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Give me a freakin break dept.

March 13, 2009

kidcookAs a schoolfriend’s mother used to say when exasperated, JesusMaryandJoseph, I wish I was in heaven.

This article from the excellent Slate magazine had me retching over my breakfast. Apparently, in the States, there is a new food fad – small children as restaurant critics, chefs and food columnists. The New York freakin Times Magazine, for God’s sake,

has pledged one-quarter of its monthly food real estate to the kitchen exploits of a 4-year-old, Dexter Wells, who just happens to be the firstborn of the newspaper’s food editor, Pete Wells.

Slate’s goes on to detail various other gobsmacking instances of  culinary “kinder worship” including children having their own cooking shows on television. They are not cooking children’s food – this stuff is apparently supposed to be seriously informative for adults. Or, as the link to the odious ‘Cooking with Dexter‘ (the editor’s kid) from the NYT mag shows, it’s supposed to be amusing in a rueful, oh-how-I-wish-my-kid-was-just-a-normal-child-and-not-such-a-quirky-genius kind of way:

Most nights, before the nuclear generator runs down and he shuts his eyes, Dexter and I argue about food. Lately he’s been on a cookie jag, and the arguments are not about whether he can have cookies before bedtime. They are about whether he can have cookies before bedtime if he preheats the oven and begins mixing the dough at 8:15. The answer to that one, and I try to stick to it, is no. Oh, but what about making the dough now and baking in the morning? And if I say no to that too: What about starting the dough now, finishing it in the morning and then baking the cookies tomorrow night? The answer to that one is also no, because I know that in the morning he will have coffee to brew.

Is it just me, or does this faux-modest boastful gushing make you want to open a vein??

I am sure I sound a child-loathing harridan here, but I ain’t. We have many kids in our lives, and have done loads of cooking with them. I think it’s fantastic that they grow up around cooking and see and understand the complex pleasures of food and creativity. It’s a gift to a kid, to offer her that. It’s this revolting adult narcissism that gets me, because it actually completely disrespects the child. All this idolatry actually has nothing to do with the child her or himself – they’re simply another conduit for the self-expression of look-at-me adults. Ugh.

ANYHOO – the whole biz should really just be entertaining, and is probably designed to just get right up the noses of old hags like me (and Regina). But

But this is not just me yelling at kids to get off my lawn—I’m willing to set aside the annoying narcissism of parents who believe they have spawned a cross between Ferran Adria and Brillat-Savarin. On a larger scale, the trend emphasizes the worst of the food frenzy today: the celebration of celebrity and novelty over authenticity and seriousness. Julia Child was 50 years old before she flipped her first omelet on television. She got that gig only after studying at the Cordon Bleu and then devoting 10 years to perfecting Mastering the Art of French Cooking with two collaborators. Today chefs barely out of high school are competing on reality cooking shows, and the bar keeps being lowered, with Internet exposure for every little Thomas Keller. The movement devalues the very subject it pretends to celebrate. As Pelchat put it: “Kids would be excellent culinary guides. For food for other kids.”

Gotta go; must find a three-month-old White Person to advise me on an Indian pilaf I want to make.

One comment

  1. ‘…because I know that in the morning, he will have coffee to brew’: pass me the mixing bowl before I throw up.



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