Sitters? Not so much anymore. Families go out to dinner together. This can be a wonderful ritual: Children learning how to enjoy new foods and quietly integrate themselves into the fabric of public life. More often than not, though, at least among the families that have come to populate our neighborhood's east side, public space has become a kind of rugrat free-for-all. Recently, some tiny roving fingers ended up in my bone-marrow starter at a gastropub (I know, I know. I get what I deserve for ordering a bone-marrow starter at a gatropub). The parents apologized . . . sort of. But you could tell they also thought it was pretty adorable and were put off by the idea of someone who might disagree.
Now don't get my wrong. I have nothing against children. Some of my favorite people in the world were once children.
Heck, some of my favorite people in the world, even as they approach 40, are still having children, which is pretty darn cool. Still, I sometimes feel restaurants would do folks a favor by posting a "Children at Play" sign in their window. It would be easier to make an informed decision. Eat here or move on to a quieter place down the street.
Nowhere is this more true than our neighborhood Italian restaurant. Kids love pasta, after all. They love eating pasta and playing with their pasta. Sometimes they love playing with their neighbor's pasta. As a result, we don't go out for pasta so much anymore.
But from scarcity grows creativity, and one thing we've learned is that we also love eating pasta. And playing with pasta.
So we've started a new Sunday tradition: We make our own. There's been a learning curve, sure, and I've thrown away more than my fair share of failed gloppy dough. But when it works, move over Lydia Bastianich. (Just kidding, Lydia. I would never presume. You're welcome to my house for dinner anytime).
When we're eating a bowl of hand-cut fettucini, our clothes still dusted with flour, it's pretty easy to sacrifice white paper and crayons on the tables. The dog doesn't seem to mind the table-scraps either.