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Mar 8, 2007 07:21 PM



...and appreciating food are not the same thing. Probably a bit condescending, Probably mostly true.

  1. Yes, it is true that they are not the same thing, and one only has to visit a place like The Cheescake Factory to see gluttony at work. While some people rave over the food at that establishment, I am convinced that the IMMENSE portions are what really brings people back for the decidedly mediocre food at Cheesecake Factory.

    And then, after consuming enough calories to sustain a person for at least two days, some people proceed to order one of the high-calorie desserts. Is it any wonder that Americans' butts are getting wider by the year?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ted in Central NJ

      It's really horrifyingly true about American restaurants. I'm Canadian and in the past few months I've been taken, in the U.S., to The Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, Applebee's and Denny's (hanging with the wrong crowd for sure).

      Huge portions. And at CPK I was talking too much and didn't pay enough attention to the menu - in trying to eat something smallish, I ordered what turned out to be a deepfried "egg roll" of bacon cheese and tomato, with RANCH SAUCE on the side. And even it -an app- was four pieces, each the size of my head; disgusting.

      I will also never forget a lunch years ago at Junior's - famous deli/coffeeshop in Brooklyn - at which I ordered a rueben and fries that was literally enough for a family of four.

      I don't get Americans. For sure it's a 'value' thing, but I still don't really get it.

    2. We definitely have a portion problem in this country. And the problem is that when restaurants try to serve normal sized portions to people, people react by saying that they feel cheated because the portion was so "skimpy." I think it's absolutely true that most people value quantity over quality when they go out to eat. It is the only explanation for the continued survival of so many truly bad restaurants.

      1. I don't think that most people understand the importance of portion size--even regarding "healthy" foods.

        The other thing that happens--especially in restaurants that adhere to the "bigger is better" concept (and the dreaded "all-you-can-eat") is that the huge portions are made up of crappy food that isn't really satisfying, anyway. Then there's always the bread basket and the previously mentioned monolithic desserts. . .

        1. regarding the "portion control problem in our country".. just because the restaurant puts a large portion in front of you does not mean you have to eat it all. Folks need to learn to practice a little self control, and push themselves away from the table.

          The real "problem with our country" is that people refuse to take responsibility for their actions, and want to blame, or even sue everyone for anything.

          12 Replies
            1. re: swsidejim

              I agree that personal responsibility has a lot to do with the problem, but the fact remains that portions in this country are unrealistically large. A good example is the bagel. What used to be fairly small is now the size of a Chevy hubcap in almost every instance. When someone purchases something like a bagel or a doughnut, the implication is that this is one serving. In reality, that "serving" is all out of proportion to the reality of a person's nutritional/caloric needs.

              Yes, personal responsibility important, but as several studies have shown, people will tend to eat what is on their plate in most instances. (Perhaps remembering mother's admonition to finish everything on the plate)

              The majority of people would never consider suing a restaurant, and the highly publicized suits against McDonald's and others are the exception to the rule. What is not an exception to the rule is the out-of-control size of portions in this country, unlike in most other nations. Unfortunately, huge portions now seem to be the norm, and restauranteurs are not doing their customers any favors with this trend.

              1. re: Ted in Central NJ

                those suits all were thrown out.

                fact is, american customers equate quantity with value. unless a portion is bigger than their head, they complain it's too small. i've spent most of my career in high-end dining. entree protein portions are usually between 6-8oz. a recommended daily serving is 3-4oz. because they're used to seeing a 12oz salmon filet at some chain, the guests quite frequently complain that the serving is too skimpy. they somehow feel cheated unless the portion is *more* than they can finish.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  How true. Show a person what a 4oz piece of salmon looks like. They'll laugh at you when you tell them this is what you should eat. Try to buy a 4oz salmon steak from a fishmonger, forgetaboutit. Almost impossible.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    Look at the packaged meat (could be beef, pork, chicken) in any supermarket. Divide the weight by the number of pieces of meat. Definitely not 3-4oz. pieces. I used to buy one piece of beef, pork, or even bison for the ex and his son and cut it in half before they even saw the package to try to help portion control with them. If I left the one piece in the package, even if it weighed up to 10-12oz., they would think I was starving them.

