What’s on the menu?

Castlegar News bi-weekly columnist weighs in on portion sizes

Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I love food, all kinds of food, well, maybe not squash. But other than that I adore all things about food. Not just eating food, but cooking food and shopping for food to name a couple. Heck, I read a cookbook the way a bibliophile reads a classic novel. Every. Single. Word.

Unfortunately, while I love good food, my appetite isn’t like it used to be. I guess that has something to do with aging, being sedentary and that in the last couple of years or so I have really learned what portion control means. As a consequence, my stomach’s ability to process plate after plate of food just isn’t there. One small, and I mean small, helping is good enough for me nowadays.

Seriously, my husband and I now split an average “portion” of food. He gets about three quarters and I take the remainder. That’s good enough for me and the wonderful side benefit is that I have lost a whack of weight over the last couple of years.

So here comes my newest pet peeve. Why are portion sizes so large? No wonder we have an obesity problem (although not as seriously as another unnamed country). Not only that, but there is a shameful lack of choices for senior citizens or those with a smaller appetite.

As examples let me present a couple of menu items from three well-known restaurants.

Restaurant A has a seniors’ menu which includes a grilled cheese sandwich (Please! I can make that at home for half the price. I’m dining out folks, not dining in! It also offers a senior soup and sandwich and a senior club sandwich. No fancy dining there.

Restaurant B doesn’t even have a seniors’ menu, but it does have a kids’ menu. You know, the typical chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese and hot dog offerings.

Well, I guess I was going to list three seniors’ menus for you, but despite extensive searching of the most popular chain restaurants I was only able to find the one listed above. But wait, all three did have kids’ menus.

Now, my ever helpful husband often suggests that I peruse the kids’ menu when a seniors’ menu isn’t available, but seriously, I don’t even bother because the menu is filled full of kids’ finger good, and quite honestly, their portion sizes aren’t any smaller than that of the adults.

So what to do? I have asked for a take-out container, and I am happy for the leftovers the next day, but it is excruciatingly embarrassing when I am bringing the lion’s share of the meal home. In fact, the comments that come with it sometimes make me want to crawl under the table. You know, things like, “Did you not like your food?” or “You eat like a bird” and so on.

Now, there are enterprising restaurants which have a plate charge of a dollar or more. Meaning, if you want to share a (humongous) meal with a spouse, for example, they will bring an extra plate but will charge you for doing so. A dollar a plate? Are you kidding me? I could buy a plate for a dollar.

So what does it hurt to offer a full seniors’ menu taken directly from the regular menu but offered in smaller portions? I’d be willing to pay a dollar or two over half price for that half plate. But no, they offer limited half portions and then charge you three-quarters of the original price. Something inside of me rankles at that, which then brings me back to the doggy bag option. No thanks.

Will somebody please get on the bandwagon and realize that we are an aging society? The baby boomers have definitely arrived with our not so big appetites but discerning palates. Seriously, you could make a killing on a properly designed menu for those with smaller appetites.

Okay. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Bon appetit!