“And such small portions!”

An old joke, retold by Woody Allen in “Annie Hall”:


“The food is terrible here!” one woman says at a Catskills resort.




“Yes!” the other woman says. “And such small portions!”



We’re unreasonable creatures, aren’t we? We want it all. We want everything, and we want it cheap. In the words of a Simpsons character, speaking to a bagboy in a supermarket: “I want all my groceries in one bag, and I want it to be light.”


But there are also reasonable expectations.


Partner and I ate recently at a new place in the University neighborhood. It’s very glitzy, and all of the servers were trendy: most of the men had ponytails and tattoos, and one of the girls was wearing an outfit made out of men’s underwear, I swear to god.


This place serves “tapas.” I have lived overseas, and I have had real tapas. Tapas are the little plates of food they give you at the bar, so long as you keep drinking. They’re different all the time, and usually very interesting. Most of all, they’re free. They’re the incentive to keep drinking.


Tapas restaurants in the United States are a whole different thing. You pay for each little plate.


So we order one of the “tapas,” a zucchini fritter. It arrives shortly, and it is absolutely delicious, but it is about three bites each for each of us.



We then order “personal pizzas.” They arrive. They are about ten inches by four inches, with a very thin delicate crust. Mine was delicious (as was the fritter): more zucchini, tomato, sautéed onions. I destroyed mine in about three minutes.


We were both still hungry, but there was no way we were going to keep ordering food in this place. We’ve run up a $35 bill, and we both feel like we haven’t even begun the meal yet.


So we go home and have sandwiches.


A few days later, we went to Hemenway’s, a local high-end seafood place, both because we were both in the mood for seafood, and because I had a gift card. Partner had surf and turf, and I had paella. We both had appetizers. Everything was wonderful, and the portions were very ample. The total bill was over $100, but you know what? We were both stuffed, and we both took food home with us.



There’s been a spate of criticism over the last few years about the restaurants that serve huge portions of food – more than people can eat, more than people need!


But smart diners take food home from those places. Partner and I certainly do. We ate at a nice old-fashioned Chinese place in Attleboro, Shanghai Gardens, a few weeks ago, and we both took home food, and it was very nice.


Don’t get me wrong: the food at the aforementioned “tapas” place was excellent. It was just too meager.




This is a trick and a disgrace. This is using the “tapas” label as an excuse to bring out small portions of food and pretend that the restaurant (and you, the diner) are sophisticated.


Don’t believe it.


Expensive places – all places, really – should have good food, and lots of it. And you should never leave feeling hungry.


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

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