Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Growing Appetite for Smaller Portions

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Growing Appetite for Smaller Portions

Article excerpt

For decaded, the comic-strip character Dagwood Bumstead was a man ahead of his time, at least when the subject turned to food.

Whenever he wanted a midnight snack, Dagwood would tiptoe into the kitchen and make a huge sandwich, piling it high with meats, cheeses, lettuce, and anything else he might find in the refrigerator. His towering creations in "Blondie" became famous in real life, a novelty that thrust the phrase "Dagwood sandwich" into popular usage.

The restaurant industry took a cue. Now Dagwood-style servings are typical everywhere. In the past decade or so, sandwiches and other items on menus have ballooned in size. Restaurant plates are larger, too, to accommodate the added food.

From heaping mounds of pasta to giant steaks and all-you-can-eat buffets, the prevailing philosophy appears to be: Load up the platters. The more food the better. Customers will pay more, but they'll think they're getting good value for their money.

Paul Bunyan lives - or at least Paul Bunyan-size appetites supposedly do. But do they? For many restaurant patrons, large portions are a source of irritation, a symbol of wasted food and money.

Yet the common restaurant attitude seems to be: Never mind if you can't clean your plate. Wasting food is the American way - there's more where that came from. "Waste not, want not" is meant for people in other, less fortunate cultures.

"Small" has become a word on the culinary endangered-species list. From McDonald's "supersize" menu to Starbucks' extra-large venti cups, oversized portions have become a point of pride. One Greek restaurant outside Boston describes its Strawberry Ice Cream Pie this way: "Huge ice cream cake topped with strawberries and whipped cream."

In the brash, puffed-up, wasteful 1990s, heaping plates might have suited the mood of the times. Today, in the leaner, more somber 21st century, those large servings seem out of place. …

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