Saving the Best for Last

Recipe-Make-French-Fries-CrunchyI love french fries. They are tasty, salty, fried perfection in my mouth. Like other things in my life that I love, they are not particularly good for me, but I still adore them. When I order them, I dive right in as soon as my plate comes and start inhaling the fries long before it even occurs to me to taste the main course that they come with.

The other day, while devouring a plateful of fries, I noticed a habit of mine: I always start eating the fries that I have deemed less desirable first. I continue to plow through the fries saving the “best” fries for last. I don’t know how long I’ve been doing this, but I think it’s been most of my life.

I do the same thing with other foods too. I love a nice, juicy steak, especially when it’s cooked to the perfect degree of done-ness. When I eat a steak, I eat around the edges, saving the center, more tender, part for last. When I eat a pie I eat most of the filling and then savor the crust with just the right amount of filling remaining. I think you’re probably seeing the pattern here.

As I noticed this tendency, I had to wonder why I developed this habit. I’m sure it was because I wanted to end my meal with the best taste in my memory bank. At this point in my life, it’s become such a deeply ingrained habit that it’s a rare occasion that I even notice I’m doing it.

There have been research studies done on the psychology of “Save the best for last.” It doesn’t apply to just food; it applies to many facets of our lives:

Why does a gymnast put her most impressive skill at the end of the routine? Why do fireworks designers put the big burst at the end? What is the fourth movement of the symphony the most powerful one? Why do stand-up comics like to end with their strongest material? Why does the climax come at the end of the movie instead of the beginning? Why do we eat dessert last? Why do sports movies and documentaries fetishize games that are decided in the final seconds? ­-  Why Do We Save the Best for Last? – Psychology Today, 10/24/12 by Ben Y Hayden

Unfortunately, you probably eat more by saving the best for last when it comes to food. If the best fries are the last ones, why on earth would I push my plate away and say “I’m done” before I get to that delicious last fry? As a result, I tend to eat every single last fry on my plate regardless of how full I feel.

My four-year-old grandson loves ice-cream and often requests that we go get ice cream for dinner. Usually, we tell him “no,” but there have been times his mother and I have looked at each other and said, “Why not?” Yes, ice cream has a lot of calories and belongs to only one food group, but why not once in a while? If dessert, considered by many to be the best part of a meal, is always saved for last don’t you end up eating more calories in the long run?

I’m also going to point my greasy, salty, french fry scented finger at the portion sizes in most American restaurants. In the last 50 years portions have doubled and tripled at most restaurants. McDonald’s is one of the best known chains to abuse the larger portion sizes.

McDonald’s portions have super-sized since the fast food chain’s first store opened in 1955. At that time, a customer could order only one size of fries off the menu, and the serving was about 2.4 ounces, according to Buzzfeed. That’s .2 ounces less than a standard small fries offers today. But who’s choosing small when you can get a lot more fries for just a little extra dough? Today’s large serves up 5.9 ounces of fried potatoes — and 510 calories to boot. – McDonald’s Portion Sizes Have Drastically Changed Since 1955 – Huffington Post, 10/10/15 by Kate Bratskeir 

It’s hard to stay aware of how much you’re eating when your food comes on an over-sized plate with huge portions. God forbid you pay attention to the conversation around you instead of evaluating each bite as it enters your mouth. Once you lose focus you might just end up cleaning your plate regardless of how full you may feel.

When I am on my game, I will order a to-go box with my food. Then, when my food comes, I cut everything in half and put one of the halves in the box. I take the box home, reheat my food the next day and have not only cut calories but I also have stretched my dollar to get two meals out of one. Unfortunately, I’m not always on my game.

Cutting your portions in half works great for foods that reheat well. But, some foods don’t reheat very well. A prime example is my beloved fries. No matter whether you reheat them in the microwave, on the stovetop, or in the oven, they just don’t taste the same the next day.

So, you either eat your fries or you leave them on your plate for the restaurant to throw away. I don’t know about you, but I still have a hard time throwing food away. There are starving children somewhere who would love to have my fries for dinner.

I’m not real sure what I’ll do with this awareness of saving the “best” fry for last; in a logical world I’d start with the “good” fries and leave the “less” desirable fries on my plate. Strangely, it feels awkward to think of changing this pattern. Maybe I need to order some fries tonight to test my theory. And maybe I’ll need to test it again multiple times in the next few weeks. I’ll let you know how that works out for me and my scale.

What are your thoughts?