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May 16, 2008

Posted by Avram Grumer at 08:17 PM *

  • All sorts of neat visual ideas in this collection of modern typography. Look: slab-serif Avant-Garde! And what’d these people do to piss Teresa off? (via Kottke)
  • How food portion sizes have changed over the past twenty years, also via Kottke. I noticed a decade or more ago that my capacity for pizza had seemed to have diminished since my teenaged years; I see here that it may be because pizza slices have grown. I know bagels have grown, too, but the examples in the article ping my shenaniganometer. For one thing, the two images are obviously the same (probably stock) photo scaled to different sizes. For another, they claim that bagels the bagels of my youth were a measly three inches in diameter. No way, unless your standard is those crappy frozen things from Lender’s.
  • I’d heard of Colonel Blimp, but never actually seen any of the original cartoons, until now. (via ¡Journalista!)
  • Joel Priddy wonders what Wolverine comics would have been like in the ’50s. Also, the labels on these homemade bottles of flavored liquers Priddy and his wife gave out a couple years back look like they go pretty well with those beers Patrick just linked to in the sidebar.
Comments on Links:
#1 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2008, 09:02 PM:

I like the visual representations of the portion increases. Those make it very clear what has been going on.

Whenever I order a small drink, the cashier looks at me as though I'm crazy. Yeah, I could buy the bigger one, but what's the point if I don't drink it?

#2 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2008, 09:31 PM:

The first time I encountered a half-pound burger in a restaurant, I asked for a to-go box when I ordered it. When the waiter brought the food but no box, I repeated my request and didn't start eating until I had a box with half a hamburger in it so the unreasonable portion wasn't even on my plate.

Unfortunately, the last time I ran into a place where the smallest burger was a half-pound, I made a lot of noise ("do I look like I can eat a half-pound burger? Why are they so huge?") and then ate the whole thing. I *think* I was genuinely hungry and didn't overeat, but it is worrisome just the same.

#3 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2008, 10:32 PM:

re: portion size

I collect cookbooks. While I recycle some of the more modern ones, I have quite a few that are very old. My current favorite one that I'm exploring is a "The Good Housekeeping Cook Book" Third edition, printing date is 1942, 1943. I am guessing they started producing it before rationing started, and then realized the needed to help because there is a blue center section with a separate index folio at the end of the normal index.

Portions were rather smaller even in the general cookbook. for instance, a casserole recipe with turkey amount two cups chopped cooked turkey serves 6-8. some of their vegetable recipes appear to be very abundant but the meat dishes are more conservative.

#4 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2008, 10:35 PM:

Well, Paula, I'd expect the meat recipes to be more conservative. Meat used to be a lot more expensive.

I think food in general used to be more expensive, but I seem to recall reading things from the first half of the 20th century that made it clear that eating meat every day was a rarity for most Americans.

#5 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2008, 10:39 PM:

I've also found that at most restaurants I take home about half of it. I got into the habit after I'd done Weight Watcher's for a while and realized that I was uncomfortable overeating.

Sometimes it is just right or I'm hungry (we've got a family member in hospital and aren't eating really well, Dr Paisley and I ate at Hayes Diner last night and their small burger with cheese and onions, and the onion rings disappeared totally),

but usually I take half of what I order home. It makes for a nice lunch the next day,while I'm unemployed.

(I hope that will end soon, I have a very promising interview next week....and it's downtown so I can ride the bus and save on car usage.) I drove 28 miles a day for my former job and was feeling rather abused about it as gas prices rose.

#6 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2008, 10:50 PM:

pizza slices have grown

They have?

Meanwhile, what our nearby pizzeria used to call an extra-large pizza has been renamed large. No wonder I could eat one of those all by myself.

And there's more air inside bags of chips than there used to be even though the size of the bags haven't changed.

#7 ::: --E ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2008, 11:03 PM:

Some portions have gotten smaller. Your standard chocolate bar, for instance (though some have managed to hold their size by using ever-cheaper devolutions of "chocolate"). Boxes of cookies now hold fewer cookies. Even the Girl Scouts are putting fewer cookies in the boxes. (Of course, that only saves the bingers from binging on quite so many cookies; it doesn't reduce what people consider a normal portion.)

I cry shenanigans on the claim that dinner plates have gotten larger. I have a collection of random dinner plates ranging from the 1930s (thanks, Grandma!) through the 21st century, and they all stack very nicely with each other.

#8 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2008, 11:20 PM:

I like to eat at places where I can make a decent meal of appetizers or sides. Yesterday I had a bowl of chili and a side of redskin potatoes at Glory Days. I like the white bean chicken chili and the baked potato at Ruby Tuesday. I'll bring half home if I'm somewhere I can't just have less, but I prefer to be able to order less.

