Several of us had noticed this patter to dinner: soup, meat + starch, dessert. If there were any vegetables, they served as garnish, as with the entree from Budapest below, of cheesy breaded chicken breast, french fries, white rice, a piece of lettuce, and a curly-Q of shaved carrot. (I ate everything but the fries. Dessert came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream; good thing I didn't have to sing right after that--I don't know how the rest of them did it without getting phlegmy!)
Now, I am familiar with this Central European menu, since it comes up in my dissertation research. The soup is to stimulate the appetite. The meat + starch are the main event (calories, protein, carbohydrates). According to at least one physiologist, the purpose of dessert is that the sugar helps with gastric motility and therefore digestion of the dinner just eaten. Fruits and vegetables are good for appearance and variety, both of which stimulate appetite, but too many--especially raw--burden the digestive system with indigestible cellulose. The low nutritional worth of fruits, at least, can be increased by cooking them down with sugar into compote. This is, as you can see, a pre-vitamin paradigm.
I knew about this way of eating, and yet I was surprised to experience it consistently in Budapest and Vienna at our restaurant dinners. Granted, we were served hot meals in the evening of the kind that Central Europeans traditionally ate/eat in the middle of the day (~1pm). Fruits and vegetables are normal parts of the two cold meals at the beginning and end of the day, which generally consist of bread or rolls, meats, cheeses, bread-spreads, pickles, and maybe hard-boiled eggs. But when I mentioned this to my (American) mother-in-law, she told me that her (Austrian) mother-in-law had been of the opinion that a proper large meal of the kind our hostess served us should include three meats and a starch!*
|Look, honey: parsley counts as a vegetable, right?|
Wienerschnitzel and potatoes in Vienna