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Not So Light Lunches

March 11, 2019

Restaurant portions can be preposterous. This isn’t just an Albany thing. This is an America thing. And it’s not an issue that has popped up overnight. This has been going on for a long long time. Heck, I remember going out for a French dinner in Miami two decades ago, and ordering the duck confit for diner. It’s a heavy dish on its own, with a duck leg and thigh slowly cooked in its own rendered fat, but it’s one of my favorite indulgences.

Well, this restaurant served a double portion for dinner. That’s two leg-thighs, and that’s simply too much of a good thing.

Thankfully, going out for lunch can be less of a ridiculous exercise in excess. Lunch portions are blessedly smaller than what restaurants will serve during the dinner service. One of my favorite dishes at one of my favorite fancy San Francisco restaurants came with two salmon fillets at dinner, but only one at lunch. As much as I enjoyed this restaurant, the dinner portion was just stupid.

Recently, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to serving sizes. It’s how I’ve been able to drop a lot of excess weight over the past few months. Not by starving myself, but rather only eating until I’m no longer hungry. It’s helped to eat a lot more lunches at home, and I’m lucky to have a flexible schedule which allows for such a luxury.

But for the past few days, I found myself at restaurants for the midday meal. Despite my best efforts, I totally failed at moderation. And at some point, I think restaurants bear at least some responsibility in the fattening of America.

Friday I was in Troy, and more than anything I wanted the mapo tofu from Red and Blue.

They even have a lunch special so you can get a plate of it with rice and a salad for seven bucks. It’s a good deal, and presumably a smaller portion than the ten dollar entree size. Ideally, lunch should be a perfect individual serving.

Except for the fact that it isn’t. That was a lot of food. And I ate it all. There wasn’t much choice. When lunch was over, I had to head back to a robotics competition at RPI. It was either eat the food I was served, or have it go to waste and be sent to the landfill.

Saturday I had another shot at a moderate lunch, but this time the failure was my own.

The one thing I wanted most of all was a hot piece of Ali Baba’s lavash and one of their cold vegetable salads. As I read over the menu, it was far too tempting to ditch my plan and order the small mezze. For just a few dollars more, instead of one vegetable salad, I could have a few different ones on my plate.

Even the small lavash looks comically large, however most of that is air. But it was the small plate filled with vegetables that did me in. Despite my best efforts, I could not finish the food. And when I left, I felt uncomfortably full.

What I should have done was ordered a bowl of the lentil soup and a small lavash. As they say, hindsight is 20/20.

Sunday, didn’t get much better. Although once again, I tried to prioritize vegetables.

At Roosters for brunch I asked the kitchen to put together an omelet of spinach, broccoli, and onions with jalapeno cheese. For the sake of reducing my intake of white flour I took a pass on the toast, but I said yes to the home fries. My only issue here is with the ubiquity of the three egg omelet. For me, the two egg omelet is the sweet spot. You might say, it’s only one more egg. But I’ll come right back at you and say it’s 50% more eggs than the more sensibly sized portion.

The biggest failure at brunch was my own. Because while a three egg omelet might be large and in charge, even after I was done and no longer hungry, I was still tempted to share a dessert.

Splitting that outrageously large lobster tail pastry down the middle was surely a meal’s worth of calories on its own. And all I really wanted was a bite. All the same, I enjoyed every last morsel. Mostly I was having fun with my brunch companion, and didn’t want to leave.

Regret didn’t sink in until later that day, when I got on the scale and saw the impact the past few days had on my overall body mass. So now it’s time to be good once again. To get back up on that horse. To make smarter decisions. To avoid temptation and menu traps. To maybe even get exercising again.

In the meantime, I’ll use this platform to call for smaller restaurant portions once again, in the vain hope that someone out there will listen. Larger portions are seen as giving customers more of what they want, they are perceived as a sign of good value, or maybe even generosity. However, in reality, they are warping consumer perceptions of what a reasonably sized meal looks like. And at their worst, they are complicit in the fattening of America.

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