Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Pedant's Bone to Pick

I know this is really The Sherb's feature, but I've got a food article peeving me in a big way, so I feel I should vent.

Some food writer on the Divine Caroline website has an article called "portion sizes: then and now" which makes the case that food portions have increased over the past twenty years, and therefore we are more likely to consume more food.

An argument that more food is available is probably true, but that's not the point. This article makes its argument with the following graphics:

(picture stolen from Slashfood's synopsis of this article)

From this, and similar pictures, the point is intimated that we just sell the huge size now, that people can't get the tiny size. Maybe they're discouraged from it, but it's not true that I can only walk out of the store with the "lard boy" size.

I've been to the movies recently, and you can still get the little popcorn. I'd suggest it, since it's A) cheaper, B) not as bad for you (even with all that flavored powder you put on it), C) you're not going to get that free refill in the midst of Kung Fu Panda anyway.

Similarly, the website says "[w]hen McDonald’s first started in 1955, its only hamburger weighed around 1.6 ounces; now, the largest hamburger patty weighs 8 ounces, an increase of 500 percent."

Guess what? The hamburger patty still weighs 1.6 ounces. That you choose to buy the Big & Tasty (4 oz. patty) or the dollar menu double cheeseburger (which, in Washington, DC, is cheaper than the $1.39 hamburger) does not change the fact that you could buy a tiny hamburger if you wanted to.

Similarly, the article says that it used to be that you could get an 8 oz. bottle of Coke. I saw them in the Teet yesterday. They're a little more expensive, being in collectable glass bottles, but they still exist.

I'm just as guilty as everyone else (if not more so) in picking the super-size glutton portions of things, but it really isn't as if the lesser ones aren't available. Food just happens to be cheaper than it was thirty years ago (as Mark Bittman points out), and we like to eat.

Also, Judge Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals says that forcing people to know how much fat is in their lardburger is counterproductive, and I trust him, even if he wrote in Douglas v. Hustler Magazine, 769 F.2d 1128 (7th Cir. 1985) that "[f]ew men are interested in lesbians," which as we all know is not exactly true.


bluesleepy said...

The whole "false advertising" thing (insinuating that all one can buy is the huge portion, where it's just ONE option) drives me batty. It's like the local news in Seattle, getting over-dramatic about mundane things just for ratings. "THE HIDDEN DANGERS OF YOUR DISHWASHER" was a teaser, and it turned out simply that if a small child fell into your dishwasher, s/he could get hurt. Um. No kidding.

Sherbs said...

I agree with The Pedant. For example, everyone (including me!) has jumped on to the 100-calorie pack wagon. It's nice because it's portioned control. But it's still just one serving (granted often lower calorie, but many products have had lower calorie options for a while) and I remember as a kid my mom portioning out one ounce of pretzels from a big (and less expensive) bag so we can easily take one portion. Not gluttonous. People are getting crazy. Plus, 100 Calorie packs aren't "healthier" they are just portion controlled. And to some people (guilty as charged...) it's better than being tempted by an entire bag of delicious sun chips...

Although, I think TP should admit we seldom use our "big plates" to eat dinner becasue they are big. Also, our table is small.

Gramarye said...

The trouble I've found in fast food restaurants, at least, is that you can't get some of the older 'small' sizes because they've become the 'kids' sizes and are therefore only available to the young'uns. Same with some places that serve ice cream or other things. I don't want the toy that comes with the Happy Meal -- and in general, it strikes me as weird that I'd have to 'lie' to a cashier to get an order of food that won't leave me feeling sick to my stomach.

I wish I could order off the senior citizen's menu at breakfast places sometimes, though. There are days when I simply can't eat three pancakes or two eggs -- two pancakes or one egg would do just fine.

Christopher Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher Smith said...

Good point. I applaud you sir.

There's a certain desire out there to frame larger portions as a supply issue; food companies shove larger portions down our throats and are therefore responsible for obesity. The truth is that it's a demand issue; Americans want bigger portions.