Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Problem with Picky eaters and Feasts


 This is not about food contamination and making sure we don't kill, or physically harm people with our food (be it allergy or really bad kitchen practices), but rather about picky eating and expectations to be able to partake in food served at a re-enactment or history club functions where the food has become part of the over all experience.

 This initially came up through a medieval club forum where it was suggested that either the meals conducted be either changed to suit children's eating habits or a separate list of food offerings be made available for them, namely food they would typically enjoy.
Avoiding the whole, what is wrong with allowing even more modern wants to seep into historic venture, there is a bigger and more evident problem here. We are discussing how to meet the needs not of children but rather of picky and unadventurous diners. I say this because children are not all cut from the same cloth but are as every much individual as the adults attending these would-be period meals. Indeed, what we are really asking is how can we make a menu more acceptable to 10-30 more, all individual, and potentially very picky, diners on a limited budget with a limited staff in sometimes limited space while also feeding 2-60 more people for whom a good number are there for the more historic dining experience. Well, indeed... how?

Now, this is not to say that perfectly good period based food can not be found for the picky diner, it sure can, but it's foolish to say that there is a set list of foods that is going to be acceptable to a certain age group of picky diners. Look at ice-cream, what if I wanted an early 1900's ice-cream social? I knew a young girl who hated ice-cream, she hated frosting and icings as well and it is plausible that a few may show up who dislike those very things. Does this mean something special should be prepared for those children by the event staff or should the parents take something for the children to eat so they can still attend and enjoy the activities of the day? Change the period and the issues remain.

From my own experience, as both a parent, someone who dined, someone who served meals and someone who cooked feasts/dinners for crowds, the general answer was if you did not like something, you did not eat that item. If the menu was not suitable, you would choose not to partake in the meal (typically negating paying for it as well) and instead you would either eat out or take-in food that you like or your family member liked. Often people with specific nutritional needs or with family members under their care needing more, or different offerings, would bring food into the event to consume and were generally permitted to do so as they saw fit. This is a very welcoming and wonderful thing since it's not something often permitted at many paid venues outside of these clubs where food and drink it limited, or not permitted at all, inside the door/gate.

Now, if someone does have a picky eater in their care that must be present, and they can not, for whatever reason, prepare and take food for their charge, and wish to, then an alternative can/should be made but I do not see it as a necessity to create more work for the kitchen when it needn't be done (because there is no such thing as a catch-all child's menu, even a restaurant menu with several offerings is not always going to appeal to every child). If anything, work out something with someone who can help you... ask! be it another cook, or just a friend who can help. Be prepared to have limited, or none at all, refrigeration and heating options available, the kitchen may, or may not, be able to deal with such requests and do not blame for not, or expect them to, cater to everyone's individual needs. Yes, it may be done on some occasions, but just because this or that cook managed to make it available, does not mean most kitchens should be expected to provide such service. Keep in mind that some kitchens come with one oven, an already partially full fridge, limited counter space and cooks help, in fact we can expect most kitchens to be as individual as the people who attend to dine.


1 comment:

Mandy Poirier-Kratz said...

Comment originally from Asa (could not post here but thought it should be included) Thank you Asa:

"There's so much to discuss here.

We are performing an art, while most of our diners simply want lunch.
Most craft is avoidable by those who are not enthused, but ours is not only aromatic, it's meant to be a display of our skills, knowledge, and interest, a team building exercise, and so on.
It's very hard to balance the requirements of Sanitation, Preparation, and Documentation with the needs of those who may or may not cook, have preferences, have dietary, religious, or health needs.
The meal I sent out most recently had mostly vegan offerings, partly due to budget. I always try to use simple roast chicken with a period sauce or choice of sauces, and I try to present a modern-seeming salad with herbs and sauces as amendments one can choose.
There are other approaches, but I can't think of a solution."