Ode to lettuce

With enough lettuce, one can forget the entree is tiny.My favorite movie popcorn went up a buck. I didn’t mind that. Really! I normally attend the $5 show, and often I’m one of the few in the theater. Paying staff and electricity can’t be cheap, I figure, and I think the township gets a cut off every ticket, so why complain.

Then I started noticing the giant tubs that once were served rounded were about two or three handfuls from topped up. Of course, when you buy a giant tub of popcorn, the movie house offers a free refill  (provided you don’t attend the late show, when the concession stand closes before the movie gets out and there is no one there to dispense the refill).  But I don’t usually go to the late show, so I get two buckets of popcorn – one when I enter to eat with the movie, one on the way out to eat later, while watching Game of Thrones.

But I was taken aback the other day when my favorite dining-out partner and I went to our once-favorite sit-down, not quite fast food chain. The atmosphere is nice, the service friendly, and the prices not terrible. At least that was the case. Times, and servings have changed.

I ordered a half-rack of ribs, some onion rings and a bowl of cole slaw. There was a time when a half-rack half filled a plate. Not anymore.

A serving of onion rings (which the waitress warned me would cost extra, even though they are listed with the “free” sides, of which I could have two) was about six rings. Crispy to the point of being hard, but they tasted like onion rings. And how much could the extra charge be. Lots of restaurants add 50 cents, or sometimes even a buck, to popular extras – though did I mention they were listed with the “free” sides.

The onion rings rang in at $1.79 (a mite excessive, I thought, for something listed with the sides, of which I could have two).

But I was really taken aback by the newly defined half-rack of ribs, which, in fact, was about half the size of the old half rack. And the order of cole slaw (which was a free side) almost filled a condiment cup – the small container in which many restaurants serve salad dressing.

On the other hand, each meal came with an included salad, served on a dinner plate, a heaping pile of shredded lettuce with three (maybe four)  tiny cherry tomatoes each cut in half.

The diet gods had struck again. Salad – not counting the blue cheese dressing – has almost zero caloric content, though it does provide digestion-aiding roughage, and if one eats while waiting for the main course, fills the tummy so maybe the diner doesn’t notice the half-portion half-rack of ribs and the spoonful of slaw.

As I mentioned, smaller portions with larger prices has been a long-time ploy. Back in ca. 2003, an Appalachian Trail hiker named “Rhymin’ Worm” wrote a small poem about the even smaller half gallon traditionally consumed by through hikers as they passed the trail’s mid point, officially at the Pine Grove Furnace general store.

A Lament For Half Gallons

Where are the snows of yesteryear? / (Or at least the frozen custard?) / The brain-freeze headache rite of passage / No longer cuts the mustard.

Farewell to Pine Grove Furnace’s / Sport to end all sports. / They only sell half gallons now. / as one point seven five quarts.

Update: a half gallon of ice cream is now 1.5 quarts.

But if one starts with a heaping platter of lettuce, one may never notice the shortage of ice cream.

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