When Manoli, my oldest, is invited to a bday party, I know there’s planning ahead. For food, treats, unexpected treats, and new locations. It’s fine, I’ve become a pro at this over the years. But this time, it was different. That location was MacD’s.
I know it sounds like just another place. But when I close my eyes, all I can visualize is peanuts walking around touching people, and eventually kidnapping my son. Obviously, I’m overreacting. But it’s how wild my mind turns at the thought of allergens, cross-contamination and little hands touching everything.
Needless to say, I invited myself to the dinner party. Just to be there, and bring my son’s food. My little one came with us, so that meant food for her too.
So what were the challenges? Mainly the food. Recreating a happy meal, and getting it there on time so that it’s not all soggy.
Challenge #1 was two–fold. The happy part of the happy meal is getting it in a box, and the toy in it. So a week before, I went to a MacD’s and to my pleasant surprise, discovered they could just sell me two sets. They even gave me two envelopes to put the fries in, at my request. An easy win.
The food, was also doable. On the day of the party, I made hamburger buns. I made them gluten-free, since my little one was coming too, and would also want a bun, and I was too lazy to make two kinds. Well the buns didn’t rise at all and turned out to be really heavy and hard. But no time to make something new. Burgers were dealt with. Then, chicken nuggets. Cut up a chicken filet in chunks. Made some crumbs with rice crispies. Fried the aforementioned. The oven fries were also easy. The meal was done. Worked out nicely.
Challenge #2 was to get the food on location at the same time as the other kids got their food, and making sure it was reasonably warm. Well after some online research (would libraries have this kind of info nowadays, I wonder…) I made myself a nice little oven. I have this iron cast pot that weighs a ton. I stuck it in the oven while I was baking the fries so that it would get hot. Then, at the moment of departure, I took it out and put it on a blanket that was already inside a cooler bag. After I wrapped all the food, I put it in the pot and put the lid on. I folded the blanket over it and zipped the bag closed. I kid you not, the food was still warm when we got to MacDs. The fries even had a last breath of crispiness left in them. When we got inside, the food was being served, so the timing was perfect.
I was expecting a jump of joy at the food and the kids wolfing it down. But the toy won their attention, and so did an interactive game that was somehow played on the table. Food was ignored, eventually munched on, at near glacial temperatures. But really, who cares. The kids got to have an almost-version of what everyone else was having, and they felt included.
Lesson? There’s always a way. And when in doubt, just stay there. It’s always OK. In this case, the parents of the bday boy were super nice and welcoming, and all the kids had a great time.