More isn't always merrier when it comes to eating out

Not all diners want to tackle a schnitzel the size of Tasmania.
Not all diners want to tackle a schnitzel the size of Tasmania. Photo: Chris Hopkins


There it is again, that sinking feeling. I have ordered a "light meal" only to be confronted by a pasta bowl the size of a bathtub. Why is this? I am not carb-loading before a marathon. I am attempting to satisfy a moderate appetite. Those who prefer (or can only afford) casual dining are regularly confronted with massive meals. There is no catering for a variety of appetites. Instead, like socks and slippers, one size fits all.

Recently, I have encountered schnitzels the size of Tasmania, burgers as tall as an office block and fish with enough chips to fill a football stadium. When did dining out become an all-you-can-eat challenge?

Servings are often so large that diners are leaving half their meals.
Servings are often so large that diners are leaving half their meals. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

There aren't many alternatives to the monster main course and I often feel like a spoilsport if I order an entree-sized meal when dining with friends. A bit like sipping light beer when everyone else is drinking champagne.

I understand that it takes courage to place a modest portion before a hungry diner and that no dining establishment wishes to be called "stingy" on social media. Share plates have emerged in an attempt to get around this, but sharing has its own issues. It is easy to spend a large sum of money only to end up with one arancini ball and two spoonfuls of panna cotta.

Everywhere I look, I find people, especially women, are leaving half their food. "How was your meal?" the waiter will ask, warily surveying a still-full plate. "It was delicious, but just too much," is the frequent reply.

Generosity is one thing, food waste is another.

Cafes have become prime offenders in the "more is more" stakes, starting with those muffins twice as large as the cups of coffee they're meant to complement. Try finding a plain cheese and tomato sandwich for lunch that doesn't come stuffed with pesto, mayonnaise, rocket and caramelised onions.

The only time I want overkill is at breakfast, as its purpose is to fill me up for the day. Fried tomato, avocado, chilli, two poached eggs and a doorstop of sourdough – bring it on.

In a world where too many food choices are barely enough, it's time for a sense of proportion. So, restaurants and cafes, how about a choice of portion sizes, say, small and regular, or regular and large, for every item on the menu? It will mean less food waste, a lot more clean plates, and no sinking feeling.

Suzanne Hemming is a school librarian and Good Food reader from Melbourne.