The kids' menu is boring and the best thing that's happened to parents | Just Jaggin' | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The kids' menu is boring and the best thing that's happened to parents

Feeding your children is difficult. At first, your only goal is to get to the point where you are not washing 25 rubber nipples each night or laboring over the precise amount of Costco brand formula for tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast.

Then you get fancy — cocky, almost. You dip your toes into the homemade-purée-that-you-freeze-for-storage-and-thaw-for-dinner scene. They look about as good as they sound: mashed up peas and beans, carrots, and squash dripping down your cherub’s face.

Finally, you get there. You graduate to solid foods. Everything is coming up you. Things are about to go back to normal, right? No. Your problems are just beginning, you fool! Not only are your kids getting teeth and the ability to chew, they are also getting voices and opinions and are just beginning their quest to drive you to a lifetime of Three Olives Whipped Cream Vodka.

You start out ambitious. “My kids are not going to be nugget-and-pasta kids.” You buy a celebrity cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld or something of that nature that will get your kids to eat healthy, delicious, non-nugget foods.

Then your child has a dinner-table meltdown, and one of the few pleasant parts of your day becomes a waking nightmare. You quickly realize that your plans for raising a responsible child and adult were pipe dreams, at best. This will be the first in many failures for you as a parent. You collapse before the freezer gods, begging for their forgiveness and anything resembling a nugget.

They say kids’ menus began during prohibition with a child’s health in mind. Well, it didn’t take long for those healthy offerings to be co-opted by a realistic parent, who knows what parents need. The kids' menu is not about the kids, despite the name indicating as such. It’s about parents being able to go do something slightly entertaining without their kids ruining it with complaints and negotiations.

And that’s how, over time, kids’ menus became the gold-medal winning 1992 Olympic U.S. basketball Dream Team of restaurant meals. Nuggets are your David Robinson, your seven-foot workhorse that’s gonna give you the production you need. Maybe not everyone wants to buy Nuggets’ jersey. Nuggets isn’t flashy like that personal-pan point guard with the ankle-breaking crossover.

Pasta (with red sauce or butter) is John Stockton, unimposing and unselfish. Pasta is there to assist parents with keeping children happy. So, what is mac and cheese? Magic Johnson, of course — a consistent performer that seems too good to be true.

Then there is the hot dog and hamburger. But I, much like you, am already tired of this metaphor, so let’s cut to the chase: Any vegetable or fruit side are Christian Laettner, because no one wants them there.


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