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Oct 5, 2009 10:43 AM

I am Increasingly Bored with Western Style Dining

Bottom line is I want more veggies.

Increasingly I find my self kinda bored with Western style dining.

Dinky salad with itsy greens, too much cheese/dressing/nuts

Served with one of the following as a main, alternatively:

Big portion of protein: steak, fish, stew, burger (which I don't finish and take 1/2 of home)


Big portion of pasta which often has too much cream, meat, etc associated with it

I love a good steak, chop, piece of fish, but usually I find I need 1/3 of your average portion.

Then, I find myself in a battle to get enough veg.

At a recent dinner in Boston I wanted a large bowl of gumbo and two veg sides ($5 each) and was warned that the veg sides were tiny and I probably would not be full. So I got the big meaty main, for the same price, and once again gorged on meat.

I find myself going more often to Asian places where I know I stand a fighting chance of actually getting some veggies. And honestly, even the protein dishes are more artfully, interestingly prepared.

Even Mexican and South American, though often light on the veg, are at least more interesting and tasty.

How often do I want a large (fill in the blank, grilled roasted, broiled, baked) slab of animal protein slathered in some (again fill in the blank, peppercorn, aioli, crem) sauce.

Most of the world, certainly 50 years ago, just does not eat this way. To some extent I guess it is really the cuisine of affluence.

Typical meal I make for myself at home: large bowl of fish soup with lots of local tomato and corn (emphasis on the veg, light on the fish) fresh baked bread, and a large side of rappini. When I am done I feel full, happy, and healthy. Not stuffed and wheezing on fatty beef.

I feel that increasingly I want to eat like a poor peasant somewhere. Simple natural flavors, heavy on the veg and carb, a dash of tasty protein.

I recently had a delicious meal where I was served nearly a pound of duck and prosciutto. My salad was tiny and cheesy, the main had no veg at all. Dessert was a HUGE glob of ice cream and cake. It tasted great. I felt sick when I was done.

I am just plain burnt out on the American gorge fest. No wonder so many of us weigh 200 pound plus.

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  1. I don't see what your problem is, living in an area where you can find the type of cuisine you prefer. And at home you can eat a vegetable-centred diet. I don't like overly meat-heavy food either. So that isn't what I usually eat.

    18 Replies
    1. re: lagatta

      Yes, but if I want to eat at any place that has a decent vibe, serves a nice cocktail, or has a reasonable wine list, I am basically out of luck.

      1. re: StriperGuy

        This is the more interesting hypothesis: one cannot get a decent vibe, a nice cocktail, and a reasonable wine list other than with boring western style dining.

        That may be part of the reason I drink good wines at home, served with NON-western style dining.

        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Striper, yes this can be a problem in certain places. Don't idealise all of "South American" cuisine. In countries where the Indigenous cultures developed a sophisticated cuisine, such as Peru (and of course the same can be said for Mexico in North America) you do find a "non-Western cuisine", despite colonial influences, but my closest friends from South America hail from the Southern Cone countries (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay)... Meat-centred cuisine in spades down there, and not always a great choice of veg.

          I take it you are from the Boston area, hardly a cultural backwater. Here in Montréal (not a long trip) you might enjoy some of our broadly Middle Eastern restaurants, where although there is certainly meat and fish there is an abundance of all kinds of veg. (And some have very good wine lists).

          No, I'm not about to reserve for our famous meat-heavy Au Pied du Cochon, but there are lots of other places to eat. I'd think the strong academic presence in and around Boston would mean a lot of vegetarian restaurant patrons. And of course you have fish. (yum).

          1. re: lagatta

            You kind of miss my point; which is: Veg is good, and eventually most contemporary Euro/American preps are just boring.

            I had a very nice dinner at a Chilean place recently, which, though somewhat meat/fish oriented was at least interesting.

            I'd rather eat what a traditional (fill in the blank, Italian, Aussie Aborigine, Sami, Innuit, French, Vietnamese, Hmong, Hopi, Mayan, Uighur, Basque, Scotch, Dane, Yoruba, Akan, Wolof, Fante, Masai, etc) would eat prior to the modern era, than the boring hunk o' protein fare that is increasingly ubiquitous around the world!

