Friday, April 11, 2008


Everyone knows that the size of American food portions have grown steadily over the years. Today's "small" is yesterday's "large," big-gulp and king-size have entered our lexicon, and finishing a meal at a restaurant is an impossible task for many diners. We often criticize ourselves (and are criticized by others) for over-indulging at the table, but after a recent meal in a French home, I realized that Americans are not the only ones who enjoy a large meal. The French indulge as well, they just go about it with a bit more subtlety.

The meal started before we even got to the table. Our apératif consisted of a wide array of finger foods and a bottle of champagne. The plate of olives, bruschetta, mini toasts, mini shrimp, cheese and mixed nuts could have been a meal in itself! After moving to the dining room we were served a plate of foie gras, fig jam, and sweet French bread. Next came the main dish (a filling combination of fish and rice), followed by the salad and cheese courses. Finally, when I didn't think there was any room left in my stomach, it was time for dessert. It was a marathon dining event that left even this famously healthy eater feeling more than a little stuffed.

Halfway through the dinner it dawned on me: if all of those courses had been placed on one giant plate, it would have been like any average American meal. But it wasn't any average American meal, it was a French meal, which meant the enormous amount of food was to be enjoyed, savored, not scarfed down in ten minutes. This is something we Americans can learn from the French. Eating lots of yummy food: good. Eating lots of yummy food slowly over a couple of hours so as so enjoy every bit: even better.

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