Tuesday 12 October 2010

Smaller portions for maximum satisfaction

No, no...this isn't a typical (and odious) diet-y exhortation to eat smaller portion sizes, this is the Beyond Chocolate take on eating for maximum satisfaction... so read on!

I was visiting my parents in Milan last week and on my last night they took me to one of their favourite restaurants. As I studied the menu I felt a stab of anxiety because I told myself I HAD to taste just about EVERYTHING.

"It's OK," I reassured my desperate gremlin (the one whining that it all looked so good, and how on earth was I going to choose and how unfair it was because I couldn't get this food at home blah...blah..on and on...) "You know how to do this, just tune in and take a few moments to figure out what you really want and how much you are truly hungry for."

As I narrowed the list down and discarded the dishes that that didn't fit, I realised with disappointment that I was still left with too many 'must haves' that I simply wasn't hungry enough for. This usually wouldn't be an issue - I often deliberately overeat when I go out to restaurants. I thoroughly enjoy every mouthful as well as the 'need to undo my zipper' feeling at the end. I'm fine with it, I only do it occasionally and it would be sad life indeed if I only ever ate to satisfy my physiological hunger.

The problem was I'd been eating past satisfaction for a few days now. I'd given myself permission to indulge in my mum's wonderful cooking with second and third helpings, to pick at the wonderful selections of local cheeses and salamis and how could I resist those crumbly, buttery little biscuits they served at the cafe with my morning espresso? The result was that I was feeling a little bloated and realised I wasn't enjoying food as much as usual so that day I'd made a decision to look after myself and say no to overeating... with kindness and compassion.

So there I was in the restaurant, unable to choose between the spaghetti with 'totanetti' (a type of miniature squid - delicious!) in a spicy tomato sauce, the Cotoletta a la Milanese (a typically local breaded veal escalope which is huge at the best of times) and the cinnamon 'parfait' with a Port wine sauce reduction...I knew I couldn't comfortably fit everything in and yet I was unwilling to give anything up.

So here's what I did.

To the consternation of my parents (who really don't approve of 'making a fuss') I waved the waiter over and explained my situation.

"Excuse me. I have a bit of a problem and I'm wondering if you can help me. You see I'm dying to taste the spaghetti with the totanetti and the cotoletta is my favourite dish and I just have to try the cinnamon parfait but I can't possibly eat all of that - it's way too much!", I said imploringly as I fluttered my eyelashes at him, "Would it be too much trouble to ask for a half portion of the pasta and the smallest cotoletta you've got...and will you be terribly offended if I have just a few bites of the pudding?"

The nice Italian waiter smiled back and said: "No problem, Signorina! It's nice to see someone so enthusiastic about food!" And off he went, just like that.

The spaghetti was absolutely divine, the cotoletta was still too big so I left a third of it and gave the sauteed potatoes that accompanied it to my Dad and the waiter made sure there were three spoons to go with the pudding so that we each had a couple of mouthfuls (divine - especially the sticky Port sauce).

All in all it was a very enjoyable dinner. I ate just enough to satisfy all my appetites. Only a few years ago, I would have eaten everything and then felt sick and guilty or I would have ignored myself and settled for the grilled fish and salad which I wouldn't have enjoyed and ended binging on chocolate buttons at home afterward.

"See," I told my Gremlin as we walked home, "you can have your cake and it!"


  1. I just LOVE this! A good example of how to ask for exactly what you want - so encouraging Sophie!

  2. What an adorable picture at the start! And what a good idea to ask for exactly what we want in a restaurant. Even if we have to order a full portion and not eat it all, it's still wasted whether the kitchen staff throw it away or we eat it! I like mezzes because I can have lots of bits of things to taste rather than just the one ...

  3. Actually this one was written by Audrey! We take it in turns, some weeks one some weeks the other :-))

  4. I like having 2 or 3 starters and a pud for the same reason, I did it recently and my friends were bloated whilst I was exactly satiated.


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