This week's blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who lives in
the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with Professor Foster
(his non-white, non-dad wife), their daughter Viva, and Viva's
exquisitely refined palate.
In the last 24 hours, the foodie-verse has been thrown into
chaos by a news story out of Chicago. The story: a couple brought
an 8-month-old to legendary progressive dining establishment
Alinea. The baby cried, the patrons complained, Chef Grant Achatz
put the etiquette quandary to Twitter, and now both the media and
the internet are foaming at the mouth. (Presumably it is a cucumber
foam accompanying heirloom tomatoes over cana de cabra with
dehydrated local ham.)
No doubt a crying child in what has been Restaurant magazine's
top restaurant in North America may be dismaying to diners paying
hundreds, even thousands, of dollars for a world-class meal, but as
a first-time dad struggling daily to teach his little daughter a
sense of appropriateness and proportion, I say this:
If you can't bring your child to a three-Michelin-star
restaurant, why did you have a child?
The first years of a child's life are the most formative by far.
Their tastes, their thought processes, their entire world view
takes shape before they ever go to school. If you wish to raise a
child who is a gourmand, a bon vivant, and a true aesthete, then
you must take action during this delicate time. They must be
introduced to the finest and most precious offerings, experiences,
and flavor profiles humanity has to over.
Or you can feed them cheese pizza while they leap in a ball pit
full of poop germs. Chacun à son goût.
My daughter, Viva, is a simple and joyful toddler like any
other. She has bright, hopeful eyes, an infectious giggle, and a
predilection toward molecular gastronomy. She deserves a warm home,
a loving family, and evenings filled with flavor desconstruction,
souse-vide preparation, and reverse spherification.
How could I look into her cherubic face and tell her some grumpy
child-hating grownups have forced me to tear up the tickets to Next
I bought at a markup on eBay with her college fund? How could I
tuck her into her crib as she clutches her plush James Beard doll
and tell her that dreams of elBulli are not for the young? Could I
truly slink out of the nursery listening to her softly sobbing in
the glow of her Wylie Dufresnie night light?
The world is full of grousing grinches who would bar the doors
of Schwa to those who comprise America's future. But are these
people locked out of Gymboree? No. The double standard is
It is the duty of a caring parent to stand up to the slings and
arrows of derisive Tweets and Facebook posts and set their toddlers
firmly on the lap of Homaro Cantu. He knows what good little boys
and girls want for Christmas: locally foraged seasonal items and
organic greens from an aeroponic garden.
It is difficult to raise a child. Each one is different, like a
squash blossom snowflake sitting atop dungeoness crab with cardamom
and saffron served in a cloud of dry ice. Who are any of us to
judge? So, go ahead, guzzle your mudslide at the local P.J.
O'Slovenly's bar and grille while your belching angel stuffs
chicken fingers down their gullet with corn-syrup fattened fingers.
At least the flat-screen televisions will distract you from your
crumbling marriage. I will take my chances with judgmental glances
as my child enjoys veal cheeks with lapsang souchong, pine, and
blackberry, paired with a Cotes du Rhone "Sierra du Sud" Domaine
It's paired with the Sierra de Sud 2010.
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