                    I think mamaciita really hit on the fact that if you are being served crappy food, you will tend to overeat, but if you have really good food that satisfies you, you will stop eating earlier. I have one diet cookbook that stresses using really good quality, very flavorful cheeses, since even though the cheese is high in fat, you can use very little and be satisfied.

                  2. re: Ted in Central NJ

                    I agree americans eat too large of portions (i usually try to take about 1/2 of my meal home to eat later in the day or for lunch the next day)

                    I think part of the problem is how we eat. Many people don't take time to actually enjoy their food. Large bites with fork in hand while chewing ready to take the next bite. What helps me eat less... I try to take small bites and focus on the flavor of the food during each bite i also try to put my fork down while chewing (kind of hard for me at times-). Eating slower gives my brain time to get the message that my stomach is full before my whole plate of food is gone.

                    1. re: amopdx

                      'enjoy their food'.....ahhh, what a concept. A friend of mine who lives in Colorado had a horrible bout with her gallbladder right before she was to visit her mother in France. I was really worried that she'd be miserable in France, but when we talked after her trip she said that she didn't have a single problem there! She attributed it to the relaxed eating there, and savoring every moment. As soon as she got back to CO she had problems and will have surgery. Gees.....if I had a choice between gallbladder surgery and France, I'd just move to France!!! :)

                    2. re: Ted in Central NJ

                      Anyone know the comparative calorie counts for a Big Mac meal vs Olive Garden's Alfredo du jour?

                      1. re: mamaciita

                        I just looked it up:

                        According Wikipedia the Big Mac in America is 540 calories, the site said calorie counts vary by country.

                        Another source calorie told me the lunch fettucini alfredo @ olive garden has 850 calories.

                        1. re: swsidejim

                 weighs in the big mac at 590, with 310 cals from fat. the lunch portion alfredo has 432 fat calories.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            gotta love the internet, different sources, different calorie counts.

                            1. re: swsidejim

                              i've seen too many errors in wikipedia to trust it. sorry. but hey, MINE sounds more scary, lol.

                  3. I never thought I would say this but one of the most used items in my kitchen is the elctronic scale.

                    Oh the pleasure of cooking Sunday dinner. What a treat. Lots of food, plate it up beautifully and served way too much to everyone. Then the scale. I started weighing the portions. ~4oz on the meat, a resonable amount of sides. And you know what, pleasantness of the meal did not go away.

                    How did we change? Either i bought a smaller roast and cooked less sides or I planned on the food covering a second meal. I was happy both with the way I felt in my belly and my wallet. So instead of sticking extra dollars and calories into the belly, plan a little better, weigh your food for a week or so to get an understanding of portion size to weight and you will feel better in many ways.

                    I can not address the eat-out theory, but I shake my head at many places people eat. Not in a condenscending manner, but the healthlessness in what they put in there bodies in one sitting is just so damned depressing.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: jfood

                      for a few weeks i was measuring my food too. i often cook just for one, but make a big pot of something to last a few days. a cup of cereal or a cup of lentils was a lot smaller than i'd imagined. every so often i double check, but i have a good idea now of how full my bowl should look.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        Cereal is one of those areas I don't care about portion size. Unless I'm eating something really sugary, I feel like I can handle a double portion of Honey Bunches of Oats. It's better than some of the other options out there.

                        I do agree that weighing your food, or properly measuring it can definitely give perspective. The one that really got me was juice...I used to drink big glasses of OJ and I eventually realized that I was getting way too much sugar from it. That 8 oz glass doesn't stretch as far, but it's nice to know what I'm getting.

                        1. re: MeAndroo

                          and a recommended serving of juice is actually 4 oz!