Sunday, May 17, 2009

Heavy-handed chefs pile it on

I often use restaurants in my books as a convenient location for characters to interact and discuss matters of importance to the plot. I mention what they order but don’t usually go into detail about the food or their reaction to it. Considering one of my pet peeves these days, I may change that in the next book.

I could have Jill McKenzie tell her husband, Greg, “They put entirely too much food on that plate. You don’t need more than half of it.”

She gets on his case now and then about overeating. He has a weight problem.

I don’t have a weight problem because I’m not a big eater. My wife and I dine out once or twice a week, and one point on which we agree is that restaurants overload our plates with food. Maybe it’s an age thing. I don’t know. A lot of our friends express the same feeling. It isn’t unusual for us to get a take-out box and haul half of our meal back home. It gives us a handy lunch the next day, but a warmed-over plate is rarely up to par with its original savoriness (is that a word?).

You can get a modest meal at a fast food place, but the modesty is only in the portions, not the ingredients like fats and sodium. Of course, you can get stuff with little nutritional value in regular restaurants, but you usually have more choices that will offer acceptable healthy food value.

I think the nicer eating establishments would attract more business, especially from those of us eligible for an AARP card, if they put a smaller meal option on the menu with a slightly reduced price. They would also save a lot of waste from plates that come back with meals only half eaten. If you’re on a trip, you don’t want to carry half your dinner back to the motel.

Considering my Scottish heritage, I prefer the thrifty lifestyle. Which means we use coupons whenever possible. Red Lobster, Olive Garden, O’Charley’s, and Logan’s Roadhouse are good about supplying us with a few dollars off now and then. It makes us feel a little better when we face a platter piled with enough food to satisfy a one-hump camel.

Broccoli is a flagrant example of the pile-it-on mentality. They love to fill one side of your plate with the pretty green bloomlets. George Herbert Walker Bush hated the stuff. My wife won’t touch it, either. It’s rich in vitamin K, a no-no for folks who take warfarin. I sometimes manage to eat close to half of it.

If it’s something easy to divvy up, like crab cakes, we’ll get one order and split it. But some restaurants charge extra for sharing. Like it costs them several bucks more to wash an extra plate and fork. Heck, they’ll give you utensils and a napkin if you only order coffee.

Okay, enough ranting. I’ll get ‘em when I write my next book. I won’t name names, though. The only thing worse than an overloaded dinner plate is a hungry lawyer.

1 comment:

Bo Parker said...

Since I live alone and do not have a great relationship with the various “power tools” in the kitchen, I eat in restaurants quite a bit. I have taken to telling the server when I place my order, “Please bring me a to-go box up front.”

It becomes a two or three for one deal for me. Enough food comes home for one or two more meals. The best deal is ordering an entrée that includes a salad. I box up the entrée and eat the salad.

My biggest gripe is the price for drinks. I’m old fashioned. I love coffee with a meal, even a salad, but danged if I will pay two dollars or more for a cup, even with unlimited refills. I order a glass of water with lemon, even with breakfast. One waitress asked me if I was sure I didn’t want a cup of coffee with the breakfast I had ordered. I told her no, saying, “The price of the cup of coffee I will not drink will be your tip.” She smiled and said, “I understand.”
Bo Parker