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The Meal Question Raises Its Head

July 23, 2018

Once again, I’m on the road. Greetings from Manhattan!

Today, we’re going to keep this short and sweet, and I’m hoping that some of you will help with the important work of answering a question that flummoxes me time and time again. Because here’s the funny part. When I sat down to write today’s post, I started with the headline “What Makes A Meal?” only to realize that I wrote the identical post eighteen months ago!

However, back then I only got one response to the question. Maybe people weren’t taking it seriously enough. Maybe my call wasn’t quite so desperate. So let me try, once again, to put the question in its appropriate context.

I’m trying to eat better. And to me, that means eating modest portions of real food when I’m hungry, and stopping when that hunger subsides.

For the record, that’s different from being full. And being hungry is different from simply wanting to eat. There are many reasons to eat. Hunger is just one of them.

We’ll talk more about hunger and food insecurity later this week.

So yesterday I went to a dumpling place in the city for lunch. While I ate moderately, I still went a little further than I needed. But there was all this food, and it was so delicious. Don’t worry, I’m not beating myself up about it. However, one of my dining companions observed that I didn’t actually eat all that much. Which may objectively be true.

One of the things that I’m finding as I grow older, is that I don’t need as much food to be full. Blame a slowing metabolism. If there is anything that will get me running, it will be the promise of an increased appetite and metabolism. Although I’m not quite that desperate… yet.

For dinner, I went to a fancy restaurant with my sister and sat at the bar. I had a cocktail. She had a cider. Together, we split an order of gnocchi, a side dish of cauliflower, and a small plate of three mini donuts for dessert.

I wasn’t just “not hungry” after that. I was legitimately full. But the question is:

Was it a meal?

The side question is, “What does it take for you to consider something to be a meal?” Because I run into this problem all the time when cooking dinner for Mrs. Fussy. And as I’ve asked this question to others, I’ve come across some fascinating and unexpected responses.

So please, don’t for a minute think that whatever you have to say is so obvious it doesn’t deserve a comment. Because I’m completely lost on this one. The diversity of opinions is staggering.

Of course, I have my own idea, but it seems to be at odds with those around me.

I can’t wait to see the answers come in today. Although please don’t expect any responses from me in the short term, I’ll be tied up in meetings all day. After the meetings will be the business dinner. And I may not have a meal there either. Or maybe I will. We’ll just have to wait and see what you write below.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. HokieMom permalink
    July 23, 2018 10:09 am

    a meal vs. eating – thinking out loud here- a sit, and eat a meal, vs eating something, as I think about it, it involves a table also and a plate and silverware – I guess it’s more about the surroundings than the elements – eating chips and dip at the tv for supper is not a meal, but eating at the table with a plate w/ celery, dip and a protein – that’s good. hmmm – enjoy your day

  2. July 23, 2018 11:03 am

    What a wonderfully simple, complicated question! At first, I thought of nutritional balance being a key component, but then I remembered pizza and nachos. Or maybe it’s dependent on the quantity of food,​ but I’ve called a small salad a meal on occasion. And the fact that just a bowl of rice is a meal for far too many people in the world shoots down both of those theories. When push comes to shove, I think a meal is whatever you make it, and the definition can change day to day depending on your mood (if you’re lucky enough to be food secure) or availability (if you’re not).

  3. July 23, 2018 11:07 am

    A meal is enough that you feel satiated and not distracted by hunger, weakness or low blood sugar… but not enough that you can’t do an appropriate add-in if the opportunity presents itself. Case in point: in SF, where I am visiting, I had mohinga stew and tea leaf salad from a stall in the civic center farmer’s market for lunch and felt I was good to go, but there was still room for a tray of uni I encountered an hour later in Japantown.

  4. albanylandlord permalink
    July 23, 2018 10:23 pm

    I’m creating my opinion on the spot… but I think I like it!

    A Meal is when I eat enough food that I expect it will tide me over until whenever my next meal is given that there are usually 3 meals in a day for me.

  5. marcus batson permalink
    July 30, 2018 4:12 pm

    For me a meal is the amount of food I need to satisfy either my hunger or nutrition preferences. This is usually two meals (Breakfast and Lunch or Lunch and Dinner) for me. My meals normally have a meat and vegetable or Bread/Starchy like item if I am being lazy.

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