#9 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2008, 11:36 PM:

RE, Pizza Slices:

There's a great Iranian movie -- available on VHS and which I rented from Blockbuster -- called Crimson Gold. It's about a semi-disabled Iran-Iraq war veteran who ekes out a living delivering pizza on his scooter.

Tiny, tiny, tiny pizzas. Dinner-plate sized.

Most of his customers are from Tehran's upper crust.

It made me wonder if American pizzas are the freakish giants of the genus.

#10 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2008, 11:37 PM:

IIRC cookbook "serving sizes" have traditionally been geared toward incorporating the recipe into a complete meal with at least two or three other dishes.

Conversely, as noted by --E in #7, a few years ago the standard "half gallon" container of ice cream decreased its volume to 7 cups, though this is scarcely a new phenomenon; ISTR a MAD magazine reprint from the 1950s/60s decrying the inverse correlation of chocolate-bar size to price, with illustrations of partial camouflage by cardboard inserts and wacko future extrapolation of the trend to the 70s/80s. Unfortunately I don't think I have that particular MAD antho anymore, as it would probably be even funnier in double retrospect.

#11 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 12:16 AM:

Those bagel sizes are legit. Was it H&H Bagels at 79th and Broadway back in the late '70s? A bagel for a quarter was about that size.

I haven't looked at Lenders frozen bagels in a while, but I remember thinking a few years back that they were tiny, then realizing they'd simply stayed the standard size.

#12 ::: JimR ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 12:23 AM:

Stefan Jones, #9,
Yes, they are.
In Europe (at least, in Italy, Germany, France, Poland, and the Netherlands, where I have eaten Pizza) just a pizza is typically about 10 inches (25cm?), if i remember correctly. People in Europe, of course, can tell you better. England/Ireland tended toward the American size, as I recall.
In Japan, a "medium" is about 23 cm, a large 30 cm. And they run from about 1000 yen (roughly $10) for a basic, cheese medium, up to a good \3000 for a loaded large; Tokyo/Osaka may differ.
America is not typical, I'd say.

#13 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 12:23 AM:

Besides the increase in portion sizes, refills on soft drinks are usually free. Back in the 60's and 70's, free refills were offered only on tea and coffee. Soft drinks are a pretty high margin items for restaurants; the free refills make the customer think it's a bargain.

#14 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 12:24 AM:

E @ 7, you may have restaurant plates, which even then could be larger than home dinner plates. There's long been a dinner plate race as restaurants produce bigger plates to justify the price of a meal.

You also might have the fancy dinner plates of the time.

Emma and I eat our meals at home on what's sold as salad plates. That 8-10 inch size was once standard for a dinner plate.

#15 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 12:34 AM:

The bagels my father used to buy at the bakery across the street back in the '70s were not just 3" across. They were more like the ones I can get at Fairway now, about four inches, maybe a bit more. Smaller than the swollen monstrosities I get at the bagel shop near me in Brooklyn.

Hey, a recipe for adorable mini-bagels!

#16 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 12:46 AM:

i just notice recently that, at my favorite convenience store, that my favorite vice--pink-iced sugar cookies-- have been reduced in size from a five-inch diameter to a 2.5 inch diameter. Price (99 Cents) did not change.

My attitude was, I don't need to consume them anyway. If I feel that way, there are likely lots of others. whatever.

#17 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 01:12 AM:

R.M. Koske, #2: I can eat an 8-ounce steak with no trouble (though I prefer a 6-ounce one if I can get it -- leaves me more room for sides & dessert); I think of an 8-ounce hamburger as its equivalent.

What I don't like is paying $10 for that 8-ounce hamburger! The other day I had lunch at a new place, and their hamburger was probably about 7-8 ounces and cost $5.50; I considered that to be reasonable value for the money, and not an outrageous amount to pay for lunch.

I will note that while you can still find the 20-ounce soft drink bottles at convenience stores, you won't find them in the grocery any more. There, you see 6-packs of half-liter bottles, which are about 16 ounces. Of course, this has less to do with portion sizing and more to do with bringing American container sizes in line with the rest of the world!

#18 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 01:13 AM:

And what’d these people do to piss Teresa off?

I'm not sure. If I had to guess, I'd say they committed disemvowelment without a proper license.

I kan haz inturnets nauw?

#19 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 01:40 AM:

There certainly are restaurants that push up the "expected size." A place like The Cheesecake Factory makes it's money on the idea that at "semi-decent" quality, marginal ingredient costs are negligible so they may as well just give you a ton. As a corollary, the actual cheesecake you get there is normal sized (baking techniques seem to demand a certain size?) but there's 6 pounds of whipped cream next to it...

This is different from The Claim Jumper which makes its money on the novelty of paying more money for enormous, bloated, over-sized meals.

I wonder whether people eat more, or less, at buffets if plates are larger or smaller. On one hand, people are likely to eat what they take (so small might be preferable) but if plates are small, people might just take 2 of them... The more walking back and forth between buffet and table you do, the more time you have with which to notice you're full. I can't really work out the factors in my head.

