Here I am making two soups: on my left, a parsnip ginger cashew soup recipe from a well-known U.S. food magazine – on my right, a carrot turmeric soup from a French recipe. Guess what? [drum roll] The U.S. recipe made more soup in the end than the French. Both recipes were meant to get me four servings – therefore four bowls. Wait, do you mean four 4.9 in. wide French bowls? Or four 6.5 in. wide U.S. bowls? So confusing! In the end, I got six big U.S. bowls of soup from the parsnip recipe and about three big U.S. bowls from the carrot recipe. My bowls aren’t the biggest bowls out there so I am actually wondering if I could have ended up with four total. But would this mean that people making this recipe actually eat more than their fair share of soup serving? And does it mean that recipes produce also larger portion in the U.S.? Shocking! And oh-so confusing when you’re not good at math!
Yes, after reflecting on my extraterrestrial glass handling and orange juice measurements (Frenchie and Big Foot – Part 1), it appears that the same type of findings is true for food as well. Portion sizes are usually 25% bigger in the U.S., candy bars can sometimes be 40 to 50% bigger than in France, and when you get Chinese food, it’s close to be 100% bigger in the U.S. So let’s ask ourselves… why is that?
I am sure there are many answers to this but from my experience Americans like to get more for their buck. Forget quality, taste, normality and good reasoning, if you can get more for less or if you can get more for the same price, people here will go for that “deal”. How would you react if your favorite Chinese take-out restaurant gave you a portion of Chicken Fried Rice meant for just one dinner – one normal-sized dinner? Would you call them back and say you got cheated out of two meals? Because let’s face it, your Chicken Fried Rice dinner that you would eat in one or two servings would really make three meals total. Order Chinese at a local deli in France and you’ll get half the rice and food than what you would get here – possibly even less – and you will not have left overs.
And what about liquor? How come the French never seem too affected by wine after having a big dinner for 4 hours long? With wine glasses getting taller and bigger in the U.S., French wine glasses tend to stay about the same. Small and round. I did not measure wine glasses but I can safely bet two glasses of wine in a French glass equal one glass in a U.S. glass – you know what I’m talking about, the “glass of milk effect” when wine glasses are filled up to the top in order for you not to think you’re getting ripped off. I think it’s also part of the French etiquette not to fill glasses up to the top but that’s a completely different topic.
So there you are, left wondering what’s normal, what’s too big? Savor vs. stuff? And most importantly, what’s a normal portion size? To put it in perspective, here’s a quick final comparison between two turkey sandwiches. On my right, the French turkey sandwich with a thin crispy baguette, couple of pieces of turkey meat scattered here and there, 3 slices of tomatoes, couple of lettuce leaves and some mustard. On my left, the U.S. turkey sandwich with thick, hearty, fluffy slices of bread, 5 or 6 slices of turkey meat, 3 slices of tomatoes, a sliced pickle, 2 or 3 spoonful of mayo and maybe 2 or 3 slices of cheese. Oh and wait… 1 bag of potato chips and a Coke. Bon appétit!