matter is that it is much easier to give in to whatever they want than stand your ground, but the pay off is huge down the road.

2010 Apr 19
Oh, I clearly misread that - sorry. Yeah, that is what we've found is that if you completely cut them off from something like that, it becomes "forbidden fruit" and they want it all the more. They can have it, but have it seldom enough that it is not a health concern. And we educate them about nutritional value, and they really seem to get it. Especially our science-head 8 year old, but even the artsy-fartsy 6 year old gets it :-)

2010 Apr 19
Like I said...you are definitely on your way Zygurmist. Sounds like you have some critical thinking food lovers developing!

2010 Apr 20
This thread brings me back to my youth when I was back in Kingston. As some might know, Kingston is not very multicultural, especially in the parts that I was (only non-white in my graduating class). I used to take leftovers to school, but people would always tell me that my food stunk, didn't look good, etc. I would always try and trade my food for what other kids were eating, e.g. puddings, fruit roll ups etc.

Only later on in life did I realize that everyone just wanted my food because it was different and damn tasty.

Oh how foolish I was!

Oh right... there was a point to my story... the point being that when my son gets older and goes to school, I'm going to make sure he guards his food jealously :)

2010 Apr 20
Snoopy loopy: I used to make Japanese style lunch for my son.(something like Bento Box lunch you can eat at Japanese restaurants) One day, he came home with tears and he told me that he was teased by his class mates and they told my son his lunch stunk look gross, didn't look good...etc etc...same kinda experience you had in your youth days.
I decided to make sandwich for his lunch, because I didn't want him to stress over what he eats during the lunch time... I can cook Japanese for supper.

What I teach my son regarding food is very simple yet succinct to the point.
"You are what you eat"