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Rob Jenkinson's Letters from America #18
by Rob Jenkinson
2007-02-09 08:13:42
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Dear readers,

I’m afraid that I’m getting fat, American style.

I held it off for almost a year, but I can see it spreading around my midsection and it’s upsetting me a lot. If you know me, you’ll know that I’m incredibly vain. Being a fatty is just not an option for me.

You see, the problem is the portions. If you haven’t been to America and eaten out, you won’t know about the un-Godly amount of food you get served. It’s obscene, it really is and for an Englishman who is raised to eat EVERYTHING on his plate, it’s painful.

At least in New York City, you get a decent range of food to choose from (which is good because grocery shopping in the city is a real pain in the arse), but I spend a lot of time on the road and the choice is limited to say the least.

The amount you get served in any given restaurant in Middle America is enough to feed two people at least. For some reason, Americans expect to be able to take at least one third of their meal home with them. It’s something that I’ve learnt to do, but still find absolutely insane and disgusting.

I think my disgust with it might actually stem from my deep hatred of the American service industry. It’s so horrifically bland and fake. You’ll be staring at the remaining six pounds of steak that you have left to eat and know that it’s physically impossible or else you might die and then a member of the wait staff will come over and say, “Hey, how’s it going guys? Woah! Are you all done there? Do you want me to go ahead and box all this up for you guys? Mmm hmm, yeah, great?”

I know that I’ve referred to Mike Judge’s Office Space before, and if you’ve seen it you’ll remember the restaurant that Jennifer Anniston works in. Well, that is no over exaggeration, it is a direct observation of what American “restaurants” are like.

I can’t actually tell whether Americans like being treated like a person with special needs or it’s just something they’ve got used to. I understand why the waiting staff are like that. Thanks to America’s homogenized countryside, you can basically go anywhere and have the same food and the same service. Some big wig at the top decides that all waiters must wear red braces and a baseball cap on sideways and greet everyone by saying “Whoah, surf’s up dudes!” and everyone must obey. It’s very VERY depressing. That and they have to be nice to you because they live off your tips. Again, depressing.

It’s actually one of the things I miss the most about the UK. There tips are a nice bonus, not a lifeline, so if the waiter decides they don’t like you, you’re going to be treated like shit and I love it! It’s much more honest and makes for a unique dining experience.

Anyway, I digress; the portions are horrendous and are the epitome of greed. Sorry, but it’s true. If you read any customer reviews of a new privately owned restaurant where they serve real food that’s not been de-frosted and slammed in a microwave, there is someone guaranteed to say “Food’s great, but watch out, the portions are tiny!” What they actually mean is that the food is enough for one meal and not enough for breakfast. As I said: Greed.

So, what am I going to do? Well, there’s not much I can do. I have to eat and am permanently on the road and in some places there’s only a choice between McDonalds, Taco Bell and Chili’s. You have to choose Chili’s because it’s the only option that at least pretends to serve real food.

But, from now on I’m going to half all meals so my belly stops growing. The other half? Well, I’ll, erm, I guess I’ll get it boxed. Bollocks.

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Eva2007-02-08 13:28:28
Oh yessss. Been there, seen that, done that...came back a blob ;)
Seems food there is more about quantity rather than quality?
Did you see Super Size Me? Scary eh...

Rob2007-02-10 04:57:57
Well, for the most part it definately is quantity over quality, but even in upscale non-chain restaurants you'll get way too much food.

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