All that aside... vegetables themselves in America are much larger than they used to be. Bell peppers are gigantic! (something about genetic plasticity in play there...) potatoes have also gotten large, etc.

#20 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 03:40 AM:

I believe those people pissed Teresa off by not producing internet content compelling enough to compete with a pictorial comparison of American fast food sizes.

#21 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 03:53 AM:

"the 12 oz soda used to be the most common"? I remember when a 6 1/2 oz coke was standard and a 10 oz was King Size. (I'm actually pleased I can now get 8 oz Coke cans, but it ticks me off that they cost more than the 12 oz ones.)

#22 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 04:33 AM:

That "slab-serif Avant-Garde" font is actually called Lubalin. Named after Herb Lubalin, who designed both typefaces.

#23 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 07:01 AM:

Stefan Jones @ #9:

It made me wonder if American pizzas are the freakish giants of the genus.

Yes and no. Upon my first visit to Finland, I was quite surprised to see that the standard pizza size is about 15 inches in diameter, and it's not at all unusual for a pizza per person to be the standard serving.

However, the pizzas here are different in composition. They're very thin--thin, flexible crust, thinly spread sauce, toppings and cheese widely but evenly spaced. One can hunt down a Pizza Hut and get a doughy, sauce-laden American style pizza, but the Finnish chains stick to the thin pizzas. I've found I like them lots more, even as fond as I am of bread and cheese (and preferably lots of both). They're not so heavy and the flavours of the other toppings come through better.

Also, it's lots of fun to be able to roll up a slice of pizza and eat it that way!

#24 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 07:17 AM:

A very large pizza is an incitement to social behavior.

#25 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 08:44 AM:

#24, John A Arkansawyer -

Brilliant. Not quite as universally true as our health would demand, but brilliant just the same.

#26 ::: JimR ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 08:55 AM:

John A. Arkansawyer, #24;
That was certainly true when I was living in a dorm.
When I was a depressed loner, however, it was an incitement to all-night Diablo and Starcrafting.
Damn you, Pizza Hut and Blizzard!

On a more on-topic note, I recently returned to the US for a 2-week trip after 5 years living abroad, and 2 years of no visits...The food portions were astonishingly big. My wife and mother-in-law were unable to finish meals that they shared. When we ordered the lunch taco salad at a Mexican restaurant, and it was nearly 2 feet wide, I realized that maybe, MAYBE, there was something wrong with the eating habits of many Americans. Myself, 5 years ago, included.

#27 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 09:17 AM:

Renatus @#23, the different styles of pizza are notable here in the UK, the collision zone between US and EU. You couldn't force me to eat the stale over-breaded stodgy cardboard Pizza Hut turn out. Yes, it's cheaper than, say, Pizza Express, but the latter actually don't taste nasty.

The market has noticed: in the last ten years or so lots of Pizza Express imitators (i.e. pizza places that make at least a token attempt to look at Italian pizza) have popped up all over the place, while Pizza Hut has been getting rarer and rarer and has almost no imitators.
Even frozen supermarket `pizzas' are shifting.

#28 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 09:56 AM:

Those Blimp cartoons could have been written in the US yesterday (except, of course, that modern Blimps feel the opposite way about Chamberlain).

A little while ago I read Ilf and Petrov's wonderful satirical novel The Twelve Chairs, set in the NEP-era Soviet Union. It was interesting to see so many characters using Neville Chamberlain as shorthand for everything evil and wrong, but for completely different reasons than we do it today.

#29 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 10:06 AM:

the different styles of pizza are notable here in the UK, the collision zone between US and EU.

There are actually a lot of different pizza styles available even in the US; I wouldn't describe anything in particular as American pizza. The classic New York street slice is pretty thin; you can fold it over or roll it up to eat it. Occasionally the big national chains experiment with selling something like that. Then there's the thicker-crust stuff and the weird stuffed-pizza variants that the big national chains tend to specialize in, the "Greek pizza" sold around Boston which is somewhere between thin and thick, and the deep-pan Chicago style pizza which is a completely different dish from pizza as usually understood.

There's also been a recent craze for upscale "flatbread" restaurants that sell a very thin, fairly crisp pizza cut into rectangular strips, sometimes with fancy organically grown toppings. I like this stuff a lot.

#30 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 10:26 AM:

The coffee example baffles me. The standard 8 oz. china cup is the norm in places that aren't overrun with Starbucks (can you say Waffle House?), and they don't charge you for refills. Then there's the issue of what you put *in* that little cup. I suppose the coffee-and-cigarette of yesteryear is a bit of a tangent.

On portion sizes in restaurants, in chef school I learned that yes, restaurants feed you more than you can (or at least should) actually eat; that's what customers expect. People feel cheated if they get just enough to feel full. Since your biggest costs, in a restaurant, are around labor, you don't have to charge customers all that much more to make bigger portions.

