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Life Happens: Food portions out of control

This morning, I was making homemade cookies. It’s been about five years since I’ve made a batch of cookies totally from scratch. In fact, it’s been so long, that I had to look up a recipe because I couldn’t remember what kind of cookies I used to make.

“Grandma’s Oatmeal Cookies” was the title. But, I noticed something with this recipe. It required 1 cup of shortening, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of oatmeal, 1 1/2 cups of flour and 2 eggs. There were nuts and raisins in it, too. That’s a big bowl of ingredients. The recipe was supposed to make two dozen cookies.

I would say a recipe that size should make four dozen cookies, at least. Grandma should know better.

And then, I read the instructions a little more closely. Where we used to take heaping teaspoons of dough to make a cookie, now we are using heaping tablespoons to form our cookies. Mathematically, we are making cookies three times the size they used to be.

When I was a kid, cookies were a lot smaller. In fact, that got me thinking. Most food items were smaller back then. Bagels used to be the size of hockey pucks. Now they’re the size of a dinner plate.

Even though we did have fast food restaurants in the ‘60s, the hamburgers were roughly the size of hockey pucks and the fry bags weren’t much bigger. Today, hamburgers can be stacked three burgers high, on a roll the size of a saucer and legitimately weigh almost a pound.

Muffins are another food item that have magically grown in size over the years. I have a muffin tin that I got for a wedding present in the 80s, somewhere in my pan cupboard. It fits about 1/3 cup of batter and makes a muffin roughly the size of, well… you know, a hockey puck. Today’s muffins are as big as four or five hockey pucks.

My point is, in so many imperceptible ways, food is a lot bigger than it used to be. For those of us who remember when cookies fit in the cookie jar, it is easier for us to realize that portion sizes have gotten out of control. For those who are too young to remember when a hamburger fit in the palm of your hand, it is harder to know when to stop eating. “Finish your plate” might not necessarily be good parental advice anymore.

When a muffin or hamburger could easily feed two or three people, it is time to step back and consider that the average stomach is only the size of a human fist. It seems that may be the only point of reference we can rely on, to keep us from eating way too much food.

So, when I made the cookies today, I used a teaspoon. I got 4 dozen nicely sized cookies, about 3 inches across.

Maybe, since we can’t seem to go back to those days of sensibly sized food, we should all carry hockey pucks in our pockets.

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