Saturday, January 23, 2010

Transitioning from the Kids Menu and Finger Foods to Using a Fork and Knife Properly

Having spent the Christmas season eating out with my grandchildren, I have noticed most restaurants have a "Kids Menu," mostly consisting of chicken nuggets, popcorn shrimp, french fries, and other "Finger Foods." Eating within a 'food box' of sorts. Finger food is fine for young children, but what do parents do when their kids reach double digits? How do parents easily transition their children from "Finger Foods" to adult foods and mastering the knife and fork? No wonder I have had a slew of college scholarship contenders in the past few years who needed help learning how to hold their forks. Literally, their forks. At least these talented teens knew they did not know!!
The current trend among many colleges and universities giving out scholarships is to invite the scholarship contenders either to a group lunch, or private lunch and scrutinize their table manners. If you are asked to pass the salt and only pass the salt, you DO NOT get the scholarship. Why not? In passing only the salt when asked, you were giving the other person what they wanted, but you did not see beyond what they may have wanted or needed in the future. Anticipating the person's next need, even if they don't know they may need it is what separates the top 5% from the other 95%. If you missed this easy courtesy, the person giving out the scholarship, and future employers, wonder what other courtesies you have missed. Never mind not knowing how to hold a fork or cut food with your knife.
Maybe I sound like an old curmudgeon, but, my generation grew up without mac & cheese, without chicken nuggets and without "Kids Menus". As young children, my sister and I sat at the dining room table at least once a week (usually Saturday Brunch as my father travelled all week) and ate a fried egg with our knife and fork on a china plate, so we learned not to "clank" our silverware against the china plate. We buttered our own toast with our butter knife over our bread and butter plate, so we did not spill crumbs all over the table. We learned that sitting up straight at the dining room table with the adults was fun, especially when my father would place his entire fried egg yolk whole in his mouth then puff his cheeks out and pop it slowly with his fists, mouth still closed, and make a face. My mother would roll her eyes, while we laughed and laughed!
It was not an expensive, labor intensive chore for my mother to make a few eggs (and maybe some bacon) and a bit of toast. Just an egg on a china plate and some toast on another small china plate. This important yet simple practice made a difference for my sister and I as young children. Then, we had the confidence to go to New York to visit our grandparents at 5 and 8 years old and eat out in fancy restaurants. We were also told we could order anything on the menu. This practice gave us the freedom to try new foods. Our practice at home gave us confidence out in the adult world. My mother was smart and right to help us with our manners as very young children.
Kids Menus are easy and convenient today in our fast moving, busy society, but so is having an egg on a china plate with your knife and fork every now and again! Thanks Mom!!

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