As long as I have earned a salary I have enjoyed eating out. From the finest restaurants in the winelands to dodgy boerewors rolls cooked on a paint can outside a nightclub, I would eat at basically any establishment as long as they didn’t have a jungle-gym. Imagine my disappointment when I became a father.
Having worked as a waiter at a large restaurant chain that sounds like Purr but has an S at the front, the birth of my son immediately burdened me with nightmares in which I spent all my restaurant meals chained alone to a table covered in crayons, wet napkins, and baby vomit and picked pieces of saliva drenched chips out my hair as my young son leapt about on a slowly leaking jumping castle. I could think of no worse way to punish myself.
When the day came to finally take him out for a meal, I wore my raincoat, pulled on a pair of wellington boots and resigned myself to my fate – the jungle gym beckoned. In the end, though it was my son who was to do the suffering – at the hands of the children’s menu. His options, if I remember correctly, were: Vienna sausage and chips, fish fingers and chips, chicken strips and chips, and a plate of chips and chips. When he threw his Vienna on the floor, I couldn’t even bring myself to berate him.
Since then I have been searching every corner of Johannesburg for a restaurant whose children’s menu is as carefully curated as their adult one. No matter how high-end, expensive or well-regarded the establishment, the waiter’s patter is always the same.
“Ah, excellent choice sir. And how would sir like the duck? To drink, may I suggest the Château Léoville-Poyferré? And for the young sir, I have either the delightful Vienna sausage and chips, fish fingers and chips, chicken strips and chips, or a plate of chips and chips.”
I often wonder if perhaps the life of a chef is so busy, so totally out of the ordinary, that all members of our species who take that route to economic empowerment are sadly forced to abandon their hopes of love, family and children and now choose to take a cruel delight in punishing the offspring of those of us who have not lashed ourselves to a grill for a living.
Perhaps embittered by late nights, too little sleep and far too much abuse from patrons they turn their inner artisan off and vent in the only way they know how by deep frying “almost-meats” to inflict on the youngest members of the species.
Or maybe they all just lack imagination? Whatever happened to a good old-fashioned boerewors roll cooked on a paint can?