Weighty Matters

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Disproportionate Portions

on January 30, 2013

I serve on the board of a local organization and today was our quarterly meeting. We usually get together over lunch and today’s meeting was held at a restaurant with a rep for delicious food. I think I’ve eaten there once before but it was several years ago and I don’t remember what I ate.

In perusing the menu the first thing I noticed was that they had two entire sections touted as “Small Plates”. One was Small Plates-Turf with seafood based dishes; the other Small Plates-Earth. There were several yummy sounding offerings and I finally settled on an eggplant stack with goat cheese over a marinara sauce.

When my meal came, I realized that my concept of “small plate” is a lot smaller than the restaurants. I guess I was thinking about the tiny servings I experienced at the tapas restaurant so I didn’t expect five slices of eggplant. Granted, each slice was a little smaller in diameter than the one before so that they could all prettily stack in a tower, but that sure seemed like more than a small plate serving. BTW, I could only eat half of the dish before I was full.

There have been a lot of times when I’ve gone out to eat with friends and been amazed at the huge portions we were served. I know that my perspective of portions has completely changed since my surgery, but you know what? The portions in most restaurants are huge. Most dinner entrees could easily feed two people — or feed me four times. That isn’t an exageration. I’ve gone to dinner, boxed what I didn’t eat, and then enjoyed the rest over three additional meals.

It’s hard for me to accept that there was a time when I could eat the entire entree myself at that one meal. That was then and this is now. I finally understand all the articles and news stories that quote experts who say that the reason that obesity is rampant in our country is because we are all accustomed to large serving sizes.

This made me remember back to the year that my family and I lived in France. We were there in 1967-68 when I was nine years old. Even 45 years ago, Americans were eating too much. How many times have you gone to a supermarket deli counter and ordered a half a pound or more of sliced meat or cheese to feed a family? In the French countryside, women would go to the market and order four slices of ham, four slices of cheese and a bagette to serve lunch to their family of four!

My mother, bless her, wasn’t the most proficient at speaking French. (She studied German in high school and switching to a romance language when she was in her 40s created issues.) She’d mess up a lot. Most of the time, this wasn’t a big problem, but the local market staff and butcher were convinced she’d ordered wrong no matter what she said. One time she and Dad had planned an elaborate dinner party for his colleagues. She was going to make a crown rib roast and placed the meat order with the butcher. When she unwrapped the package at home, she saw that he hadn’t given her nearly enough “ribs” for the guest list. He figured she’d ordered too much by accident and gave her what he thought she probably really needed.

Thank goodness Daddy got home in time to run down to the butcher and get more meat. He then employed his surgeon skills to make the two portions into one roast for Mom’s gorgeous presentation.

The smaller portions didn’t mean that the French weren’t eating well. French cuisine is divine! If anything, the way that they eat is good evidence that you can eat well without eating a lot.

Which is sort of where I am with the whole food thing. I want to eat delicious food but only in the amount that I need. I’ve come to accept that I will continue to run into disproportionate portions, regardless of whether the restaurant advertises small plates.

I just need to remember that no matter what amount I’m actually served, I only need to eat what I actually need. It’s no big deal not to finish what’s on my plate. That’s why there are to-go boxes!

6 responses to “Disproportionate Portions

  1. Hope says:

    I really need to start asking for a to-go box with my food when it comes at restaurants. If I do that, I usually get at least 2 more meals out of my leftovers. And if I don’t do that? I end up picking at it until I end up eating 2-3x more food than I really should.

  2. inkgrrl says:

    Portions are definitely grossly bloated in this country. When I realized that portion control was really my biggest issue with food – as I still tend to be a member of the clean plate club if it’s in front of me and tasty – I bought a couple of sets of pretty ceramic measuring cups to use for most of what I eat. That way I get to eat from something whimsical and unusual, as well as curtail the amount of ‘whatever’ in front of my snoot. No matter how tasty, I’m rarely actually hungry enough to get a second serving of anything this way, and I feel indulged because of the dishes themselves. Amazing how hard it is at first in restaurants, until we get used to ‘feeling full = stop eating’, isn’t it?

  3. Skye says:

    Restaurant meal sizes are far too big. There was a cafe I used to go to that had, besides it’s regular meal sizes, what it called “small bites”, which were one-fourth of a full-sized meal. They were just right, and allowed me to also eat one of their tiny desserts. The food was excellent. The meals were reasonably priced and the desserts were a bit pricey, but it all worked out to a reasonably priced meal of a reasonable size. Living in Texas, you really get the concept of “everything is bigger” when you go to a typical restaurant!

  4. Nan says:

    I’ve been hyper aware of restaurant portion sizes lately because I’m working so hard at portion control in my life. Sisters and I ate an Italian restaurant last week and I had enough food to take some home and have supper and then lunch the next day. Previously, I would’ve eaten it all or left only a tiny bit. And yes, the French people do eat very well, but they understand what a “serving” is. You’re doing great, Mary!! You are my inspiration!

  5. I agree about restaurant meal sizes. I ordered meals that then lasted for 3 more meals. It’s just crazy. Lots of times I’ll order and appetizer and just have that for my meal. More than enough!

  6. robena grant says:

    I know. I’m always surprised, and reminded of this, every time I go home to Australia. A ham sandwich is one slice of ham on two pieces of buttered bread with maybe a smear of mustard, and cut into triangles. : ) I love it.

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