Andrew Fryer wrote:This whole thread has been difficult for me, because the devil is in the detail.
I used to live next to an Indian restaurant, so I knew the owner well, ate too much of his food (but they use vegetable oil, almost never ghee), ate way too much cheese too. Had a heart-attack.
Firstly, the benign view: the food is the cheapest of a restaurant's outlays, so a restaurant is mean if it doesn't offer enough.
Secondly: you don't have to eat everything on the plate.
Thirdly: I've seen food shows on the cookery channel, and you need to ask about the quality as well as the quantity of the food. How many times have I seen people on American TV eat a pound of steak and a pound of deep-fried onions and a pound of melted cheese all held in a giant buttered bun? I once saw a sequence of three shows and the food was nutritionally the same in each: - fat, protein, fat, protein, fat, in a sandwich.
You are right that the cost of the food is less than the cost of the labor to cook and serve it.
You are also correct in stating that you don't have to eat everything on the plate. That is the strategy I use on the rare occasion I eat out at a restaurant. When traveling, one has no option but to throw away what is not eaten, lacking any way to refrigerate leftovers, and there are many people who cannot bring themselves to do that and thus "clean the plate".
While growing up, I remember being served a plate of food by my grandmother and told to eat it all, because children were starving in [name of country currently suffering famine] and they were not as lucky as I was to have enough to eat. Notice that I said she served me the plate of food, not that I served myself with the portion commensurate with my hunger. I was not allowed to leave the table unless I ate it all ( or was able to delay long enough for the adults to give up-- an hour or so after the meal had finished). I do think that I should serve myself only what I know I will eat.
Except for buffets and family style restaurants where you serve yourself, the portion size is controlled by the kitchen. The chefs in many restaurants will add extra fat to something ( one chef told me that every dish will be more flavorful if enhanced with a pat of butter just before serving--even on a steak!) because we are hardwired to crave it and the flavor it carries. Eating out used to be an occasional indulgence, but now the average American eats 30% of their meals away from home. You can see why the average waistline has increased.
What disgusts me the most is what passes for a kid's menu at restaurants. White flour, cheese, processed meats, breaded and fried, with white potatoes as the vegetable. When we were traveling in the southern US, we stopped to get something to eat. At least they had a decent salad bar. For the kid's menu:
Macaroni and cheese
Grilled cheese sandwich
Fried chicken nuggets
Spaghetti with butter or tomato sauce.
At the table next to us, the already plump children had spaghetti with butter and grated cheese, French fries and a Coke.
Oh, don't forget the bread placed on the table made of white flour. With butter.
I'm sure their little ( but expanding) bellies were full when they finished, but I doubt that their bodies received the nutrients they needed for this major meal of the day.
Restaurants serve what they can sell to people, so if the kids won't eat anything but cheese and white bread or hotdogs, then I hold the parents responsible. The "food" served in most school lunches in the US is exactly what is found on the kid's menu because it is really CHEAP. They are trained to eat this processed, cheap , nutritionless stuff from an early age. If your body is starved for nutrition, you will eat more to get what you need, even if it is not possible to extract it from the food you are eating.
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