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Gino Campagna

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Let's Portion Control, America!

Posted: 08/18/11 10:38 PM ET

Eat less maybe... ?

Since I moved from Italy to the States almost 20 years ago I must have heard from Americans hundreds of times that Italians are obsessed with food (in a good way mind you).

My answer is always the same: Italians are indeed obsessed with food but they are obsessed with the QUALITY of food, they will go the extra mile for that perfect prosciutto slice and yes, they would talk about good food 99% of the time. But to tell the truth, I've never seen a culture more obsessed about food than the American. It's an obsession mostly about QUANTITY of food. Food is everywhere in the U.S. At the gas stations, in the work place, in movie theaters. It's always food, food, food and more food. Snacks, chips (always chips), fries, sodas and never in small sizes... everything has to be huge in the U.S. or does it?

My aunt Anna and my uncle Sergio came and visit me in LA few months ago, I saw America through their eyes and it's really something.

Once, while we were lounging at my place I, being (almost) American, made a gigantic bowl of steamy hot pop corn. I put it in the middle of the coffee table and watched my aunt and uncle's amazed reaction. "Look at this Sergio" said my aunt to my uncle and then she gently picked ONE kernel, popped it in her mouth, declared it delicious and never picked another one again...

I was reminded how frugal Italians can be (or were since American eating habits are sweeping Italy these days....) and once again their appreciations of food is not based on the quantity they receive. During my relatives' visit we also went to Vegas for a night and had a great time (my uncle won 50 bucks at a black jack table and flirted constantly with the female dealers!). In the morning before going home we went for a breakfast buffet. We saw the omelet chef ask a woman in front of us how did she want her omelet. Without missing a beat the chef listed the ingredients and the lady never said no... ham, sausages, veggie, salsa, Cheese, extra cheese. The chef obliged and the result was a mountain of a omelet . The lady squealed in joy: "How wonderful! "My aunt and Uncle were horrified. When it came time for their breakfast, they picked with curiosity at a sausage, pretended to sip a extra large OJ and gently asked me to take them where they could get a "real" coffee.

I love America, I love living here but I still think that we should fight this urge of always overdoing it... especially when it comes to food. I'm helping my dear friend John Tesh plan his new DVD special and I'm looking at a lot of footage from the '40s and '50s. I saw a clip today of a funny donut dunking contest. The donuts were almost half the size of what we have today!

And since we are at it , why do we have the "small" soft drinks at the soda fountain look like large pitchers who could serve 3 very thirsty giants? Why are we always served more than we need? Extra butter, more potatoes, super size me... And by the way: I'm guilty as well. I put on so much weight since I came to the states. Trouble is when I'm presented with food at a restaurant I have to finish it completely, it's in my DNA I guess, I come from a very humble background and you were instructed to eat what you were served... Bad habit to overcome, I know, so I know how hard it is to see smaller portions coming your way but come on! We ate enough! Haven't we? Time to portion control our appetite it'll do us better than diet pills and miracle diets. I'm for one ready to take the challenge. Are you with me? Let's portion control, America!