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Calculating Portion Size for Guests

 I'm serving pork loin for 12 adults. Is 3.75 pounds of meat enough?

 We remember an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show (which many of you are too young to remember) where Mary is having a typically disastrous dinner party. She offers Mr. Grant the dish containing the main course – six modest portions of some meat – and he helps himself to three portions. All sorts of awkwardness ensues as she has to explain to her boss that he just took the food intended for three guests.

What you are planning is 5 ounces of meat per person, as long as there's not a speck of fat, silverskin, waste, etc. to be removed. Is 5 ounces enough? We are firm believers in the need to control (generally cut down) serving size. The USDA suggests that an average adult have no more than a total of 6 ounces of meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts a day, so on that basis 5 ounces is almost an entire day's allotment.

At the same time, we tend to put entertaining in our "exceptions" category. We do not think a dinner party is the place to teach our friends and relatives that they should be eating less. We tend to make more food available to guests (although not necessarily serve more), on the premise that this really is an exception – that we do not eat this way during the rest of the week, and, we hope, they do not either. We almost always plan to make too much, and are not the least bit sorry to have leftovers.

Whether you serve the food, whether dishes are passed around the table and guests serve themselves, or whether guests serve themselves from a buffet can make a huge difference. Don't forget the Mr. Grants of this world.

Your guest list is certainly relevant. Is it the dear ladies who are coming to play bridge or the dear ladies who have just played a couple hard sets of tennis? Does the group include big and tall men or teens on the cusp of adulthood? What may be way too much for someone may seem stingy to someone else.

Presentation is another consideration. How are you going to serve this pork loin? In thin slices? In one big chunk? In pieces in a salad? Is it going to look skimpy on the plate? We would err on the side of excess – at least in serving dishes – to make an ample presentation.

In any event, 5 ounces of solid meat should be enough for just about anyone. It may be too much for some. If the guests serve themselves, however, someone at the end of the line may be shortchanged. We would have some serious side dishes available, almost certainly a large salad, and plenty of bread or rolls, which can help top off the biggest eaters.

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