Friday, May 16, 2008

Random Thoughts about Restaurant Dining

Have you ever been one of those people who went to a restaurant for dinner and when looking at the menu to decide what to order, you looked for the biggest entree for the cheapest price?  Maybe you have no idea what I am talking about, but if you relate I am so sorry for you.  I used to be one of these people who had it all completely backwards when it came to eating.  Truthfully I have always enjoyed food and eating, but not until recently have I learned to really enjoy the food choices I make and embrace the idea that "Quality" not "Quantity" is the better criteria for eating.  I used to go to a restaurant and approach it the same as I would going on a bargain shopping spree.  Sick I know.  I would think "what can I order that won't cost me an arm and a leg and that will leave me so stuffed, they will have to roll me out the door."  Again, sick I know.  It was not until more recent years (which seem to coincide with me learning more about cooking for myself and my family and nutrition) that I have begun to approach my eating out at a restaurant experience much differently.  I have also been enlightened to the fact that restaurants do not necessarily have our best interests in mind all the time, so we have to be a little more careful about the choices we make.  First, portions are usually out of this world gigantic and usually plates are heaped with enough food for two to share, or leftovers enough for a whole extra meal.  Keeping that in mind is extremely important for me now, because it is very easy to mindlessly eat everything on my plate.  This practice is a habit that was generated from the "Clear your plate days growing up, or you eat what you take and don't waste!"  I appreciate restaurants that offer Tapas (small plates) or a wide range of appetizers and ala carte, so much more than I ever used to.  Secondly, the quality of food and its preparation is extremely important if you are going to believe in the saying "You are what you eat."  I have found it is good to question food sources, or what they are cooking my food in.  If I am not preparing it myself, then I am trusting that the people who are making my meal are doing what they say they are doing.  I haven't seen too many restaurant kitchens and I don't think I want to, since from what I understand I will not be too impressed. (With that said I know of a lot of restaurants that have very reputably clean and safe kitchen practices.)  Lastly, I am a believer that one must choose their battles.  If I am going to make the decision to go out for a meal I have to also realize that they most likely are not going to prepare my food exactly the way I would myself.  The choices I make, I am responsible for, which means it is my responsibility to ask my server for special orders or to ask where my food is coming from if that matters.  If I am sharing a meal with other people I think it is important to not draw too much attention to myself or any thought I am having if I am unsatisfied with my choices.  Especially if I am a guest, it would be very rude of me to voice any complaint or displeasure.  Planning ahead, doing my homework, knowing what to expect are all ways I can go out and have a good dining experience, and hopefully a tasteful one without feeling to overly full when I have finished.  I don't stuff my face at home so why would I do it anywhere else.  (Now every so often I may indulge, but I will not feel guilty for that if I make a conscious decision to do so.)   So cheers to everyone- enjoy the life giving energy of your meals and try not to overdo it, and if it cost a little extra to get the good stuff, I think it is worth every penny!