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Jul 21, 2010 07:28 AM

Role Reversal? Will we ever see the day ...


Will we ever see the day when plants and grains reverse roles with animal proteins on American menus?

We've all seen those silly food pyramids and heard the mantras spewed by dietitians and health experts that Americans should eat less meat and more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

But the menu at most American style restaurants run counter to that.

Putting aside for a minute whether the menu selections are healthy. If one focuses just on the types of food being offered, animal proteins generally take center stage. Salads and soups are apps and things like roast chicken and pork chops are the mains.

No shock there.

But will there ever be a role reversal?

Will there ever be a day when one goes to a a steakhouse, lets take Luger's as an example, and see a porterhouse as an appetizer (at say a 4 ounce offering) and select from Caesar salads, Cobb Salads, Pasta Primavera, etc. as main course selections?

Maybe one day you'll go to McDonald's and get a "slider-sized" Big Mac and full-serving of sweet potato fries? One can dare to dream I suppose ...

  1. As a true carnivore I love this post. Not because I want to argue, but I find it so funny how things have changed. I grew up in a household that at everything, but we didn't ever have a theme (meaning we weren't strictly Italian, Irish, French, Vegetarian, Vegan, nor did we adhere to any sort of diets - Kosher, etc). My mother was an outstanding cook, but what I always remember and what has changed in my life due to others (especially the dining industry) is how we ate. A typical meal at my house was a protein and a veggie served. They were not ridiculous portions, but what would be considered small by today's neighborhood restaurant standards and surely by the standards of most homes. Say a chicken cutlet and a side of spinach. After the entree, we would dig into a monstrous bowl of salad. Usually helping ourselves to seconds, sometimes thirds. Then a small dessert. Two-three cookies, maybe a bowl of ice cream. As society changed, so did did my waistline.

    It would be nice to walk into a restaurant. Have a nice 4-6oz steak with a side. Then dig into a lovely Caeser salad for dinner. I always felt better finishing my dinner with salad and when my father and I get together for meals, that's still how we do it! As did his parents and my mother's parents and most of my friends growing up!

    1 Reply
    1. re: jhopp217

      >>> It would be nice to walk into a restaurant. Have a nice 4-6oz steak with a side. Then dig into a lovely Caeser salad for dinner

      There is nothing preventing you from doing that right now. Eat half the steak and take the other half home ,.. or share the entree with someone. Tell your waiter you will have salad after the entree.

      Which is what confuses me about the OP. If you want a salad, order a salad. There are tons of fast food places selling mini burgers which are the trend o the moment. Nothing to prevent you from ordering the salad at the fast food joint instead of the burger.

      If people did that, restaurants would start changing their focus. Carl's Jr. once had a lovely salad bar ... heck, decades ago the salad bar was almost the staple everywhere ... and now they are mostly gone.

      Restaurants will sell what people eat. There is a mention of Ubuntu in another post. It is all vegetarian and does amazing things. You just never notice the meat is missing. No tofu, brown rice or other tasteless usual veggie stuff. Yet, despite having earned a Michelan star ... it it always a hard sell to convince a visitor to go there.

      One note about meat size on restaurant plates. I'm currently living in Central America and one of the shocking things to me is being served normal-sized portions at restaurants ... from high-end to low-end. No mega-American portions ... more like what an upscale New American restaurant would serve in terms of portion. It still continues to surprise me every time.

    2. If this happened you'd see even more fat and sick people than you do now. And many places offer salads as entrees.

      3 Replies
      1. re: MandalayVA

        "If this happened you'd see even more fat and sick people than you do now."


        1. re: cowboyardee


          I think Mandalay said:

          "If this (role reversal; eating more meat) happened you'd see even more fat and sick people than you do now....."

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            No, I meant "if swapping out meat for more pasta and potatoes happened you'd see even more fat and sick people than you do now." Of course, no one ever considers saying "hey, why don't we go back to how it was when eating out was an occasional event and not an everyday thing?" If that happened this would be a moot point over what got offered in bigger quantities. It would be an Occasion and enjoyed more.

      2. There is a practical reason for the shift from produce to meat:

        Produce involves more space and waste/risk of loss. While a lot of produce is fine being stored frozen, a lot is not; meat, as a rule, can be frozen.

        The best forms of non-flesh food in terms of space and waste are grains and pulses. So I would expect those would be what you'd have to shift to, not produce so much.

        1. I say, yes. First, I see the educated, American home meals trending in this direction. It follows that some restaurants will follow and offer balanced, healthy meals for its patrons. Consequently, those who are inclined to eat such a diet will not refrain from dining out as frequently.

          Second, with the increase of better quality and varieties of produce, the role of fruits and vegetables on the restaurant plate should logically increase. The increasing number of "farm to table" type approaches lends itself to this concept. From a chef's point of view, the great "growth" in these ingredients is exciting and therefore provides more to work with when creating a dish.

          Third, I am optimistic that the confort food thing will finally dwindle down. Yes, there will always be greasy spoons, fast food franchises, and deep-fried everything at County fairs. However, I think the "we feel sorry for ourselves" mantra from the zeitgeist has gotten old. It's time for a new song. Sooner or later I won't be the only one who can no longer stand to see "mac-n-cheese" on a menu . . .

          1. Plants and grains won't ever change places with meat due to humans' voluntary preferences.

            However, circumstances will continue to play a large role. I understand that Chinese meat consumption is rising, now that their economy can produce more of it..

            I think that inherently meat tastes better than grains or vegetables. This is not to say that I would want a purely Atkins-like diet, but a steak has inherently more flavor than lettuce, broccoli and cucumbers or potatoes.

            3 Replies
            1. re: gfr1111

              "I think that inherently meat tastes better than grains or vegetables"

              Really? I'm not disputing it nor arguing with you. I'm just curious where you get this opinion from.

              Certainly there are times when I crave a nice juicy ribeye, but if I sit down and think about it I'm not so sure that I "inherently" prefer a ribeye to a ripe juicy peach.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                I agree. Yesterday at lunch, I enjoyed an heirloom tomato that I had pulled from the vine perhaps 90 minutes before and dressed simply with some sea salt. Today, I enjoyed some beets I had roasted a couple nights ago on the grill and prepared the same way as the previous day's tomato. Each had more inherent flavor than the pork chops I am able to buy at the supermarket.

                On the other hand, on both days, I also enjoyed a couple slices of the beef jerky I made. The beef had more flavor than all of the rest. Then again, much of that flavor was derived from plant materials - soy sauce, garlic, Bulgarian carrot pepper.

              2. re: gfr1111

                I disagree that meat inherently tastes better than grain or vegetables. Taste is individual. I ate beef for the first 20 years for my life, and enjoyed it. For the past 20 years, I eat much more veggies, fruits, grains, and less so chicken and fish. I haven't eaten beef at all except for the occasional bite of someone's else's meal.

                Now, when I take a bite of beef, it tastes bland and boring to me, unless it is heavily seasoned. I have simply lost my taste for beef, and am no longer accustomed to it. It bores me. Chicken and fish are fine, but hold no special flavor allure.

                Tastes develop in part out of becoming accustomed to them. They are not inherent.