Do not adjust your sets. I've been served enough here to feed a village.
My wife's knees ached and her legs were like rubber after a two-day, 260 km ride to Seattle for a cancer fundraiser. It was Father's Day and not only had we made it through the US border in record time, but my child was returning to health after battling a flu bug for a couple of days.
We had reason to celebrate.
Late on Sunday we checked into our hotel room then sought something to eat in nearby downtown Bellevue, WA, with its shiny new office towers. We must have hit a crossroads of faux ethnic dining establishments, all delightfully scrubbed of anything remotely "foreign." On one corner a restaurant claimed to be Southwest cooking, and the one beside it had a Chinese theme. There was a seafood place, and a sushi restaurant. We opted for the "Italian" eatery, with the big portrait of Frank Sinatra in the lobby, and loads of autographed portraits of perhaps every entertainer that had worked the strip in Vegas. It was all very Disney.
To get here from home I feel like we have to risk life and limb navigating the freeways and off ramps that cleave Seattle and the Puget Sound into little chunks. I'm not a good driver on big highways, which is why I leave that task to my wife most of the time. Too many signs yell at you telling you where to go. At 60 mph it's unnerving that most of your fellow drivers are flying by you, as though desperate to reach their destination.
Coming from Vancouver, BC, to a city I admire, and to a country I respect, I admit feeling despair at how grotesquely "big" everything down in the USA must be. Big, wide freeways with no room to spare on them even on a Sunday afternoon. And great BIG dishes that redefine gluttony.
I wondered, who among our leaders is really speaking to this? Not Obama, and not Mr. Harper. Nor our premiers, congresspeople, mayors or senators. To a person, they're almost all focused on economic growth.
It was curious to get a raised eyebrow from our waiter that night. Do you want a full plate, or a half order? he asked. Nah, gimme the full. I was hungry. Missed lunch. Drove 200 miles. In hindsight I should have taken it for a hint.
I looked around the restaurant which was packed. There was lot of evidence of affluence here and, unlike what you come to expect in car-oriented communities, no one was morbidly obese (it wasn't hard to find it elsewhere though). I didn't pay attention to what others had ordered, and apart from the garish attempt at seeming "European," nothing about the place twigged me to the fact the meal portions were so massive.
Our dishes arrived and we were all a bit stunned. The "kid's size" plate served to my child would have been three days worth of leftovers at our house. The spaghetti I ordered had 2 meatballs on top of it that both had to be 1/3 of a pound of burger, each about the diameter of a billiard ball. The pasta alone was enough for four hungry people.
I know eating big is rampant in the USA. Even the latest Pizza Hut promo offers the chance to stuff yourself for five bucks. And I've yet to figure out the attraction of eating so much that you need a gurney to get around afterward.
The tangle of noodles on my supersized plate is like the over-the-top interchange that helps cars and trucks move in out of Seattle to outlying suburbs. Just like in Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix, New York... As with every major metropolitan region in almost every part of the globe, the Emerald City has tied itself in knots to accommodate cars.
What we need a lot more of is restraint. Call it portion control for our developers, real estate speculators and engineers. It's time we all learn to live and work within the urban footprint we have already created. And while we're breaking the sprawl habit, let's pray we each find a way to consume a whole lot less.