Note to vacationing non-Americans: while it’s true that America doesn’t always have the best food culture, the food in our restaurants is really not representative of what most of us eat at home.  The portions at Cheesecake Factory or IHOP are meant to be indulgent, not just “what Americans are used to.”

If you eat at a regular American household, during a regular meal where they’re not going out of their way to impress guests, you probably will not be served twelve pounds of chocolate-covered cream cheese.  Please bear this in mind before writing yet another “omg I can’t believe American food” post.

Also, most American restaurant portions are 100% intended as two meals’ worth of food. Some of my older Irish relatives still struggle with the idea that it’s not just not rude to eat half your meal and take the rest home, it’s expected. (Apparently this is somewhat of an American custom.)

Until you’re hitting the “fancy restaurant” tier (the kind of place you go for a celebration or an anniversary date), a dinner out should generally also be lunch for the next day. Leftovers are very much the norm.

From the little time I’ve spent in Canada, this seems to be the case up there as well.

the portions in family restaurants (as opposed to haute cuisine types) are designed so that no one goes away hungry.

volume IS very much a part of the american hospitality tradition, and Nobody Leaves Hungry is important. but you have to recognize that it’s not how we cook for ourselves, it’s how we welcome guests and strengthen community ties.

so in order to give you a celebratory experience and make you feel welcomed, family restaurants make the portions big enough that even if you’re a teenage boy celebrating a hard win on the basketball court, you’re still going to be comfortably full when you leave.

of course, that means that for your average person with a sit-down job, who ate a decent lunch that day, it’s twice as much as they want or more. that’s ok. as mentioned above, taking home leftovers is absolutely encouraged. that, too, is part of american hospitality tradition; it’s meant to invoke fond memories of grandma loading you down with covered dishes so you can have hearty celebration food all week. pot luck church basement get-togethers where the whole town makes sure everybody has enough. that sort of thing. it’s about sharing. it’s about celebrating Plenty.

it’s not about pigging out until you get huge. treating it that way is pretty disrespectful of our culture. and you know, contrary to what the world thinks, we do have one.

Reblogging because I honestly never thought about it but yeah, this lines up.

This is also why the idea of “pay a lot for fancy food on tiny plates” pisses so many Americans off. Unless you are rich enough not to care about throwing your money away, it’s not just a ridiculous ripoff in terms of not filling you up, it’s stingy. Restaurants are places of hospitality. If I pay that much for a plate it had better be damn good and it had better be generous. Otherwise they are just trying to fleece me out of my money AND saying they don’t value me as a customer.

If I go to IHOP or Olive Garden or whatnot, I absolutely don’t need to eat again until evening if I had leftovers, and until the next day if I did eat everything (you can’t really take pancakes home as leftovers).

But EVEN IF I DID EAT EVERYTHING and then ate a full meal on top of that, later, it’s really not anyone’s place to criticize what other people eat. It just isn’t. Let it go. It’s old.

Making fun of American food culture and food habits isn’t original or surprising or witty or funny or getting one over on us or crafting a clever retort or whatever. It’s lazy and petty and childish.

Yeah, we eat a lot of hamburgers. They’re fucking delicious. Cope.

Also re: Nobody Goes Away Hungry, here is AN INCOMPLETE LIST of things my family was gifted by neighbors when I was a child:

—Nina won a writing contest and xir name was in the newspaper, have a cake

—Nina won a writing contest and xir name was in the newspaper, have some cookies

—Nina won a writing contest and xir name was in the newspaper, have a box of licorice (as you can tell this was Very Big News in my neighborhood)

—it’s Christmas, have cookies

—my garden did really well this year, have zucchini and tomatoes and corn also do you like rhubarb

—we saw an ambulance at your house this morning, have a lasagna

—we heard your mother died, have some soup and a bag of groceries

—Nina looked hungry and nobody is mentioning you’re on food stamps because we’re polite, also we just so happened to cook way too much for dinner, have some chicken

—it’s a block party, everyone take home whatever you want…no, more than that….MORE than that! You think we want to eat all this potato salad by ourselves?!

—we heard your husband had heart surgery, here’s a prepped meal so you can eat properly when you get home from the hospital

—it’s Halloween in a small town, have some apples/popcorn balls/pumpkin bread

—I’m a coupon queen and at the end of this shopping trip the store owed me $10 PLEASE tell me you want groceries I have 42 cans of baked beans

—because why not

I am genuinely bothered by how much this tradition seems to be going by the wayside. This was a whole thing when I was a kid, and there’s literally etiquette for how you handle it:

1) hot meals for tragedy and postpartum assistance, sweets for celebration and introduction.

2) presentation is important—don’t present a burnt or dirty dish. Dishes should have a lid or foil on top. Cling wrap isn’t rude, but it should be avoided because it’s easier to accidentally tear and if it’s not wrapped just right it’ll come undone, which is particularly problematic if you’re leaving food at a doorstep where ants may be present. (1990s addendum: when I was a kid you could buy colored or printed cling wrap around Christmas, and it was considered classy to use this on sweets you were gifting your neighbors as long as it was done in person and wasn’t a doorstep dropoff. This, sadly, seems to have gone away, and I miss it a lot.)

3) when receiving food, always say thank you. Never reject a dish; if it’s food you don’t like, someone in your extended family will take it. If four other people in the neighborhood have already gifted you food and you have no idea what to do with it all, freeze some or gift it to people in your out-of-the-neighborhood circle. The only polite rejections are dietary restrictions, and “three other people have already given me zucchini I’m so sorry.” If all else fails, take it to the break room at work. Someone who forgot their lunch will thank you.

4) Never return a dirty dish.

5) Never return an EMPTY dish. It’s always good to have two or three quick, low-effort recipes in your back pocket for refilling a dish. There is no rule for what you should use as a thank-you recipe, but most people use sweets because there are a lot of quick and simple options and you can refill the dish without cooking in it. (My go-tos are fudge no-bake cookies and honey milk balls. A lot of people in my neighborhood did cookie bars.)

5a) …unless you’re a new parent or the dish was presented to you as a consolation for a funeral. In these cases, a thank-you card will suffice.

6) a dish should always be returned within seven days.

7) using disposable dishes is acceptable, but consider the occasion. A new parent will be grateful for one less dish to wash. Someone who just lost a parent should not be presented with a paper plate.

8) if using disposable dishes, make sure you indicate you don’t expect them back. Some people (I am one of them) will absolutely look at disposable-but-reusable dishes, wash them out, and return them if you do not do this. Never give a disposable dish with the expectation it will return home.

9) if giving a pass-me-on plate/Amish friendship plate, be sure the recipient knows the rules of a pass-me-on plate. You can purchase plates with the rules printed directly on them, but if you’re using a regular plate, gift it with a card that explains the game.

THIS WAS A WHOLE THING. You’ll notice #9 up there—pass-me-on plates are usually somewhere in size between a dinner plate and a serving plate, often very pretty, and the way they work is you fill them up with something good to eat and give them to a friend. The friend will then wash the plate, fill it with something good, and pass it on to someone else—hence the name pass-me-on plate. (The phrase “Amish friendship plate” is….older. With all the slightly wincey connotations of “older” when discussing out-groups.)

This was a way families bonded with other families and cared for our communities, and I really want to see it come back.