A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
By Nina Pajak
It’s Thanksgiving week! That means it’s a time to give thanks, slow down, appreciate family, eat until you must vomit, and fire the starting gun on the bloodlust-fueled orgy of commercialism and frantic money-hemorrhaging that is “the holiday season.”
It’s not just Black Friday anymore, as we well know. It’s Cyber Monday, Cyber Monday Again (Tuesday), Unsolicited Email Offer Barrage Wednesday, Grey Saturday, Speckled Sunday, and the very popular “Exploit Your Retail Employees by Forcing Them to Work on Thanksgiving so That You Can Cater to the Very Worst A-holes This Country Has to Offer” Thursday. They’ve had some branding problems with that last one. I believe I heard they’re thinking of renaming it “Blackest of Black Hearts Thursday,” but if you ask me that’s not going to solve anything.
Naturally, this all means that I, too, have begun my purchasing. What am I, the Unibomber? Of course I have. Specifically, we are planning to give our daughter a play kitchen for Hanukkah and Christmas. This purchase is exciting for two reasons: I have fond memories of playing kitchen and supermarket as a kid, and shopping for toy food in 2014 is almost as much fun as eating real food.
The hollow, streaky-painted plastic hot dogs and janky, lumpy pizza slices of our youth are still around, but they are completely besides the point. Browsing Amazon for play food sets these days is like perusing the various steam tables and stalls at an internationally-themed, high-end food court. It’s a veritable buffet of exotic and tantalizing choices. There are pita pockets and tacos and burritos. Sushi meals with chopsticks and wooden board, wasabi and all the fixings. Shish kabobs on a hibachi and stir fry in a wok which, for mysterious reasons, has been noted on the product page as being “nonstick.” Chocolate fondue and Black Forest gateaux. Petit fours! An espresso machine! I feel the need to stop and make sure it’s clear that I have not made up a single item in this list.
There’s the standard fare too, like eggs and cheese and sandwiches and pizza. But they’re all healthy and interesting and artisanal and bright and made of wood and cloth and they make the groceries I bought in real life look pale and unappetizing. Somehow, they’re all organic and some of them were grown in hydroponic, solar-powered, hyper-local urban rooftop farms (j/k they’re made in China). Probably there’s a crispy kale set floating around, although I haven’t found it yet.
Never mind the fact that only about 3 percent of the goods on offer represent what my and most other average toddlers will voluntarily consume or even deign to taste. This image of a very young child happily tucking into a salad bowl brimming with felt lettuce leaves is antithetical to everything most parents know to be true in this world. It’s okay, they’re aspirational. And how can a kid play Master Chef Junior without this stuff, anyway? But if these companies were to produce meal sets that strive to mirror the dietary interests of an actual breathing kid, I’d be tempted. First they’d have to pack a basket containing a dozen or so pieces of assorted foods—omelet, avocado, grapes, cheese, raisins, toast, yogurt—each missing a nibble or two and covered in bits of dust, dog hair and and play doh from having been violently and senselessly rejected and discarded. The rest of the space would be filled up by vast quantities of crackers, mac and cheese and chicken nuggets, plus a handful of chocolate chip cookies which parents would be instructed to distribute only once they’ve achieved a state of total desperation and powerlessness.
When I lay it all out like that, I suppose I have to admit that it’s not as delightfully appealing as some of the other options we’ve covered here. The toddler playtime reality lunch kit likely won’t be sweeping the nation anytime soon. That’s okay, we’ll just take the organic, fresh, fatto in casa pasta set instead.
Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!