Good food on a budget is a specialty not only in China, but across the developing world. In countries which have recently joined the world economy, or only within the past 20-30 years, local food traditions have stayed strong. And although Western food is becoming more popular in these countries, their preference for local traditional dishes is unlikely to change in the near future.
The one common remark that students studying abroad make about their experience is that food doesn’t meet their standards. For example, the pizza, pasta, sandwiches, and salads option that fill cafeterias in the US provoke a homesickness that is unavoidable. Looking at the common dish I had for dinner last night, could you blame them for missing home?
I hadn’t realized that my serving sizes were getting smaller until my first return home from China around Christmas of 2005. I remember waking up and going into the kitchen to make some cereal. I pulled the box out and began to let the Honey Bunches of Oats fly! Then, I realized that filling the bowl half way was the same amount that filled my bowls in China. My portions had nearly halved while I was away.
Then, as the day went on, I realized that our plates had dwarfed the food I was putting on them. There was no way to fill the plate completely. At dinner, I watched my family eat and I decided that our servings are really big in America. Restaurants also use huge plates and a dinner at La Carreta (my family’s favorite Mexican place) was so big that I had a full lunch the next day. Two meals for $11 isn’t bad! One meal that is the size of two, unfortunately, is bad… and is the norm.
How did our portions get so big? Perhaps it is a chicken and egg story, but modern commentary agrees that the bigger your container, the more you fill it, and the more you eat. Take a look at my normal lunch portion which costs $1 at the university canteen. When I move back to the US, someday, I’m definitely going to buy smaller plates and bowls.
Have you noticed this issue in your kitchen cupboards?