            1. re: StriperGuy

              I think you may be building a food elitism case for yourself there, and maybe for the wrong reason. The overuse of meat has become, for better or worse, a symbol of prosperity and hospitality due to its scarcity in so many cultures, historically even if not currently.It was symbolic of being a good host, which of course everybody wants to be. It got out of control at some point, certainly.

              I remember reading a travel article where the writer realized during a dinner with a local family somewhere far from the USA, that he had just eaten the whole family's meat ration for probably a week.

              In the 21st century, it's so easy to get a culturally diverse meal with or without meat, I can't help wondering why you're making it sound like it's hard to get away from meat, because it isn't.

              1. re: EWSflash

                "The overuse of meat has become, for better or worse, a symbol of prosperity and hospitality."

                I don't disagree, in fact that is my point, I don't enjoy it.

                From above: "if I want to eat at any place that has a decent vibe, serves a nice cocktail, or has a reasonable wine list, I am basically out of luck."

              2. re: StriperGuy

                I hear complaints all the time from my Italian and Vietnamese friends about how bored they are with Scotch, Danish, Yoruban, Hopi, Mayan, Uighur, Hmong and Masai cuisine, and about how grateful they are that Western American cuisine is so much different from the others which are predominated by vegetables. And who ever found a vegetable on a menu in Mexico? Actually, I have a home in Mexico and my enlightened Mexican friends are sensitive about the lack of vegetables in their diets.

                1. re: LRunkle

                  But even traditional Mexican food, though perhaps a bit light on greens, was largely vegetable based: rice, corn, nopales, potatos, meat traditionally was a luxury.

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    rice, corn, potatoes?????

                    the western diet does not lack in carbs and starches i.e. rice, corn, potatoes

                2. re: StriperGuy

                  I was going to say you sound bored with what you normally get. Elitist? Possibly, but that would fit me too then. In between my cooking, I have to work at finding restaurants and dishes that aren't the same ol' same ol'. Often Thai or Chinese fills the bill.

                  In my opinion you can usually find an entree that fits your criteria. We often just eat appetizers, do tapas or gussied-up salads. I like salmon and tuna on salads.
                  When it comes to huge steaks, half a duck or a whole rack of ribs, I'm with you. The large servings and the excess borders on disgusting to me. I'd rather not have to get food "wrapped" or "to go" all the time. That ends up generating waste. If I eat out I often order fish because the portions are smaller. I then fix meats at home and have portions and combinations to my liking. You won't catch me at steak houses.
                  I don't know that you want to eat like a peasant. Peasant Mexican, for example: much of it is nothing but carbs and fat and it's often boring.

                  1. re: Scargod

                    Scar, Steve, go Korean! Very different, lots of veggies, don't do the beaten to death bulgogi & kalbi, try the porridges and fish stews. Find a good place like Seoul in New Haven. Let me know what you find.
                    Go to a vegetarian resto!

                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                      I live near Annandale, Virginia which has about thirty or so Korean restaurants, some with no sign in English and no English spoken, so I've been to a few in my time. If you ever visit your progeny in this area, give me a shout and we can check out the goods.

                      1. re: Steve

                        Yes, we will. W got a kid in Falls Church!
                        I'm feeling So Juish! We can't even buy it up here and there is not a single solo Korean resto in Maine!

                        1. re: BobB

                          When I was dared by my kids to eat live baby octopus, I got very juish! What a man!

                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                            Before kid we used to make pilgrimages to Koreana in Cambridge to hang out next to the suji-soaked college boys. There are, I've heard, better places than that in Boston now but we haven't had a chance to explore them.

                            Maine is late to the Korean love-fest but it's around. If it hasn't closed by now, Happy Teriyaki in Portland is actually Korean. So there's been one. There used to be a couple more halves of one (Nara in S. Portland and Fuji on Exchange) but Fuji quit serving the stone pot bibimbap that was the only reason to go there, and Nara used to be better.