#31 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 10:58 AM:

We have a curious local style of pizza in the Maryland DC area and fringes, which fills up a rectangular cookie sheet and has a very thin crust of a unique texture. It is cut into little square pieces and if there are meat toppings, they pare placed one to a square. It is most strongly associated with the Ledo's chain, but us old folk remember getting it all over the area.

#32 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 11:00 AM:

And I seem to spend a lot of time of late pointing out that Chamberlain wised up.

#33 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 11:10 AM:

Avram wrote at #4:
"I'd expect the meat recipes to be more conservative. Meat used to be a lot more expensive."

This must have been a common complaint. Case in point: In the Fearless Fosdick comic-strip "The Case of the Atom Bum" from the 1950s, Fosdick manages to completely evacuate Washington D.C.

How? He posts a sign on the front window of an out-of-town butcher shop: meat is for sale at a "fair price". In no time the rumor spreads, and millions of ecstatic citizens flock around the one shop where meat isn't expensive.

#34 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 11:21 AM:

Since we almost never eat out, husband and I have different tastes in food, and I'm a crummy cook, I've mostly taken to eating some varieties of Lean Cuisine -- half a serving per meal. More than that and I wouldn't have room for my all-time favorite snack, coffee yogurt, several times a day!

#35 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 11:27 AM:

Speaking of Colonel Blimp: I recommend checking out the movie, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. It's not what you'd expect from a movie adapted from single-panel political cartoons. It begins with the buffoon from the comic, jumps back a few decades to Blimp as a young man, and tells how the latter became the former, granting him depth and sympathy along the way.

#36 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 11:31 AM:

Scott @19-- I wonder whether people eat more, or less, at buffets if plates are larger or smaller. On one hand, people are likely to eat what they take (so small might be preferable) but if plates are small, people might just take 2 of them... The more walking back and forth between buffet and table you do, the more time you have with which to notice you're full. I can't really work out the factors in my head.

Actually there has been research on that, although I don't have a link handy. Basically, people orient themselves to plate, cup or bowl size, and (tend to) try and eat what's there. There was one study in which soup bowls were rigged so that a hose from under the table kept replacing soup unobtrusively, and the subjects kept eating; ISTR it was a student cafeteria-type setting.

So although one can make a conscious choice to clean one's plate, go for seconds at a buffet, etc., having smaller dishes is a useful psychological advantage in portion/weight control.

Faren Miller @34 -- Mmmmmm, coffee yogurt!!

#37 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 01:13 PM:

Scott and Debbie, if I remember correctly, the brain takes about twenty minutes to register when the stomach's full. The theory is that was a survival mechanism: if we're wandering across the savanna and stumble on a lot of food, we'll gorge, since it might be days before the next big meal. Small plates are a helpful way for us to realize we're not on the savanna any more.

#38 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 01:19 PM:

I recall an essay to the effect of "Phyletic Size Decrease in Hershey Bars". Oddly, The Times (via Google) credits it to S.J. Gould, but I could have sworn I originally saw the concept as a Jerry Pournelle column in Analog.

#39 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 01:25 PM:

Small plates are a helpful way for us to realize we're not on the savanna any more.

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

Interestingly, the linked article mentioned that plate sizes have gotten larger over the years.

#40 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 01:33 PM:

will shetterly (37): My recollection of that research is that most people take about 10 minutes to realize they're full, but obese people take about 20 minutes. They had no data on why the difference. It would make sense that people who take longer to feel full would tend to eat more and thus be more likely to be overweight, but it could be that something about being overweight makes it take longer to feel full.

#41 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 02:33 PM:

Here is a table of Hershey bar sizes from 1906 to 1986. One can see that the size goes up and down quite a bit.

#42 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 03:02 PM:

Since Eva bought me a bagel guillotine* I've had to adapt to the fact that there are three apparently standard sizes in the "it's not really a bagel" varieties**. They fit into the holder differently, and for the smaller ones I have to be sure they're pushed down properly or the blade slices them on the bias and I get one slice that's wafer thin on one side. I buy the really cheap Kaiser-Rolls-in-a-torus kind just to melt cheese on; they're the smallest. The local bagel chain sells a specially-manufactured kind through CostCo; they're the middle-sized version, and a little better. The same chain sells larger† bagels that usually need to be pushed down into the holder because they're a tad too large. In terms of volume and caloric content I'd guess the large bagels are about twice as big as the little ones.

The bagels of fond memory, the ones I used to get in NYC, were as large as the largest I can get here in the Northwest, and quite a bit denser, so they were even larger a serving. But we used to eat them only on Sunday mornings, so they were a treat, not a regular staple.

* "Cake, hah! Let them eat bagels!"
** The ones that are either barely in the same Order, or are perhaps the same Genus but with little to show how the species are related.
† And less regular in shape; it looks like the cheap ones were made in a mold and the expensive ones were hand-made.

