Food / Meal Portion Sizes Increasing

Here’s an article by Ann Landi in ARTnews, reporting that portion sizes in depictions of the Last Supper have grown. Ms. Landi references this 2010 paper by Wansink and Wansink, published in The International Journal of Obesity.

It reminds me of this 2003 paper by Nielsen and Popkin in JAMA (here’s a free PDF copy), which found that between 1977 and 1998 food portion sizes in real life — both at home and in restaurants — have increased. I wonder whether the two observations, increased portion sizes in depictions of the Last Supper and in real life, are related! And I wonder whether the Wansink brothers reference the paper by Nielsen and Popkin; once again, I’ll have to find out.

Food portion sizes have gotten so big that when dining out I often eat only half of what’s served, and the next day I eat the leftover portion as an entire meal unto itself. One might therefore ask, why don’t restaurants just reduce portion sizes and charge the customer less? My friends who know economics much better than I do say that it’s because these days, most of the cost in preparing a meal isn’t the actual food material; rather, most of the cost is in the human labor (wages/salary) and associated costs (like insurance and retirement plans). Because of this cost structure, restaurants have an incentive to offer larger meal sizes, because the incremental cost of adding more food is relatively small. Maybe somebody out there in the restaurant business can confirm or refute this?

Vacation Summary, 12/30/08 – 01/05/09

Date Restaurant Dinner Location Number of Steps
12/30/08 Al Giardano “Pizza Rustica” Basel 9049
12/31/08 Damas Falafel with Hummus, Baba Ganoush with Pita Basel 4498
1/1/09 Al Treno di Mezzanotte
(Orient Express)
Ossobuco with Risotto Milan 9156
1/2/09 La Malmaison Cafe Tagliatelle with Bolognese Sauce Milan 20338
1/3/09 Kokiaje Zuppa di Pesce Romagna Verona 18523
1/4/09 Pizzeria Italia Pizza with Salami, Anchovies, and Capers Dossobuono 12337
1/5/09 Nooch “Shinagawa Station” Basel 8223
Zuppa di Pesce Romagna

Zuppa di Pesce Romagna

Pizza with Salami, Anchovies, and Capers

Pizza with Salami, Anchovies, and Capers

Published in: on 7 January 2009 at 10:37 pm  Comments (3)  
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Ascione’s Spaghetti

  • 1 lb. to 1.5 lb Italian Sausage (hot or mild, as you prefer), cut into 2″ pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (can substitute 1 tsp. garlic powder)
  • 1 large (28 oz.?) can tomato puree & 1.5 cans water
  • 2 small cans tomato paste
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbls. Romano cheese
  • Brown sausage with a little water in a large saucepan. When almost brown, add onion & garlic. Finish browning – do not burn! Add remaining ingredients, bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer 1.5 to 2 hours. Add meatballs 15-20 after the sauce starts to boil.

    For the meatballs:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Italian flavored breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp. chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp. salt or to taste
  • Mix ingredients thoroughly. Roll into 1.5 oz balls and place on baking sheet. Bake in 350 degree oven until slightly brown, about 20 minutes, turning at halfway point.


    We add a little sugar to the sauce to cut the acidity of the tomato; 1-2 Tbls. to taste. Add Italian seasonings to taste: oregano, basil, thyme.


    My family got this recipe from an Italian family when we were living in New Wilmington, PA, and going to school (grades 3 through 8 for me) in nearby New Castle, PA, in the mid-1970’s. One of my friends in 8th grade was C. Ascione. Her mom would have the group over to their house after play practices, project meetings, etc. and I always came home raving about her food! This is one of the recipes that my mom got from Mrs. Ascione. I wonder whether the Ascione family is still there in New Castle.

    This is one of the dishes my sister makes during her “Marathon Cooking” sessions. If you’re going to chop onions, you may as well chop several. Make the sauce but don’t add the meatballs. Divide the sauce (and sausage) into freezer safe containers. Wrap the meatballs in foil. Freeze. Heats up quickly for easy weeknight dinners!

    Also: How To Eat Spaghetti

    Published in: on 10 December 2008 at 3:03 pm  Comments (1)  
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