A matter of good taste 

When it comes to food, it's not size that counts

click to enlarge food_glenda1.jpg

I sliced a peach the size of a softball for lunch today. Some of the blueberries sitting in a bowl nearby looked like concord grapes.

Last week we brought home organic strawberries as big as what used to be apricots, which are now as big as peaches. Peaches of bygone days, to be clear.

Steaks an inch-and-a-quarter thick and bigger than a dinner platter caught our eye in a SuperStore not long ago — for all the wrong reasons — as did huge honkin' trays of ground beef maybe 16 inches long and 10 wide. These will undoubtedly serve an amazingly few people, accompanied by oversized portions to match: servings of salad so big they'll need their own bowls; maybe a cob of corn or two; baked potatoes big enough for two people, heaped with sour cream and bacon bits in case the satisfaction levels aren't adequate.

What I've feared for years has now been proven to be empirically true. According to the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, a study in Denmark shows how much more those of us lucky enough to live in the Western world have been eating over time.

Yes, we've known portions have gotten larger over the past 20 years or so, but what was being analyzed was commercial food products. Most nutritionists and research scientists, including the ones who did the Danish study, peg servings not prepared at home at about 20 per cent larger.

We have greater exceptions: An average soda pop 20 years ago was only 6.5 ounces and contained 85 calories; today it's more than tripled, to 20 ounces and 250 calories. Twenty years ago, your basic serving of French fries logged in about 2.4 ounces and 210 calories. Today, it's almost seven ounces, on average, and 610 calories.

But it was the longer view and what we cook at home that interested the Danes. So they analyzed recipes in 13 editions, spanning 1909 to 2009, of the famous and popular Danish cookbook, Food.

The results showed that the mean portion size of the recipes, measured in calories over the 100 years, increased by 21 per cent. When it comes to a homemade meal made of servings from those recipes, the mean portion size in calories increased by a whopping 77 per cent. For the meat serving, calories increased by 27 per cent; sauce by 47 per cent. For veggies it was 37 per cent and for those glorious carbs we can't seem to get enough of, the increase in mean portion size in calories was a staggering 148 per cent.

Where's it going to end? And besides the crazy change in caloric intake, what about the annoying proportion question as we grow fruits and veggies as big as buffalo heads?

Am I the only one who's been trying to adjust recipe proportions for years, looking at the date the cookbook was published or the recipe was posted on line, and trying to guess the right quantity when the recipe asks for one onion or two tomatoes when you know darn well they're way bigger than the ones used when the recipe was conceived?


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