                            1. re: the_MU

                              thanks, mu. I used to go to Fuji, but stopped for that reason. I am aware of Happy Teriyaki, but haven't been yet. Sad it has to have a Jap. name to succeed. Sad too, it is a 3 1/2 hr drive to Portland; spending the weekend gets expensive. Surprisingly, we eat good Korean when we visit our daughter (this feb.). I am planning a trip to either LA or SF for April vacation and lots of good Korean dining and saving up for another trip to Seoul in June. My mom used to love the cod stew at a place near her house in NJ and I would bring back my so ju fix.

                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                Right, soju not suji -- I'm not much of a drinker :) Is your daughter in Seoul?

                                The non-western food thing got drummed into me early on -- we rented rooms in our house in a college town. One of our renters was Korean. I must've been 17 at the time. Made a huge impression on me when her mom came at graduation and cooked this enormous picnic spread. Most vividly remember the jellyfish salad. Never seen it on a menu, but I don't read Korean. I went with a coworker to a Korean place in northern NJ, called, with great imagination, Koreana, and they had the jellyfish salad. She didn't know what it was called in Korean.

                                Suji -- When I was in college mom rented to a South Indian postdoc, who taught me to fill barathas, and that some dishes can't have too many curry leaves, and that on some specific days her religion dictated that she must eat potatoes, peanuts and tapioca pearls cooked with cumin and chili. Yum. Suji is semolina and is used to make, among other things, uppama, a pilaf-style dish that I still cook frequently but have bastardized by loading it up with extra veggies to turn it into less of a starch-fest. Taught to me in its somewhat more original form by our Indian roomie.

                                There was a Korean restaurant in Tappan, NY called Ocean Garden. I loved that place -- I wrote about it on Chowhound about 10 years ago. Got a haemul chigae there once that must've had sea cucumber in it, but nobody knew what the thing was called in English. Whatever it was, it was the only seafood I've ever eaten that I didn't think actually tasted like food. We were the only non-Koreans I ever saw in there. Went back there a couple of years ago, there was no sign of Ocean Garden, and Food World, the Korean IGA across the street with the giant kimchi bar, looked like it had been closed for months. Very sad.

                3. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Striperguy, I see your point. I often am stuck when dining with friends who want a lot of veggie choices but still want a full bar and a nice atmosphere/music which is why I so often cook at home, especially for my vegetarian friends. I hate to drag someone to a restaurant with one choice for them.

            2. I do know what you mean. It often seems like the meat or fish is the "star of the show", on the menu and on the plate, and very little thought is put into what small bit of vegetable goes along with it. Since I eat out very infrequently, I don't mind so much (since I do appreciate nice fish or meat), and get my veggies at home where we are sort of half-way vegetarians.

              1. There are no rules.

                You can order both sides of a meal to be a salad or vegetable and cut the meat portion in half as soon as it is placed in front of you and don't eat it/as for it to be wrapped to take home.

                You can order all vegetable sides to go with soup. Even if they "warn" you it may not be enough, then ask for a third after/if you see how small the first two are.

                You can ask for salad dressing 'on the side' and dip your fork in it then into the lettuce. You can ask for a smaller serving of sauce/gravy-or have that on the side...or scrape it away.

                Bottom line, you are the consumer and can get what you want/crave. I've seen pregnant women an young children do it all the time. I really don't know why you are complaining. You can't change the eating habits of others, but you can satisfy your own.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Cathy

                  You are kind of missing the point as well.

                  At either one of the restaurants above, with the size of their veggie sides, I would have had to pay $40 to get a decent portion.

                  At one, even undressed the salad was PACKED with cheese and nuts with a bit of spinach.

                  I don't like to be the high maintenance diner or spend $80 for a meal of veggies. If I did what you suggest at either of the restaurants I am using as an example, here is what my order would sound like:

                  - Can I have three salads, hold the cheese, hold the nuts, hold the dressing, Oh, ah do you have any extra beets, those beets are really good and there are so few in the salad.

                  - And then for my main course I would like three sides of greens, three sides of squash, and three sides of string beans

                  - Then I will also have the Bluefish (which I will only eat 30% of) with the sauce on the side

                  This would cost me: $8 salad X 3, Veggie sides $5 X 9, Bluefish entree 1 X $24. There, per your suggestion I got the meal exactly how I want it for $88. The wait staff now think I am SUPER high maintenance and insane. Insane I may be, but I dread being the high maintenance diner in a restaurant.