#43 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 03:07 PM:

Glenn #22 -- I don't know about that. Herb Lubalin created a font called Lubalin Graph that looks superficially like a slab-serif Avant Garde -- near-constant stroke width, very geometric letterforms -- but it's not the same. It's certainly not the font in that logo. Look at the capital E in ITC Lubalin Graph Medium, and the capital E in that logo. The serifs are in different places.

And I haven't seen a version of Lubalin Graph with all those crazy alternative ligatures that the original Avant Garde had. Though it's hard to find the full set of Avant Garde as well.

#44 ::: Kristi Wachter ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 03:10 PM:

Seconding Wesley (#35)'s recommendation on Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. I've recently seen several of the Powell-Pressburger films, and they give a fascinating perspective on England and the war. Blimp was shot during the war, which is pretty amazing in itself. Churchill tried to stop the film - some historians think he thought the Blimp character was a little to close to himself.

#45 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 03:55 PM:

Scott, Debbie, Mary, and Will re: Food

More than one study (link not handy) has found that the more choices of food visible, the more absolute calories people'll eat. In one study, people were given a choice of (iirc) 4 sandwiches, and another group 6 sandwiches (both in unlimited quantities): the 6-choices group ate many more calories.

Similarly, people in one group each had a bowl with just one color of M&Ms, the other group had bowls with multiple M&Ms. Note that there was no flavor difference, just more colors. The more-'choices' group ate more calories.

My takeaway #1: at a buffet, my first plate is always a bowl of soup--not cream based--surrounded by salad. That's a very powerful part of the brain one is fighting at buffets.

On obesity:
One study just out in April found that abdominal fat actually produces a hunger hormone, neuropeptide Y. Sadly, not only is NPY a very potent cause of hunger (and until now was only thought to be made in the brain), it promotes fat-stem-cells (fat cell precursors) to become fat cells. If the belly-fat NPY is also getting into the brain, causing intense hunger, then this is a nasty vicious cycle.

And for those people who say "a calorie is a calorie," no. Some people have much more efficient gut bacteria mixes than others, so that for a meal, the efficient group will extract up to 30% more calories.

Bah once-useful now-dangerous pathways.

#46 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 04:43 PM:

C. Wingate @41: The article I was thinking of covered (IIRC) 1949-1979, and it included multiple sizes in each year. The theme was that the "regular" bar got smaller and smaller until it (a) got supplanted by a new "jumbo" bar", and (b) reached a minimum size as a "change-maker", replacing the previously smallest bar. The new "jumbo" bar would then follow the same pattern.... (Quoted terms are mine.)

#47 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 06:06 PM:

It's a little too easy to pick a high-price year as the starting point for comparisons, and then apply a standard inflation correction, and then reveal that current food prices are still insanely low.

But, as a farmer, I watched shop prices rise by a few percent per year, while the price paid to farmers tended to fall. The big jump of the last couple of years doesn't bridge the gap which developed. I only wish the pain was limited to the people who deserve it.

It's all cheap food, and that doesn't fit well with the ancient programming. We're in a state of perpetual surfeit.

#48 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 08:53 PM:

Avram @ 43: Crazy alternate ligatures of Lubalin Graph? Here.

Did the modify it a bit? Sure. But it's Lubalin either way.

(type neep! type neep!)

#49 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 10:32 PM:

Soft drink sizes:

Pepsi was responsible for increasing soft drinks sizes when they brought out the 12-ounce size as a desperate attempt to save the business. I think this may have been back before World War II, but not being around then, I'm not positive. They also had the first radio jingle:

"Pepsi-Cola hits the spot,
Twelve full ounces, that's a lot!
Twice as much for a nickle, too--
Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you!"

(Pogo fans may recall seeing Walt Kelly's variant of this: "Pensacola it's the spot" appear in the strip, possibly on the boat of the ever-changing name.)

My mother has the lovely habit of breaking into random bits of song while she's doing other things, and the Pepsi jingle is one of the thngs in her repertoire.

#50 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2008, 12:37 AM:

re 46: If there was such a pattern, I don't recall it in my lifetime. As far as I can remember, there have only been five basic sizes: minis, the "fun size" (sold only in bags, e.g. for Halloween), the std. bar, the king size (started in 1980), and a range of huge bars. Very roughly, it appears that the std. bar started out a bit under an ounce, went up to 1 1/2 oz. in '30s, dropped back to an ounce after the war, and then went back up to 1 1/2 oz. in the '80s.

#51 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2008, 04:48 AM:

Re: Obesity and hunger. The part of the stomach that sends the "I'm full" message to the brain is right near the top, but the stomach expands more towards the bottom, kind of like seeing a water balloon being filled. Since the semi-permanent stretching of the stomach in obese folks is biased, it takes proportionately longer for the same amount of food to stimulate that portion of the upper stomach. The exact details are still not clear, but that's how my doc explained it to me.

