The kids toy with their meal

Elise T. Chisolm

February 18, 1992|By Elise T. Chisolm

WE'RE SITTING at the most popular fast food eaterie in the land. You know the one.

Actually they are all pretty popular. Where else can you get a meal and a toy in three minutes?

And remember, you health-food folks, the toy is the real reason we're here today.

There are four 2-year-olds and their young mothers and me -- the grandmother of one of them.

I don't know why I subject myself to this lunchtime carnival. Probably because I love being with my grandchild, even if it's not the Hawaii Hilton.

Last week we went to the aquarium first, and then none of them would eat the fast food fish fillet that we always try to push.

Today we have been to the zoo. That is not to say this lunch is not a zoo in itself, but it smells better here.

Actually they are nice to invite me as I am from the generation that didn't have the fast food option. We just ate bologna sandwiches at the counter of some drugstore or at home. Yeah, this was debatable nutrition too.

Two of the children are taking the Chicken McNuggets and kind of popping them out -- ejecting the innards from the fried batter and just eating the chicken. Good. The other two are pulling off the batter piece by tiny piece and eating just the batter. Bad. But who's counting here. We're glad they are eating something relatively quietly.

One of them is dipping her french fries in her orange juice; another is dipping her long strands of hair in her soda pop. One is actually eating her whole hamburger, but peeling off the crust of the bun. Another is taking the hamburger apart and dipping pieces of her lettuce in the sweet 'n' sour sauce that comes with the McNuggets.

My grandchild is more innovative. He is dipping his straw in the little dish of honey sauce then sucking on the straw.

Do you think I care? No, I am so glad he is eating something other than macaroni and cheese, or chocolate syrup on Cheerios -- a favorite he asks for at home.

He is not a good eater this year. But he can manage a straw like an engineer if there is something good at the end.

The funny thing is that just 10 years ago these young mothers would never have darkened a fast food place. Most of them were going through their pita bread, bean sprouts and tofu stage.

We are having a wonderful time. And the toy give-away today is a small plastic Ronald McDonald on a bike. No helmet. Last month it was a hamburger that made into a dinosaur. Doesn't every household deserve THAT? Other recent highlights have been a plastic Dalmatian, a Muppet in a cart and a cardboard crown from Burger King.

I know from statistics that fast foods have too much salt, fat and sugar, but the miniature give-aways are a great enticement for the child to sit still for five minutes or drink his milk.

I read recently that Americans are less concerned about good nutrition these days, and that analysts think it might be stress that makes us go for the cookie jar, or that perhaps families are concentrating on their personal finances.

Not so. We do not go for the cookie jar, we go for the plastic. And believe me these children can sniff out which toy is the toy of the week.

Fast times at fast foods are part of my life now, and what can I say? I love the french fries and the kids.

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