I’ll begin with the traditional spinning and yodeling before I get to the point.
First of all, I’m not a vegetarian. I was one for about seven years many years ago. It all started after the Jewish autumnal holiday season, during which we eat nine meals of chicken and/or brisket, with leftovers on the weekdays. This is the best time to become a vegetarian because one feels like the Israelites in the desert after they demanded that Moses provide them with meat. As I recall, God rained down brisket and potatoes, and even after a long nap the Israelites felt kind of sick and went on a strict diet of manna for 40 days and 40 nights.
Also, I wasn’t really a vegetarian. I ate fish. And I ate old leftovers of chicken on the principle that the only thing worse than killing something to eat it is to kill something and toss it in the trash. You can read more about this in my treatise, Shut Up and Eat (how to quietly become a triplitarian).
Enough yodeling and spinning. Let’s leave the Israelites and their bloated stomachs in the desert, and fast forward to a kosher meat restaurant in the port of Tel Aviv. A group of us were there for a work-sponsored dinner. We were each about to order what we wanted to eat when the waiter suggested that we get the Carnivores’ Comestibles Carnival, a platter of two kinds of steak, lamb chops, chicken, and a token squash or three.
We also ordered three to five “appetizers,” henceforth to be called “disappetizers,” as all they do is kill your appetite. An appetizer would be two slices of apple dusted with cinnamon. A disappetizer is a whole eggplant smothered in tahina and served with a loaf of bread. Add to that a plate of beef carpaccio with a roll, a focaccia with ground meat on it, and a chopped salad, and kiss your appetite goodbye.
After the meal, accompanied by a bottle of wine served by a bearded gentleman still dripping from a purifying dip in a ritual bath (and not by our unclean server), I surveyed the leftovers. Remaining uneaten were one half of a focaccia with ground meat, half of an eggplant with tahina, a third of a plate of beef carpaccio with a roll, an entire chopped salad, one lamb chop, two small steaks, one piece of chicken, two token squash and a partridge in a pear tree. I estimate that each of us left more than 400 grams (about a pound) of food on the table.
The restaurant is big and it was crowded. I estimate that they served 150 meals that night. If each patron left 300 grams of food on the table, that would add up to 45 kilograms of food (about 100 pounds), much of it meat, chicken or fish that would go into the trash. Criminal.
I know that my logic and calculation are a little off. Many people take leftovers home with them. Others force themselves to finish everything on their plate. However, you’ve been out to eat, and you know how that works. You get there hungry and order a little of everything on the menu, and after five or six bites your hunger starts to wane.
So, as a public service, here are three approaches to fine dining with reduced waste.
Gradational consumption: Order one part of your meal at a time, eat it, and then order more if you’re still hungry. So, you could order your disappetizers, finish or nearly finish those, then politely order one or more main courses. You’ll probably order less food when it’s main-course time. Even if you’re stuffed you’ll probably order dessert, but at most, order one dessert for every two people.
Due-uno, Italian for two-one. This is an approach my wife and I frequently use, and refers to the ordering of two disappetizers and one main.
Résister au serveur (ray-zees-tay oh servur) is French for “to resist the waiter.” Remember, the waiter wants to sell you more food than you could ever possibly consume. Don’t let that anger you, it’s their job, and it also increases the size of their tip. But during working hours they are not friends of your body or the environment and cause you to eat too much, or waste food, or both.
Order less, eat less, waste less, tip more, feel better.