‘My kids love sushi’
From fish fingers to sashimi... and back, Sam’s children have tasted it all.
(Tammy Gardner)

Part of my day job involves reviewing restaurants. (I know. You hate me. Many do.)

I do so love a good restaurant. I love the crisp linens, the shiny glassware, the swathes of unctuous folk paid to make you feel special and the joy of wielding a really good steak knife.

I especially love that feeling when the food arrives and it looks and smells just perfect, and you have to restrain yourself from doing a little dance of happiness. (You know the dance I mean. It’s the same one you do in a changing room when the piece of clothing you’re trying on fits perfectly. Only, obviously, this is the seated version.)

Luckily, my sons are also very fond of restaurants and are now old enough, not only to come with when reviewing, but also to throw their own 2 cents in. This development has made an already enjoyable job a whole bunch more fun.

It’s terrifically cool to review restaurants with children. Firstly, it really freaks out the waiters. Secondly, kids don’t feel the need to cower and coo in quite in the same way adults do when they are being fussed over. They are also a lot more frank when it comes to their likes and dislikes.

Take Benjamin, for example. A few nights ago, he served as my plus one when reviewing a local sushi joint.
‘Can I have a whole LOT of salmon, please?’ he asked the waiter.

I cringed a little, but only on the inside. After all, isn’t that what a lot of us, in our heart of hearts, want to say to waiters in sushi restaurants?

There’s a particular joy to watching a child eat sushi, especially if they eat it like Benj – casually yet with all the slurpy happiness of an aquarium seal on Show Day. It contrasts so sharply with the way so many Western adults eat sushi, reverently following pretentious little ginger/wasabi/soya sauce rituals and acting as if the food is somehow judging them, instead of the other way around.

But while Benjamin the Seal always scores the sushi gigs because of his salmon obsession, it is his older brother ,10-year-old Josef, who is the real reviewer in our family. Seriously. He knocks the socks off me... it’s a little unnerving.

‘Is it just me or do these porcini mushrooms really overpower the sole?’ he said the other night, staring earnestly into the middle distance, as if trying to remember the capital of Denmark.

‘Is it just me or is your job ruining our child?’ Andreas whispered to me over his wine glass.

And he’s right... we do have to be very careful to remind the children of the ridiculousness of our standard of eating out, especially when compared to our household income. Also, they have to know that one day, Mommy will change jobs again and we all be back in the Spur faster than you can say Cheddarmelt.

But in the meantime, there’s a part of me that really savours scenes like the one last week, where Joe was sitting groomed and gleaming in one of the country’s swankiest restaurants, sampling a Yorkshire pudding, artfully dabbed with a hearty gravy.

‘And are you enjoying that, little man?’ asked the waiter, dripping with condescension.

‘Very much,’ Joey replied, deadpan. ‘It tastes almost EXACTLY like French toast with Bovril. And I love French Toast with Bovril.’

Reader, I don’t know which I loved more... the fact that he was right or the part where the waiter turned puce with restrained laughter, and threw off all pretensions of grandeur for the rest of the evening.

Here’s to our children, who never let us get away with puffing up for no good reason. And to fish fingers with tomato sauce, for keeping our palates true.

Do you expose your child to a variety of eating experiences? Do they enjoy them?

Read more by Sam Wilson

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