Chicago dad: I love my child to Alinea – and back

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 staggering.

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 Gramenon 2011.

Just kidding.

It’s paired with the Sierra de Sud 2010.

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