There are times when it is difficult not to sympathise with Nancy Mitford's depiction of small children as howling tangerines in dark wigs. Especially if you are in a restaurant. And even more especially if you are in a restaurant during Saturday lunch, with the throbbing head and sawdust mouth of a person who has had half a dozen too many the night before.
We've all suffered the slings and arrows of a small child with a big complaint, so perhaps one can sympathise with Jodie Morris, owner of The Little French Café in Broadmeadow, near Sydney, Australia, who this week came in for a certain amount of stick after she posted a message on Facebook, explaining that children who misbehave are not welcome in her establishment. "If you are looking for a café with... an area for your children to run rampant, and annoy other customers whilst you are oblivious to them – then the short answer is no, we are not child-friendly," she wrote on Facebook (not for long; she deleted the post).
It is not an altogether unfamiliar refrain.
Earlier this year, Grant Achatz, the chef who runs Alinea, the Chicago restaurant with more stars than Orion's belt, took to Twitter to question whether it was time to tell people that they should leave their offspring at home if they want to dine in his restaurant, after a small child made its presence loudly felt in his dining room. Morris and Achatz have a point. To an extent. Though both seem to have come down with the contagious disease that seems to affect the dining classes – Middle-class Earnestness.
It is peculiar because the syndrome, in the main, seems only to effect Anglo Saxons; you will cock your ear in vain in Italy and France hoping to hear the same clamour from the child-banners, it being generally accepted there that eating is a family activity and children should be encouraged to care about – and understand – what they eat.
Besides which, though, isn't the complaint just about the most facile of all misanthropies? Ignoring as it does the fact that if you ban children from restaurants, then all that you are doing is creating a whole group of adults who don't know how to behave in them. A wailing, misbehaving child is annoying; a wailing, misbehaving adult is positively nauseating.
What we should actually ban from restaurants isn't kids, it is adults. Well, the unthinking adults who let their children run merry riot and do not at least attempt to calm them and quiet them down.
All too often you see them, sitting like patience on a monument, oblivious and unspeaking. While I feel only sympathy for the parent going in for the futile remonstrate, I could throttle the other lot.
Give me the howling tangerine any day – just deliver me from the thoughtless parents.Reuse content