What do children's birthday celebrations say about us as a people?
I can honestly say that I have never been to a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese, but it seems to be almost a rite of passage for Americans to celebrate another year of life with second rate pizza, turn-in-your-token arcade, and corny Animatronics that beckon you to join them for a number on stage.
For the price of admission, and it's a pretty steep price for the average American, you get an overload of pinball and video arcade machines, the pleasure of singing with oversized mechanical stuffed animals (that are quite scary), and 3 slices of the most forgettable pizza you'll ever taste.
A birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese is loud, artificial, bright or should we say colorful, corny, overdone, sensationalized and excessive.
... And then, we have birthday party in let's say, Western Europe with raclette. Austere and ever-practical... the focus of the party is on the people, the relationships, the conversation.
Who's having the better time? Hard to say, but I think it's a tie. Amusement and entertainment seem to be important factors to a culture that gave birth to Hollywood. Food is only secondary. Doing more than one thing at once, running around wasting money on pinball, going to the table for a sip of a your never-ending soda is perfectly acceptable.
But when it comes to the food, the Swiss children are faring much better. They dine on a few high quality ingredients. The food is as memorable as is the conversation. The food and people sharing the food is prized above other excesses.
One thing though they both got right: Cheese seems to elevate a meal to a celebration.