When I asked my bariatric surgeon to invert my stomach and re-attach the hoses as necessary, he gave me a lecture on the nutritional dangers of feeling full from the first bite. I still say it would have worked.

#52 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2008, 07:09 AM:

Edward Oleander @51: It would probably be awkward to eat while standing on your head (I would think swallowing would be difficult), but if you could learn to do it, perhaps that would give you the same result.

#53 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2008, 09:13 AM:
And what’d these people do to piss Teresa off?
By complete coincidence, that's one of the author sites I work with at Federated Media.
#54 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2008, 11:17 AM:

Avram, "those crappy things from Lenders" *are* the size that bagels were 50 years ago. Really -- even the ones from east coast delis.

#55 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2008, 01:17 PM:

Fifty maybe, Scorpio. Not twenty.

#56 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2008, 01:51 PM:

Avram, how old were you twenty years ago? There are a lot of reasons why we remember things being different than they were—including accuracy: your neighborhood place may've made larger than average bagels.

You just sent me googling H & H bagels. Alas, their site doesn't talk about their history or their bagel size. I had eaten Lenders in college, and when I came to New York in the mid-70s, I lived near H & H, a little shop where you could buy a fresh bagel late at night. I think I would remember if they were larger than Lenders. I just remember they were cheap little tastes of heaven.

#57 ::: Tam ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2008, 05:41 PM:

Interesting article on portion size but I too am a little skeptical. I just calculated the calorie content of a a mocha with a friend (having nothing better to do on a fine Sunday afternoon) and by our math you're looking at something closer to 580 calories, not counting the whipped cream.

And, though I have no evidence to back me up, I suspect consuming a 16 ounce mocha every day might be a bigger issue than the size of the mocha.

#58 ::: litlnemo ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2008, 09:33 PM:

"Pepsi-Cola hits the spot..."

That jingle was before my time, but my mom told me that she sang it as a child: "Pepsi-Cola hits the spot/looks like vinegar, tastes like snot..."

#59 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2008, 11:04 PM:

I remember from my childhood a jingle for Burger Chef (warning, sound):

Fifteen cents
A nickel and a dime
At Burger Chef
You eat better ev'ry time
'Cause the nickel and the dime will get
French fried potatoes, crisp and fresh
Or the greatest fifteen cent hamburger yet.

Why fifteen cents? Because McDonald burgers at the time were twenty cents.

#60 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2008, 11:28 PM:

Grrr, the link didn't work: Burger Chef jingles

BTW, had an odd soda incident at lunch today: my daughter took one sip of her "Coke" and remarked that it tasted funny. I took a sip, and said, "Hmmm.... that tastes like Pepsi."

#61 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2008, 11:48 PM:

Will, "twenty years ago" is the late '80s, not the mid-'70s.

I was in college in 1986 or '87 when I first saw a toaster with slots wide enough for bagels. I think that was around the time that bagels were starting to become popular nation-wide.

#62 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2008, 01:07 AM:

Re Hershey bars: 1: It was S.J. Gould. 2: The size of Hershey bars was variable, because Hershey refused (for decades) to raise the price from $.05, so as sugar and chocolate varied, the size moved to avoid taking a loss.

In the course of that he allowed for more expensive bars, but held onto the nickel bar until the late 60s.

Kathryn from Sunnyvale: I suspect I am one of the more efficient digesters. I also tend to eat more slowly, and when I'm full, I can't eat anymore. There are a few foods I will binge on, but I can't afford (or rationalise) eating king crab or lobster all that often.

fidelio: yes, it was (IIRC) in the depression, and it did wonders.

I remember Buger Chef, more for the fun I had with the kids meal packaging (cardboard with various games and pictures), than anything about the food.

#63 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2008, 02:05 AM:

Will, "twenty years ago" is the late '80s, not the mid-'70s.

I have hit the time-is-fleeting stage of life, but in this case, I was offering what I knew in response to:

Fifty maybe, Scorpio. Not twenty.

So I was suggesting thirty maybe, but not fifty. Now you've sent me in search of the source of the data we're talking about, and while I completely understand your desire to distrust our government, when it comes to average bagel size, I'm comfortable thinking the Department of Health and Human Services has no reason to mislead us about average bagel sizes twenty years ago.

#64 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2008, 02:08 AM:

I would like to cut seven words from the last sentence of #63. Ah, well. Preview in haste--

#65 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2008, 09:43 AM:

re 62: Pedantically I must point out that Hershey died in 1945, so his personal participation in this scheme is limited to the first 2 1/2 decades of the 5 cent bar. I also suspect there is another factor, in that I suspect at some point it became "unacceptable" to set the price at anything but 5 cent increments-- perhaps related to the use of vending machines? I note that the first step away from the nickel price was to double both the price and the size of the bar.

