The Mystery of the Missing Menus

April 23, 2007

Today we have a guest entry by Kate Adamick, president of Food Systems Solutions LLC, a New York City-based consulting service that specializes in institutional meal reform. Kate is a speaker at the 2007 International Exchange Forum on Children, Obesity, Food Choice and the Environment.

Menu500 Tours, France
22 Avril 2007

Jean Saunders and I arrived in Tours yesterday each traveling alone, sans children, pets, partners and most possessions. We walked the beautiful cobblestone streets taking in the sights and sounds, chatting with the friendly locals and stopping at countless cafes and bistros to examine the myriad menus handwritten in white chalk on blackboards.

We are in France to explore the ways in which the French feed their children, so it wasn’t long before I noticed a glaring omission: Where were the children’s menus?

What? No children’s menus? How, then, do the children of Tours eat in restaurants? Perhaps, I thought to myself, they simply do not. Perhaps children in Tours are fed only at home. After all, they can’t possibly be expected to eat in restaurants that don’t serve hot dogs, spaghetti and chicken fingers.  Can they?

By dinner time, the bistros and restaurants began to fill with clientele. To my astonishment, many couples were accompanied by children who appeared to range in age from 2 to 12 years. These young customers sat down politely and, if old enough to read, ordered from the same menu as their parents. The younger children were fed directly from their parents’ plates.

Without exception, the children all ate “adult” foods such as salads, fresh fish, roasted chicken, quiche and fresh vegetables. Not once did I hear a child ask for a children’s menu, and not once did I hear an alarmed parent proclaim, “My child won’t eat that.”

How could this be? In America, every successful family restaurant has a children’s menu. In fact, every successful family restaurant in America has the same children’s menu as every other successful family restaurant in America.

My curiosity quickly became concern. “What’s to become of France?” I wondered silently. “How can the French society survive if deprived of ‘kid friendly foods?’  Aren’t the French concerned that their children will go hungry? That they’ll develop eating disorders?  That they’ll whine and throw public tantrums?”

As we continue on our journey this week through this beautiful country filled with beautiful people, I hope they’ll be able to help us answers these questions.