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Thursday, November 19, 2009

The bull in the china cabinet

So I was emptying the dishwasher this morning, and as I was putting them away into their five respective cabinets, it got me thinking. Is it normal to have nine sets of dishes? I admit, it's my one real weakness. I cannot pass up the opportunity for new dishes. In fact, right now I'm working my case with Keith for why I need a new set, since mine "don't photograph well." Hee hee...this might work. It's business!

But anyway, back to the dishwasher. I just broke a coffee mug, but it really doesn't matter, because with nine sets of dishes, we have plenty. I'm pretty clumsy, and Keith says I'm like "a bull in a china cabinet." This is funny for two reasons: 1) because I do actually break things in or near the china cabinet, and 2) because he really thinks this is the expression, rather than "bull in a china shop." Ha! One of the many reasons I love my man.

But again, I digress. The real point is that I'm noticing some crazy things as I put away the dishes. The first is that if our everyday set of dinner plates were just slightly larger, the cabinet door wouldn't close. Last year, in fact, I got rid of a lovely set of stoneware because they didn't fit in the cabinet. Now I can't imagine that cabinet makers have started making cabinets smaller, so it can only be that our plates are getting larger. Others must be thinking the same thing, because my fabulous friend Cyndi sent me a book recommendation recently, and the authors of "The Nine Inch 'Diet' - Exposing the Big Conspiracy in America" have evidently noticed this, too. They say that the average dinner plate has gone from 8.5 inches in diameter to 12, and The American Institute for Cancer Research has found that restaurant dinner plates have grown from 10 inches to 12 inches just in the last couple decades. I compared the antique dishes in my china cabinet to my everyday plates, and it's true! So is it any wonder that we're growing, too?

I think, overall, we've lost the concept of a "serving size." I know that when I make whole grain rice for four of us, I cook six or eight servings (according to the package measurements). Why? Because I need to fill the plate, even though a serving size is only 1/2 cup. As someone who believes that the aesthetics of the plate are an important part of a good meal, it looks really silly when you have a few little piles on a giant plate. Now that I'm more cognizant of what I'm feeding us, I increase the amount of veggies, not the carbs. Of course, the technique in nice restaurants for "plating" on big plates is to stack everything into a mini tower of food, then put few drops of sauce around the plate. It looks gorgeous! But my husband likes to eat his food one thing at a time and have nothing touching, so I can't plate our dinners this way. Another one of the many reasons I love him! Idiosyncrasies are what make life interesting, I think.

So in most restaurants (and homes, I would venture to guess), you're really getting much, much more than a serving size. I've heard a few different tricks -- protein no larger than the palm of your hand, carbs the size of your fist, veggies the size of your open hand. Another is something like protein the size of a deck of cards, carbs the size of a tennis ball. So is that giant bowl -- by most standards, a serving bowl or platter -- of pasta the server just put in front of you fitting into these parameters? I would guess not.

I have a big appetite, as I've discussed in other posts. It makes it difficult for me, especially on a fun night out, not to just dig in without restraint. So I've employed some techniques that seem to work for us. The first is to be cognizant of what you're putting in your mouth, slow down, and stop eating when you're no longer hungry -- not when you're about to pop the button on your pants. This is much easier said than done, I admit...but I keep my favorite Ellen DeGeneres quote echoing in my head to keep me strong: "We don't need to eat all we can eat." The second technique is eating on smaller plates. I still make Keith's dinner on a dinner plate, since I give him more food, but I eat mine on a lunch plate (which, interestingly, is the same size as the antique dinner plate in the picture above). I know it's just an illusion, but I really feel like I'm eating more when the plate is full. And guess what? I'm full, without going back for more.

So I encourage you to take a look in your cabinets and think about how you're filling your plate. Trust me, these are some really easy changes that make a big difference. And if you're looking to get rid of some dishes, think of me! I'm always in the market for a new set!

1 comment:

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