The bigger bars were always a lot bigger, until the King Size came around. As far as I can remember, they were always at fixed weights: 1/4 pound, 1/2 pound, and (maybe) 1 pound. The thing is that once you're selling something more expensive, it's easier to adjust the price. It's the same thing with the minis, where the count and the price can be adjusted to suit.

It would be interesting to see what other candy bars did. I have a suspicion that they couldn't vary too much from what Hershey was doing.

#66 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2008, 10:01 AM:

Aha! I've found a partial online copy of Gould's essay (courtesy of Google Books) and the period he describes is actually quite short: 1965 to 1980 (not counting the postscript). This period, of course, matches the period of maximum inflation. And indeed, I see that the nickel pricing rule I posited did in fact exist. However, what I also see is that at the time, the "natural" weight of the standard bar stood at about 1 1/4 ounces. And I see that there was only one period where there was a size replacement, because of the switch between the 5 cent and 10 cent bars. Over the very long haul, one could posit that the natural size of the Hershey bar is about 1.5 ounces, but that financial starvation (as it were) can push it down to about an ounce.

Now, can someone explain why the European chocolate bars you see in the US are about twice the size of the Hershey bar?

#67 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2008, 12:27 PM:

C., vending machines might've been a factor, but that wouldn't apply to another example of the 1950s' "hold the price, cut the size" approach: comic books. Was it only applied to comics, soft drinks, and candy? Is so, it might've had to do with big business's best idea on how to get money from children.

#68 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2008, 12:59 PM:

fidelio @ #49:
Huh, I know a parody of that jingle that starts "Christianity hits the spot." I never knew what the original was before.

#69 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2008, 01:58 PM:

The vending thing was just a guess on my part; I don't presume any kind of actual knowledge of the black arts of retail pricing.

#70 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2008, 04:08 PM:

C., sorry if I sounded like I was criticizing--I think it's a damn good guess, and vending machines are part of the pricing game. I think when I was a kid, the only ones that took pennies were gumball machines. The candy and pop makers had to play the increment game in nickels then.

For the whippersnappers*, think of a penny as a quarter, and a nickel as a dollar. The companies knew the public would balk at doubling the price, so first they reduced the size to hold the price, and then they increased the size to rationalize the new price.

* Which I just looked up: it's from snippersnapper. I love our silly language.

#71 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2008, 05:26 PM:

Debbie @ 36 - I think you're likely thinking of Brian Wansink, whose most recent book is Mindless eating: why we eat more than we think (website here).

I thought it was an interesting book, although it didn't do much to help my husband get past the idea that since there are 2 of us, half the package is one serving....

#72 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2008, 05:29 PM:

Oh, ARRGH! The Mindless Eating website insists that one enter an email address before allowing one to look around.

I hope they don't actually try to send email to — it wouldn't do much good...

#73 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2008, 07:18 PM:

Speaking of David Low, (author of Colonel Blimp) I remember reading a book of David Low cartoons of World War II vintage which was an excellent window on the history of the beginning of World War II. Unfortunately since it was published during the war it only covers the first half or so of it. Is there by any chance a sequel?

#74 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2008, 07:21 PM:

At one point, (circa 1990), Dunkin' Donuts renamed their coffee sizes.

There were originally small, medium and large, and then two sizes beyond large were introduced: The Big One and Jumbo.

Later they went back to three sizes, with the new large being the same size as jumbo.

#75 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2008, 08:20 PM:

re #50?

candy bar sizes went down after WWII?

I might have expected the opposite, with an end to rationing.

#76 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2008, 11:42 PM:

Chocolate wasn't rationed in the US, and most went to the troops anyway.

#77 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 01:10 PM:

So now coffee sizes have a language all their own too. Dave Barry said it well: Starbucks (motto: ''There's one opening right now in your basement'') decided to call its cup sizes ''Tall'' (meaning ''not tall,'' or ''small''), ''Grande'' (meaning ''medium'') and ''Venti'' (meaning, for all we know, ''weasel snot'').

Doesn't this present a problem when you really do want to order weasel snot?

#78 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 01:16 PM:


I asked at my friendly local green mermaid, and they said 'Venti' is because it's a twenty-ounce cup. Otherwise ... yeah.

#79 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 01:51 PM:

If I'm at a starbucks what I want to order (they never have it) is weasel shit.

At some insane price ($800 lb) it's not likely to ever show up in a retail establishment; at least not one I am willing to give my custom.

But it's really good.

#80 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 02:39 PM:

If I'm at a starbucks what I want to order (they never have it) is weasel shit.... it's really good.

Goes well with hakarl?

#81 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 02:56 PM:

Debbie: No, it wouldn't.

I was playig fast and (a little) loose with the terms.

There is a type of coffee which is collected from weasel feces. The weasels (native to Malaysia, IIRC) eat the ripest of coffee cherries, and the beans pass through, intact.

The guts of the weasels affect the beans, and the resultant coffee is really smooth, mellow and rich.

