Enough is enough

The unappetizing appetizer.

The unappetizing appetizer.

I honestly think it’s catching on in Europe. This American trend of serving food portions that bear no relation to the consumption capacity of the average adult consumer. Single courses piled high and wide on flatware XL. And it’s starting to leave a nasty taste in my mouth.

Last weekend I was manfully struggling with a mound of pasta that could easily have satisfied two people. It was delicious, but nevertheless I was once again disturbed by the inevitable impending wastage. It was clear I didn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of polishing it off. Now to be fair, being female and somewhat short in the leg disqualifies me as a contender for an average consumer badge. But I had my eye on a couple of beefy chaps at the next table. Think builders, not body builders. The kind of men who look as though they are perfectly capable of


demolishing extra everything between meals and now the unwitting guinea pigs in my two-man impromptu social experiment entitled ‘How much can we actually stuff in?’. These two gentlemen, both sporting beer bellies and roughly the size of small giants, tucked into their tortellini with the due enthusiasm of two pals enjoying a meal in a mall on an early Saturday evening.

We were doing the same.

‘It’s like being in Vegas,’ said my daughter, as she finally pushed her plate away and gave up. We all knew immediately that she was referring to a ridiculous nachos appetiser, yes appetiser folks, which had completely overwhelmed her on The Strip. (See picture.) We all love the US, but I’m waging we ate around half of what we paid for until we wised up to dish sharing.

‘Was everything alright Ma’am?’ No, the portion size disagreed with me.

My two Stockholm statistics were also flagging now, and ultimately they both left a rough quarter of their portions on their plates. Looking around as we stood up to leave, I was sickened to see just how much other food – representing pretty much every outlet in the food court – was waiting to be discarded. It’s utterly ludicrous.

And it’s not just a food court phenomenon.

Back in the day, we had cupcakes aka fairy cakes. Dainty delights with a spot of icing and – if you were lucky – a few sprinkles on the top. Now we have cupcakes dripping in you name it that dwarf fairy cakes, and muffins that look suspiciously as though they might be surreptitiously on steroids. Look in trashcans by muffin stands. They are littered with half-eaten muffins and surrounded by L and M latte mugs

And what about cinemas? How many half-drunk drinks and large boxes of half-eaten popcorn do you step over as you navigate your way out?

Setting aside the huge moral aspect of throwing away good food and beverages while millions in the third world are literally starving, or, at the opposite end of the scales, fuelling the growing obesity issue in the western world by serving king-sized platefuls, this cavalier approach to food wastage baffles me from a socio-economic point of view. Yet logically there must be some financial gain for someone somewhere along the line. Who’s paying for all this extra food to be delivered, prepared, served, removed and disposed of on a daily basis? Who’s benefitting? The farmers? Wholesalers? The restaurants happy to bake these additional costs into bumped up prices and knowingly over-supply? While the government cries ‘doggy bag’ and pockets the additional VAT? If so, we consumers are paying a sickeningly high price.

So here’s a thought.

If you buy a cup of coffee at a café in Sweden, most establishments will allow you a free refill. Some guests do, most don’t. I would love to see food outlets have the meatballs to say: Enough is enough! We are going to provide common-sense-sized portions in a bid to cut our wastage, costs and prices. If you are still hungry at the end of your meal, tell us and we will provide more food.

I’m prepared to bet my bottom dollar that relatively few people will actually ask for more and that the quantity of any additional food served will have much less impact on the bottom line than the increase in business and profit margin.

After all, we can only eat so much until we feel full. Enough is, and always will be, enough.

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