Annabel Karmel has recently been working with chef Theo Randall to devise a new children's menu for the InterContinental hotel chain. On her blog, she writes " we’ve created a menu filled with diverse flavours, textures, smells and tastes that will take children on an educational voyage around the world while ensuring an enjoyable and nutritionally balanced meal" Knowing Annabel Karmel's work, I expect the recipes are imaginative and are a big departure from the ubiquitous chicken nuggets or spaghetti bolognese that feature on children's menus across the land. This has to be a good thing. A menu that introduces children to new tastes and different cuisines sounds brilliant.
But I have a question. Are children's menus perhaps a flawed concept? What is intrinsically wrong with serving children the same food as adults? The only answer I can come up with is that the portion size would be inappropriate, and that is easily remedied. What message does a separate children's menu give to a child? It tells her that there are some foods that are 'for grown ups' and some foods that are 'for children'.
A really important part of EAF is about 'modelling'. Modelling is the idea that how your child sees you behaving has a huge influence on how she behaves, much more so that what you say to her. This is where " do as I say, not as I do "falls down... When it comes to picky eating, research shows that a child is much more likely to eat a food that she has first seen her parents eating 1. It seems to me that giving children separate menus takes away opportunities for modelling.
I would like to see restaurants, pubs and cafes offering their smaller customers appropriately sized portions of the same menu as the grown ups... Then the focus can be on enjoying a meal out as a family, rather than on 'getting the children to eat something ', whether that's through special menus, food that arrives in brightly coloured cardboard boxes or the like.
What does anyone else think? I'd be really interested to hear people's opinions on this one.