An Olive Garden with almost no olives
Olive Garden joins the ranks of companies that survive by ripping off customers; do they think we're too stupid to notice how they gyp us?

woman ordering in restaurant
Tongue-in-cheek, half-serious observation of the day: Women who want a hot body like this don't need diet books, they just need to eat in restaurants that serve the now-common lilliputian portions!

Years ago, restaurants frequently offered insanely large super-sized portions. Now, with rising food prices and fewer customers, many restaurants strive to maintain their profits by serving portions that wouldn't fill up a small child. Although I eat much less than I once did, I'd need two or three entrées to feel full.

What's especially annoying about this ripoff is that most restaurant food is made from ingredients chosen more for their low cost than nutrition or taste, which they amp up with salt, sugar, cheap fats, MSG (often camouflaged under one of its many synonyms), and artificial flavors concocted by flavoring companies so obsessed with secrecy they won't disclose what they're putting into our bodies.

He who has nothing to hide, hides nothing.

My Olive Garden salad consisted of the usual cheap lettuce with a smidgen of onions, a few shards of tomatoes, and a single olive. Olives are nutritious, but getting just one per meal is less good nutrition than a cruel reminder of what I didn't get. And why didn't I get it? Because Olive Garden would rather give my money to its executives than give me a fair meal for the price I paid. The size of the entrée left me wondering if this was a joke; five bites and it was gone. Although I'd rather get a bee sting than eat sugar, I was still so hungry that I ordered dessert, splitting it with a friend.

Still hungry.


  1. Months later, I ate a salad (nothing else except water) at a real Italian restaurant. The difference was night and day. That salad was bursting with flavor, loaded with different varieties of olives, cheeses, meats, and vegetables that kept me going so long I was able to skip a meal and still not feel hungry. Oh, and I had no problem sleeping that night (see below).
  2. UPDATE February 24, 2013: Darden Restaurants' Falling Revenues
    Excerpt: Darden Restaurants Inc.'s “family of restaurants contains chains such as: Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, The Capital Grille, Eddie V's, and Yard House.”
    Comment: While they might blame it on the economy, they are slitting their own throat. I've had it with Olive Garden for the reasons mentioned above and haven't stepped foot in a Red Lobster in several years even though their food is unbelievably tasty. From the insomnia I experience after eating it, I suspect their yummy food owes much of its addictive flavor to loads of flavor-enhancing chemicals. Most restaurants use them as cheap shortcuts to flavor, but judging by my reaction, I think Red Lobster uses more than average.

    Many Americans seem unaware of the link between what they eat and how they feel and look, but there is definitely a connection. Perceptive people put two and two together and figure this out, while others go through life feeling and looking worse than they should. The junk we eat is killing us.

    A book from Michael Moss, a Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter at The New York Times: Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. They hooked me and almost killed me with insomnia so bad that it ruined years of my life, but I unhooked myself from their toxic bait. You should, too.

    Must-read article by Moss: The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.
  3. Food Delivers a Cocktail of Hormone-Like Signals to Body
    Excerpt: “Randy J. Seeley, the director of the Cincinnati Diabetes Center at the University of Cincinnati, … and his colleague, Karen K. Ryan, argue that food's effects on the body are so complex and specific that a meal is almost like a cocktail of hormones.”
    Comment: Yes, and I've said it for years.
  4. Food Fraud: 5 Common Counterfeits
  5. How Restaurants Cut Corners To Save Money
  6. THE EATBEAT: Long-awaited Olive Garden receives warm welcome
    Comment: The human mind has a built-in yardstick that is relative, not absolute. For an Olive Garden to be praised in Grand Forks indicates how they must not have truly good restaurants.
  7. Olive Garden Reviewer Marilyn Hagerty is Back! And This Time She's Been Short-Changed on Seafood.
  8. THE EATBEAT: The Olive Garden, one year later
    Excerpt: “The food is predictable, down to the four or five black olives you find in the salad bowl. … The seafood was there, but a little hard to find. There was more pasta than I could eat.”

    Comment: That's the Olive Garden formula: lots of pasta, breadsticks, and other cheap stuff; not much good nutrition. Consider their ingredients: lots (and lots!) of white flour, cheap lettuce, water, sugar, spices, and chemicals galore. Anyone want to rave about that nutritional nightmare? Be my guest! Your veins and fat cells will be flooded with white flour or, more precisely, the junk remaining after that junk is digested. Good luck in your quest for great health and a nice body that doesn't need clothes for camouflage.

    Americans are so accustomed to eating food that's second-rate in taste and third-rate in nutrition they don't know what they are missing. I could make a salad for you unlike anything you've had before; mine is loaded with nutrition and so incredibly yummy it doesn't need salad dressing.

    The big secret of American food is that even relatively good restaurants and food companies rarely, if ever, give us the best in terms of taste and nutrition. Instead, they fill us up with the tasty cheap stuff that's easy to prepare. I can make a dessert that is 100% natural and will send your taste buds into the stratosphere while being very healthy. Imagine that—a dessert so healthy your doctor would advise you to eat more of it!

    With most Americans struggling to get basic good nutrition, few go beyond the basics and learn how certain foods can pep you up, brighten your mood, enhance your body, boost your libido, make sex vastly more pleasurable, stimulate creativity, improve intelligence, and even cure writer's block—yes, really. Instead, you get sugar, salt, and fat—and you get robbed of much of the joy in life so processed food companies and restaurants have more money for their CEOs and shareholders. I bet they're happier than you are.

    I wonder why more Americans don't realize how they're just willing pawns in the game of profiting off us at our expense, but Michael Moss's Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us exposes their dirty little secrets. It's not Twitter-length, so it will repel most Americans. Too bad; they don't know what they're missing. Now back to those endless breadsticks …
  9. Olive Garden owner Darden warns on 3rd quarter
The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reference: Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking: Excerpt: “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning …”

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