by Lisa

Last night, as we were eating our 15th tomato sandwich since returning home, this time in the form of a BLT, I asked Ella and Finn about the best part of vacation food.

“DISNEYLAND!” they both screamed.

“Really?” I asked. “You liked the food at Disneyland?

“Oh. No.”  They both shook their heads.  Aside from a nice meal at Ariel’s Grotto (which is in CA Adventure anyway), the food at Disney was memorable only for its awfulness.

The short of list of things Ella liked about vacation food:

  • Choice. Getting to chose what you want every night.
  • Kids’ menus: which she says (mostly accurately) include: chicken fingers, burgers, sushi, macaroni and cheese, pizza.

Her affection for kids menus is interesting because I think it has less to do with the offerings and more to do with the fact that they offer a manageable list of food specifically to the child.  I do like the portion size and pricing on kids menus. When you’re eating out every meal, economy of all sorts is important. But I do hate the tyranny of those same five dishes. It’s definitely true that not all burgers (or even mac ‘n cheese) are created equal, and side dishes vary, but like so many other parents, I wish restaurants would think a little more creatively about what to feed to kids.

Another highpoint: the dining room at Hearst Castle, also the inspiration for their beloved Hogwarts.

Now they both want to be billionaires.

What didn’t she like? Eating out every night. By which she meant having to make the effort and “be perfect” at the table.  But so go the trials of childhood.

Finn’s response was more measured. He says he didn’t much like the menus which had “good things, but not always things you feel like eating.” He is a creature of habit. Also the one picking cucumbers out of water by the end of the trip. He likes restaurant booths, because they’re cozy. And I can add that they both love the menus they can color on and take with them. We have several now glued into scrapbooks.

The lesson here is that choice is important, and so is control. Kids like to be spoken to directly. They like to be offered things that are their size and fitted to their taste.  A smaller list of choices, so as not to overwhelm, is a great idea for school age kid who wants to master her own menu.  But maybe it’s not such a great idea to have the same choice at every single restaurant. Because really, fries with a quesadilla are kind of ridiculous.

They did resoundingly agree on one thing: San Diego food. So stay tuned because tomorrow, straight from our favorite place in San Diego: the only new recipe you need for the summer.