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    I don't think eating out is for you. You are right that many mainstream restaurants in the US/Canada serve large meat portions. HOWEVER, many also have healthy choices on the menu as well, sometimes 8-10 portion controlled/heavy veggie options. I don't think that Western dining is boring, because most of Western dining is a mix of many cultures. The entrees are inspired by other cultural tastes. You keep saying that people are not getting your point. Maybe your point is not reasonable or well thought-out.

                    1. re: cookieluvntasha

                      Hmmm, for lunch today I had lunch at a Taiwanese place: Chinese watercress with beef in Sa Cha sauce on Jasmine rice. 90% watercress a smidge of beef, lots of spicy sauce. Delicious, healthy, tasty all in one. Couldn't even eat all of it, but wow it was good, and the type of food I LOVE.

                      Of the 50 top Western restaurants here in Boston I don't know three that have "8-10 portion controlled/heavy veggie options." Not sure where you live, but even in NYC you have to go out of your way to find a restaurant that meets your criteria.

                      So I got out 2-3 nights a week, and when I am not eating Asian food, bring home big hunks of protein leftovers, and make do.

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        You ate in the style I've eaten all my life. I have a slab of meat ("Western Style") maybe once a year.

                    2. re: StriperGuy

                      Seriously? A place is charging $8 for a side salad and you think $88 is too much for a meal?

                      Is the bluefish entree a la cart anyhow or does it come with one or two sides, thus eliminating the need to order so many additional sides at once?

                      I would not order as much as you have as an initial order. I would probably order 2 of each at most and see if I was still hungry and then order another side or three...

                      Re: salads- I always ask for dressing on the side and no cheese. Plenty of lactose intolerant out there and it is not a "high maintenance" request. Same with nut allergies.

                      Really, if you are going to higher end places as described, you should order exactly what you want.

                      If you started this post to somehow want to change Western Style meals, that is not going to happen. Making it your own wherever you are eating out is how you get to eat what you think is a good meal.

                      ...there are no rules...

                  2. We live in a country where poor people are fat.

                    Once upon a time, it was a laudable goal that everybody in our country would have enough protein and carbohydrates to be safe from starvation. And we've made it happen: a chunk o' cheap meat and some bread / pasta / rice / potatoes have become available to almolst everybody, and Americans have grown taller and stronger than ever before.

                    The problem is that now we're just getting fatter. Commodity meat and processed carbs (including high fructose corn syrup) deserve credit for getting us where we are. But we have to look at the law of unintended consequences.

                    As someone whose appetite consistently stays a step ahead of his metabolism, I can identify with the conundrum. What's good for a 20-year-old isn't necessarily good for a 40-year-old. And what was best for the average American in 1939 isn't what's best for the average American in 2009.

                    We need to change our societal attitude toward consumption. There was a time when the main dietary shortages were of protein and carbs. We've now eliminated those shortages, in large part with plentiful, cheap meat and simple carbs like HFCS. But now that we've satisfied those basic needs, we need to move on to providing a more complete diet.

                    Hopefully the changes can come sooner rather than later. But the only way anything will change is if folks start insisting that what they eat at home and in restaurants be comprised more of real food and less of factory farmed meat and highly processed carbs.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      You are really hitting home with my main point:

                      "We need to change our societal attitude toward consumption... we need to move on to providing a more complete diet... if folks start insisting that what they eat at home and in restaurants be comprised more of real food and less of factory farmed meat and highly processed carbs."

                      Nevermind that what the "gob of protein and carb" diet is doing to our health and the national cost of healthcare.

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        interesting...i live in a country where rich people are fat too :)

                        1. re: LaLa

                          Rich people are fat everywhere. Fat poor people are a relatively new phenomenon, and largely limited to the industrialized West.

                        2. re: alanbarnes

                          Alan, that post was downright eloquent. And I didn't feel like it was a dig at my fat *ss, which I also appreciate!

                          1. re: Vetter

                            Those of us who live in glass houses know better than to cast stones.

                        3. Dude you should come to England for a Sunday roast. Quite normal to be served with 6 different veg: Broad beans, cabbage, carrots, green beans, swede, roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, peas...

                          It's all a bit much O__O