THE IMPORTANT question for the future of our taste may be whether children necessarily revere the foods of their childhood. For this generation is not growing up on Mom's apple pie but on Uncle Ray's hamburgers. According to the National Restaurant Association, the average child or teen-ager eats 230 meals prepared outside the home each year, and 40 percent of those meals are in fast-food restaurants. Of course the meal of choice is hamburger and french fries, with only 13 percent of preteens and 18 percent of teen-agers taking advantage of the salad bar for a fast-food dinner. The time may come--if it hasn't already--when beef stew is considered an exotic dish and chicken a la king is identified with foreign royalty rather than home cooking. Lapping It Up

Here's what it boils down to: We are so flooded with cookbooks of all flavors and persuasions that only one possibility was left, a water cookbook. Thus "The Gourmet Guide to Water Cookery" by Jay H. Heyman (Avon, $4.95). Five dollars' worth of admitted culinary uselessness (unlike those dozens of cookbooks that pretend to be useful), this book speaks to "today's trend to lightness in cooking" and promises cooking without calories, caffeine, color or cyclamates. We'd watch out, though, for a few other additives floating around in the main ingredient. Still, we were flushed with the success of such recipes as Grapefruit Fancy ("Cut grapefruit in half and remove every other section. Fill the remaining spaces with water. Serve chilled.") and Saddle of Water, in which you season and soak an English or western saddle in water 'til soft. But our favorite instruction, for overcoming the problem of watched pots never boiling, was, "simply set out two pots with equal amounts of water and watch just one of them. The other pot will soon be ready." Shuffle Off to Buffalo

Adding a little spice to the fast-food scene in recent years have been Buffalo Chicken Wings, those peppered fried wings to be dipped in blue cheese dressing with a few celery sticks to clear the palate. Good stuff on its home ground, and even among the best of the snacks at Baltimore's Harborplace. But now Buffalo Chicken Wings have come to Washington, at Wingmaster's in the Farragut West Metro Market. Success seems to have bred the goodness out of the wings. Our D.C. sample came not at all close to the old Baltimore version; hereabouts they have been dried out and chewy wings of insufficient savoriness, covered with a barbecue sauce of no character. Back to Buffalo for re-education, please. New Yorker's Cooking

America has always been a suburb of New York, some have thought. Now "The magazine of cooking in America," which is what The COOK'S Magazine calls itself, is becoming a subdivision of The New Yorker. We only wish that meant Calvin Trillin would have to hold forth on food in every issue. A Catered Affair

Everyone who doesn't dream of opening a restaurant, it seems, dreams instead of running a catering company. L'Academie de Cuisine is calling those bluffs with a Professional Catering Course, taught by Francois Dionot, Thursday evenings from Jan. 20 to March 10. The cost is a hefty $450, but it is a first step in recognizing such an undertaking as serious business. And for the more fanciful dreamers, White House Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier is offering a Professional Sugar Course, Mondays and Saturdays from Jan. 8 to March 14, at $895, or for even more specialization, 12 classes on Wedding Cakes, beginning in April.