Whenever we take the kids out to eat, I feel like I’m playing a game of culinary Tetris, rearranging the meals to fit the appetites of children with varying tastes. If Big Brother isn’t going to eat the fries that come with his cheeseburger, that means Buster and I can share them, which means Buster will only want half his macaroni and cheese, so if I eat half Buster’s mac & cheese, and half of Big Brother’s fries, then I don’t really have to order a meal for myself. But will there be enough left over for Big Man’s burgeoning appetite?
Kids have no conscience when it comes to wasting food, or the money that went to pay for it. As the one who has to make the money cover all our needs, I have a slightly different attitude.
Restaurants seem to have perfected the art of sizing every kid’s meal to be the perfect amount of food for 1.5 children, priced accordingly. This is surely the unconscious factor in our decision to have a third child. Now, all we have to do is work on getting them to agree on two meals to split three ways.
Playing the mix-n-match restaurant game is even more difficult on vacation. The chicken strips in a strange eatery may differ slightly from home-town cooking, throwing the entire table into rebellion. The serving sizes are a wildcard, and the prices are sure to be higher. God forbid it’s one of the fancy-pants joints that cuts their fries on site or has a notion that pizza is something that should be reinvented.
It is especially difficult when Daddy can’t read. This happened on our most recent visit to Washington D.C. So full of himself at finding a burger joint amidst the upscale restaurants, in which feed himself and the two older boys, Daddy decided the menu said what he wanted it to say, rather than what it said.
Using his best gastronomic puzzle-solving skills, Daddy deftly planned out the purchase that would feed all three perfectly, and for only about $12. He confidently approached the counter and ordered the cheeseburger with fries and the macaroni and cheese. He was met with a blank stare. After an awkward moment, the young cashier explained, “We don’t have macaroni and cheese.”
“Of course you do,” Daddy remonstrated. “It’s on the menu.”
The young lady screwed up her face. “There’s no macaroni and cheese on the menu.”
Daddy probably rolled his eyes as he grabbed a nearby menu and promptly pointed out the line that clearly indicated the availability of grilled cheese sandwiches. “Hmmm,” he hawed. “I could have sworn that said macaroni and cheese.”
It’s hard to be quite as deft about plan B when you’re on the spot.
Thirty minutes, and $29 later, they exited, carrying a doggie bag containing a completely untouched grilled cheese sandwich and nearly two full orders of leftover fries.
I guess Daddy’s brain went on vacation too.