February 21, 2007

Empires are not built on small portions (but large portions may topple empires)

When we Americans go overseas we can't help but feel sorry for the people that have so little to eat. Then again, maybe, we shouldn't feel too sorry. Martin Booe spent a little time in France and wrote about how small the portions are there. Here's Martin -- with his tongue in his cheek -- and his article from Epicurious.com.

Sometimes, being an ambassador of goodwill — and a food writer — is a tough job. There I was, in a cafĂ© in the Provençal village of Fayence, when I spied a poor little French boy nibbling at a croissant. I felt sorry for him so I gave him a euro.

"Pourquoi?" he asked in astonishment.

"Poor little French boy," I said. "I feel sorry for you. Your French croissants are so small. Come and visit me in the United States and I will treat you to a California croissant. They are as big as king-size feather pillows. It would take five of your dinky French croissants to make one of them."

"How do they taste?" inquired the impudent little devil.

"That is beside the point," I said. "Our California croissants are so big because our self-esteem is high. And our California cookies? They're as big as wagon wheels. They make your pathetic little petits fours look silly!"

"How do they taste?"

"Listen to me. That is beside the point. All over America, our food has gotten bigger and bigger. And so have Americans."

"Yes, they are very fat."

"No, that is the critical mass of their self-esteem you're seeing! And let me tell you something else. Our meals are bigger all the way around. I just had a meal at a one-star Michelin restaurant here in France! And what a rip-off it was. Seven courses and I didn't feel the least bit sick or overstuffed. So I had two more."

"Two more courses?"

"No, I had two more seven-course meals. You see, Americans have such abundant self-esteem that they're not happy unless they get enough food for three people. And you know, our plates are bigger too," I continued. "Your wimpy European plates are only nine inches in diameter. Ours are 11! Some are 13!"

"The Americans are gluttons!" the boy snarled.

"Listen," I said firmly. "Empires are not built on small portions. And if you French had decent size croissants, you might still have your empire! And if I had a big American croissant, I would use it to knock you upside your little head. Then I would eat that croissant with immense pride."

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