But it's hideously expensive (someone has to wander the groves, looking for weasel scat; and they aren't domesticable).

So I've had it, once; because they were brewing a pot for an insert on a show I was working. Which was it's own amusement. We had some $50,000 worth of spiders, and they were worried about the coffee being lost; not accidentally killing the spiders.

#82 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 03:07 PM:

Terry, I've heard of that coffee. It just sounds like it would be in the same category. Interesting to hear that the hype is deserved.

#83 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2008, 03:38 PM:

Debbie: I might pay as much as $75 for a lb. of green beans.

But $8000 for a lb of roasted? No.

So the reputation is deserved, but I don't think it rises to the price being charged.

Sort of like Jamaican Blue Mountain. Nice, but $50 a .lb... iffy, and not roasted. Unless I was buying it, onsite at Mayorga; or some other roaster I know personally (Mayrga, BTW, in Silver Spring, Maryland, is the best coffee shop I've been to in the US). There are just too many variables in the chain of events.

I refuse to spend that kind of money for stale coffee (or for coffee which will stale before I can reasonably finish it).

#84 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 12:24 AM:

Terry, there's a point at which money can only buy the taste of money. To some people, nothing's more delicious.

D'oh! It's the Emperor's New Coffee.

#85 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 03:35 AM:

Will: I understand that, I just don't get it.

I'm with the father of an ex-girlfriend. He was dining at a restaurant in Santa Barbara (this was when he was a producer for ABC). The table next to him was enjoying a $1,500 bottle of wine (ca. 1980).

That wasn't the part which bothered him, it was when they ordered a second bottle of the same.

If the wine was worth that much, so he felt, it was wrong to order the second bottle; and deprive someone else the chance to enjoy it.

#86 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 04:05 AM:

Conspicuous consumption of a rare item, annoying someone else by doing so, and denying someone else the chance to enjoy the rare item sounds like a rich person's dominance trifecta.

If I were rich, I'd certainly enjoy fine yet unpretentious dining, but I wouldn't do things like buy a restaurant just to get them to change something on the menu, for example.

#87 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 04:20 AM:

Earl Cooley: Nouveau riche. The people I know who were born to wealth would have ordered one bottle. If they wanted another, they'd have chosen something else.

#88 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 04:54 AM:


Most middle-class and lower-class people like us (aristocrats within earshot, please don't be insulted; I'm not leaving you out for spite; you just don't fit into the sample population I'm talking about) have never met old money. Or didn't know they had, since most people from old-money backgrounds don't act like what the media make us think of the rich.

One of the happiest and most centered people I've ever known was a Biddle (something like 12 to 15 generations of wealth) whose family had enough heirs to carry on the businesses and their social obligations that they didn't object when he decided to become a musician. He's still out there 40 years later, I hear, composing, producing recordings, and playing session gigs with his friends. And neither Joel nor anyone in his family would ever choose a restaurant because of the prices on the menu.

#89 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 05:26 AM:

If I were rich...

If I were rich, I'd be living in the Bay Area, with a nice East Bay house, with one or two extra rooms that'd be for friends to come and visit from out of town. And I might eat out more often, probably at the local Mexican restaurant.

#90 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 09:01 AM:

I don't believe belly fat does much of anything to increase hunger. If it did, it would be easier to keep weight off than to lose it, and this isn't the case for many (most?) people.

#91 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 02:32 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz@90 (re; 45)

That study found that belly fat produces Neuropeptide Y, so if--as further research will investigate--NPY is circulating in the blood / getting into the brain, then it would cause hunger.

But the NPY also promotes fat's stem cells to become fat cells, so that alone is bad.

My reading of those articles suggested that NPY causes a powerful sense of hunger--craving--that would promote eating even if one has had food. I don't see why that wouldn't cause weight gain.

#92 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2008, 03:05 PM:

Bruce Cohen: I do know old money. I have friends who got a million dollars at 18; it was their share of the family money (with which they were to make their way; a grubstake). Their parents got the same, because their parents had taken a reasonable fortune (for the time) and turned it into a really large fortune; the sort one spends endowing libraries at universities, and wings in museums.

I have others who just expect to inheirit a fair chunk of the 18 million the family is worth. I know most people haven't met old money, it's why I made the point that they think differently.

Hearing someone say the jewelry they'd been looking at was nice, but they couldn't justify spending $38,000 for it, $12,000 maybe, but not $38,000; well it shows what differences of scale do. It was eye-opening; she was being thrifty.

#93 ::: Inquisitive Raven ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 12:55 PM:

My father's family is New England old money. You sure wouldn't have known it from his lifestyle though. He was a man who wouldn't replace a moth eaten sweater because it was his favorite. He was a true tightwad. His sister is more inclined to spend money on non-essentials, but she also lives in New York City, which just has a higher than average cost of living. Yes, it's an entirely different attitude from new money.

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