495. Restaurants

I once read a book that had very practical advice for parents. I don’t remember the name of the book, or the author, but I particularly remember one bit of advice it gave: “If you deserve a break today, hire a babysitter and go to a slow food restaurant.” My children were the age the book was talking about. Advertisements for fast food restaurants are often aimed at children, and often emphasize how much fun it can be to eat out – what a riotous party it can be. And thanks to those advertisements, and corporate efforts to live up to the promises made by the advertisements, eating out with children can be a real riot.
Food is supposed to help you get and/or stay healthy, and it’s nice to have food that also tastes good, but is mealtime really a good time for children to be entertained? Is it a good time for them to be playing video games, sliding down slides, and all that? I don’t think so.
But many adults do like to eat in restaurants. The food can be better, or at least different, from the food you usually eat at home. And you don’t have to buy ingredients, cook, or clean up afterwards. It really can be a nice break. You get to select the food you like best, and if someone else you’re eating with likes something different, that’s okay. I like restaurants myself. A mealtime in a restaurant can be a peaceful time to eat, think, and talk.
There are children who like that, too. Some children like trying unusual foods, having quiet conversations, and being with their favorite adults in places that help adults feel relaxed. I remember that during a trip to Mexico, one evening my parents took my sister and me to Antoine’s, in New Orleans. It was so elegant! And either the food I had there was among the best I’d ever had, or the elegance made it seem so. Probably a little of each.
But in my experience, that’s the exception. Taking children out to eat is more often a good way to get a headache. Most children I know and have known don’t like food that tastes unusual. They don’t even like to try it. I’m not saying this to criticize them; I was like that, too, as a child. My experience at Antoine’s was an exception; usually, I liked to eat at Steer Inn, a precursor of McDonald’s. And most children I know and have known prefer fast food restaurants.
When you go to a restaurant, you spend more money than you’d spend to eat at home. You’re paying for labor, atmosphere, and convenience. Before you
decide to go, I think it might be a good idea to think and talk about what kind of experience each person hopes for. Whether you end up going to McDonald’s, Antoine’s, or something in between, why spend that extra money to give someone an experience that isn’t what he/she had in mind?

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