Here in the United States, around the latter part of the 19th century, there was a club. Besides memebership dues, club members had to maintain a minimum weight requirement, and club dinners were nothing short of gluttonous extravaganzas. The basic premise of this club -The larger you were physically, the more social status you had.
During the Gilded Age, meal time was an exercise in etiquette and rituals. Dinners of this era often included numerous courses. Epic meals requiring different pieces of silverware stretching out on both sides of the plate. There was literally a utensil for everything, and as Kathy Bates portraying the inimitable Molly Brown put it, “Just start from the outside and work your way in.” A dinner menu from The Waldorff Astoria Hotel, in New York City ca. 1900 shows listings for a cup of Consomme for .25, Canape Waldorf, Broiled Squab, Chicken a la King, and Wesselrode Pudding.
During this time, the days of the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts, and the club above, these “fat cats”, while wealthy indeed, surely must have been in a certain amount of physical discomfort. Bloated, gaseous, and in pain.
As a culture we have a thing about size. From flat screens, to vehicles, to coffee cups, seemingly everything has to be big. In Part I of this series I mention a certain fast food chain that removed “Super Size” from it’s verbage. And good for them. Increasing my order should be a personal thing, right?
After spending a few years in the Food & Beverage industry, I can say that encouraging customers to try an appetizer, or special of the day is par for the course. Being a somewhat frugal person myself, I encouraged tables to share items all the time – much to the chagrin of management. People seemed to appreciate it, as we’ve all had suzy-and-sammy-the-upsellers trying to convice us to order what they think is “phenomenal.”
When it comes down to the amount on the plate the chef de cuisine has decided, is considered a portion. Yes, they are proud of their creations, and have dedicated their skills and talented selves to culinary chicness. That being said, most are not counting macros. Nor should they. After all, we chose to go out to eat. Having sold everything from fois gras to chicken tenders, I can say that unless you have a serious allergy that requires attention, making your experience more healthy is really up to you.
There are ways of being mindful when we go out. Little changes, (and some, not so little) that can make a big difference – for our waistlines, as well as our wallets. Just as pushy waitstaff and haughty chefs are no fun, “create your own dish” customers aren’t either. Stick to these simple tips to help make dining out as guilt-less as possible.
Tip #1 Skip dessert. Make that decision before you even check your coat. More often than not, that slice of delight has more calories than the entree.
Tip #2 Sharing is caring. It helps cut down on calories, too. Whether an appetizer of crispy calamari, or house salad, don’t be shy to offer if others would like to split. But don’t be a cheapsake when the final bill comes. Pitch in accordingly. That goes for the gratuity as well.
Tip #3 Don’t feel rushed. Often times people make hasty decisions because of large menus with too many options, or impatient servers trying to turn their tables. Take your time.
Tip #4 Opt to take some home. It isn’t like growing up, when you had to clean your plate before you could get up from the table. Ask for a doggie bag.
Tip #5 On the side. The kitchen can get over this. Dressings, sauces, and the decorative drizzle, anything that can be, have it put on the side.
It has been recommended that we chew bites of dense foods up to thirty times. That takes effort. Both the Gilded and Bling Bling Ages are over. It isn’t nescessary, nor is it chic to gorge down everything in site.