Monday, February 04, 2008

Never Eat a Meal Larger Than Your Head

Large portions fill me with dread. At restaurants, I usually try to split a meal with a friend or take home leftovers. I am physically repulsed by the sight of a heaping portion of food. Dinner parties and holidays, however, are a special kind of hell.

Here's why. I was raised proper. I think it's sinful to waste food when so many people have so little. I eat what's put in front of me, I don't season my food until after I've tasted it, I clean my plate to the best of my ability, and I compliment the chef.

So why do I find dinners in other people's homes so stressful? Simply because I don't eat very much. I don't need to. I'm small, I don't run marathons, and I just don't need very much fuel. I tend to eat small meals and snacks at regular intervals, because a large meal all in one sitting makes me grumpy and ill.

If the host fixes my plate, it's usually about twice as much food as I can reasonably handle. So I enjoy the first half of the meal, and spend the second choking down one bite after another, hoping it will all be over soon. Then I have to sit very still for an hour and hope I don't die. Or, if I can't finish my plate, the host takes offense, or asks what's wrong with me because I don't have much of an appetite.

Last Christmas, I went home with a friend. His family are all hearty eaters, so my plates were fixed to match theirs. I had to take a nap after every meal, until I finally squawked and begged for pity. From then on, I received a "Shannon Portion": one forkful, delivered with a snarky grin. I just wish it hadn't taken me four days to speak up.

Maybe my plate-fixing dread is why I'm such a casual hostess. Guests help themselves in the kitchen, then sprawl around the apartment, gobbling the pulled pork or jambalaya I've cooked up that week.

And that's also why I will never, ever again eat at Logan Tavern. Don't get me wrong, it's a great restaurant. Tasty food and good service. But, the very sight of their portions turns my stomach. I split an entree with a fellow mini-chick, and we were both horribly sick and bloated for the rest of the night. Logan Tavern, if TWO people working together cannot clean one of your plates without becoming sick, it's just way too much food, and it's far too rich and heavy. I spent most of our after-dinner drinks curled up on a sofa, desperate to go home but too stuffed to move.

So, for restaurants, hosts, and any others who serve food: ask people how much they want. Offer half-portions. Don't make people feel guilty if they can't stomach a meal larger than their heads.

In other heaping portions and illness news, my last Restaurant Week review will go up this week.


Kristen S. said...

Some food does not reheat well, but I don't mind large portions of things like pasta or Thai food, but not seafood or steak with french fries.

Shannon said...

I'm not a fan of having to carry around a bag of food all night, plus, half the time I forget to take it with me!

I wonder if any DC restaurants offer half-portions. Or I just order an appetizer, and the waiter shoots me a dirty look. Ugh, no wonder America has an obesity problem.

Marissa said...

This is also a pet peeve of mine -- especially at Italian restaurants. I neither need nor want the entire box of spaghetti. I cannot eat it all at the restaurant and reheated pasta is super gnarly. Ironically, reading your post and writing this reply has made me slightly hungry...