Growing up is over rated.
For the Lifestyle page this week, I wrote about places to go eat with your kids.
I ran a little straw poll on the Facebook group page Moms of Monroe about where people liked to take their kids, and Adam’s Northwest Bistro, Tuscano’s Italina Kitchen and Steve’s American Cafe and Grill were mentioned most.
So last week I got the rare privilege of ordering off the kid’s menus.
I bet I’m the first person in Tuscano’s history whose kid’s meal drink was black coffee.
Despite the caffeine, eating off the kid’s menu was great, and I wish we all had the opportunity more often. For one thing, kids meals come with toys. I got crayons at Tuscano’s, magnetic blocks at Adam’s, and colored pencils at Steve’s.
I have a terrible time waiting at restaurants. Back in the analog days, I used to bring two or three paperbacks everywhere I went, in case one or two of them weren’t any good. That is because I can’t sit still. Now it’s an iPad and an iPhone, and lord help me if the batteries die.
I figured as long as I was eating what the kids ate, I might as well research their entire experience at each restaurant, and the staff at each where happy to supply me with whatever entertainments they give tots. The magnetic blocks and coloring stuff kept me pleasantly occupied while I waited, and my electronics stayed in my bag. You can see my blue dog on the wall at Steve’s, with the other kids’ art.
But the best thing about the kids’ menus was the portion sizes.
Every health-minded person in America knows that the American diet is in fact lethal. We eat too much. There have been times I’ve actually found a serving grotesque. I remember ordering a chef salad somewhere that came out on a platter so large the salad would have been a perfectly respectable contribution to a church potluck. It would have easily served four as a main dish. And salad doesn’t keep particularly well, so there wasn’t any point in boxing half of it. Most of it got tossed.
That sort of thing happens a lot. Unless I’m sharing a table with someone else who wants the same thing I do and is willing to split it, I wind up paying for twice as much as I can eat, and the half I can’t eat winds up in the garbage disposal. That makes no sense.
I’ve met two women in the last few years who moved here as adults after growing up in Asia. Each of them gained 100 pounds fairly quickly after getting here. They both said they just weren’t prepared for the diet in the United States, and it ruined their health.
According to the Mayo Clinic, restaurant portion sizes have grown to four times the size they were in the 1950s. In the same period, adult obesity has doubled. And studies show that when people are served larger portions, they eat more food without reporting that they feel any more full than those who ate less.
The trend is mostly because consumers like big portions. When a waiter slides a seafood alfredo onto the table that is bristling with two-foot long king crab legs and topped with a whole Maine lobster, one does feel rather pleasantly indulged.
But I often wish more restaurants would just give diners the option of ordering a reasonable-sized serving of the same thing. In fact, I’ve often wondered what would be so bad about letting anyone who wished order off the senior or children’s menu.
As a matter of fact, Steve’s child-sized macaroni and cheese was about the best mac and cheese I’ve maybe ever had. And I was able to eat the whole serving without feeling as though I had done my arteries a disservice. One dish of spaghetti topped with a tangerine-sized meatball at Tuscano’s is just about right for anybody’s dinner. And at Adam’s, kids just get half-orders of the stuff on the adult’s menu, which is perfect, and was probably the salvation of me. My plate of meatloaf and potatoes was so good there’s no way I’d have stopped had the meal been bigger.
In fact, after eating just the right amount, and doodling away at coloring book pages, I walked away from all three meals feeling relaxed and in that perfect place of not hungry, but not weighted down. That is to say, I felt a lot better than I typically do after a hurried, distracted and too-large dinner.
I really encourage all restaurants to offer small portions to people who prefer them, or even open the kids’ menu to all.
It might make it a bit easier for some of us grownups to stop growing quite so much.