He had a cold. I had an idea. After several days with a runny nose I decided to venture out with the Little Dude for a dinner of warm comfort food. I know it usually makes me feel better when I’m sick, but would it do the same for him?
Knowing what a picky eater he is, my options were limited. I’d heard that the local IHOP has a “kids eat free” deal if an adult eats. I hedged my bets that he’d eat, popped some precautionary Tums and headed to a place which apparently takes Dr. Seuss a bit too literally for my taste.
The sun was setting as we drove. I’d never been to this location before and wasn’t sure exactly where it was. Fortunately the neon-blue sign was so bright that it looked like a post-apocalyptic Smurf village, so I easily found my way as I pulled off the freeway. We grabbed a booth near the front and I tried to guess which method of distraction I would need to utilize first. Was it the crayons on the table? The books I brought? Telling him the menu was a picture book and he should try to figure out the story? (Spoiler Alert: when you get all the way to the end, someone joins Weight Watchers.)
Since I hadn’t been to an IHOP in a very long time I figured I should look at the menu. Thanks to the new regulations that forces restaurants to list the caloric content of everything they serve, I figured I’d skip the tempting looking “Chicken and Waffles”. And only partially because I don’t want to get a prescription for Lipitor this week.
I ordered the Little Dude some silver dollar pancakes and myself a salad, figuring it’d be hard for them to mess that up or figure out a way to deep-fry it. (It turns out I was wrong, but I’ll get to that.) I’m not generally a big entrée- salad orderer. But after seeing that their chicken sandwiches contained almost as many calories as Shaquille O’Neal eats in a month, I could feel my arteries harden slightly just from perusing the menu & went with the leafy stuff.
After just a few minutes, his plate of 5 mini-pancakes was delivered and the server told me my salad would be right up. The Little Dude’s eyes widened like Tim Tebow’s at a strip club as he looked excitedly at what lay in front of him. Though he has never so much as tasted a chicken nugget, French fry or bite of pizza he LOVES breakfast food. So much so that Mrs. Dude has become a pancake and waffle-making master. If there is ever an Iron Chef: Flapjack Edition, I’m going to sign her up.
As he watched me slice his pancakes with eager eyes, the Little Dude spotted something he’d never seen before across the table. In addition to the usual “brown” (maple) syrup, there was also “red” (strawberry), “blue” (blueberry) and “black” (boysenberry) varieties. He quickly became fixated on the red one and begged me to use it, so I poured a little bit on a small piece for him as a sample. As the red lava hit his tongue, it was immediately rejected like a Kardashian by Harvard. I doused the rest of his pancakes with his beloved brown syrup and watched him go to town.
A few minutes later, I asked the server again where my salad was. The restaurant was three-quarters empty and we were sitting parallel to the kitchen, which I could tell wasn’t busy as I watched the bored chefs juggling eggs. I started to wonder if they had to dispatch someone to the nearest grocery store because they don’t usually stock vegetables at IHOP due to their infrequent use. As the Little Dude polished off the last of his fluffy circles of Dr. Atkins’ mortal enemy, I finally received my bowl of greens, chicken and cheese. A mere 25 minutes after ordering. It tasted exactly as you’d expect a Chicken Caesar Salad to taste at IHOP. But as I wolfed it down, I saw the glazed look of a satiated toddler sitting across from me and knew that he had indeed been comforted. Mission accomplished.
Where do you go, or what do you eat, when you want comfort food?