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Less is more

01/10/06 12:00AM By Mike Martin
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(HOST) When it comes to setting personal goals for the year just getting under way, commentator Mike Martin suggests keeping it simple...more...or less.

(MARTIN) My wife is five feet tall, slender, and French, so she doesn't like to be supersized. When we go to the movies and
the popcorn vendor tries to upsell her on a soft drink, she re-
sists stubbornly. Even if she gets twice as much soda for only twenty-five cents more, even if her size is three times as expen-
sive per fluid ounce, she always picks the smallest size. My friends and I tell her that the American way consists of bigger-
is-better, but she knows in her heart that less is more.

One time, when we were getting a coffee with a friend, she got into trouble. She knew she didn't want a "tall" because she wanted a small. She knew that a "grande" definitely sounded big, so she avoided that size too. So finally she opted for a "venti" because it sounded European and charming. My friend and I warned her off, saying that it was too much; but, since we are American, she figured we were poor judges of what a reasonably-sized drink is. My wife hesitated. The barista yawned. The customers behind us fidgeted. She went with the venti.

There are twenty fluid ounces of coffee in a venti - which means "twenty" in Italian - and my wife lugged her mega java back to her table with two hands. It was a humbling moment for a girl whose mantra is "Less is more."

My friend and I tried to cheer her up by making jokes - things like, "Um, honey, can you move your coffee; I can't see you." And, "Hey, there's a voice coming from behind that coffee - do you see anybody?"

When we first moved back to America, I really wanted my wife to try a world-famous ice cream from my home state, Vermont. But she didn't take to it right away. She said there was so much food in it, and stuff sprinkled on it, that you couldn't really taste the ice cream. Same with salads in restaurants: there was just too much stuff. The bacon bits and jumbo croutons and miniature corn on the cob and five kinds of dressing really turned her off.

The salad in a traditional French dinner is just fresh lettuce with really good vinaigrette and maybe some shallots. It's meant to be simple and good and to counteract the cheeses that follow. By the way, it's considered bad form to take more than three kinds of cheese from the cheese platter - no matter how good they are. Once again, it's about savoring, not consuming.

If you're like me, the holidays have made your jeans a little tighter and your credit card burden a lot heavier. But before we go back to the sweeping, fleeting New Year's resolutions of years past, it might be better to just try to consume a little bit less of everything. Maybe just try to be a little more aware, a little more reasonable. Just like my wife always says, sometimes less is really more.

I'm Mike Martin of Burlington.

Mike Martin writes about issues of culture and education and teaches French at Champlain Valley Union High School.
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