Wiping my mouth and tossing the Styrofoam plate and bowl into the trash at the motel, I gather up my suitcase, pocketbook and laptop. Time to hit the road for another day of traveling to see the family. Seeing the family is great. I love to have the face-time with them.


Traveling down the highway past one restaurant after another, glimpsing huge, delectable pictures of sausage-filled biscuits or three scoops of ice cream on a waffle cone may explain why I return from most trips weighing five pounds more than when I left.


Having fueled our bodies with the breakfast at the hotel, we needed to fuel the car. We stopped at a station a few miles down the road that featured huge ads for pumpkin latte and pumpkin shakes.


I wanted both. My stomach didn’t. It sank like an anchor and held me in the car. No way could I eat anything else right then. I had reached “full enough.”


Still, it looked so good. And that is the problem on every trip. We hit new cities with new foods and every bite looks temptingly delicious.


So I welcomed my son’s invitation to a tasting event for every dish offered at a chain restaurant with 16 basic entrees. We skipped lunch and waited for the early supper. The brightly lit restaurant featured a colorful display of food options. Lucky us, we did not have to choose anything. The manager had set aside a corner booth with a “reserved” sign on the table and a card showing all of our options. We could have anything we wanted on the menu.


“I usually skip the salads and soups and begin with the appetizers,” he said.


We glanced at the salads and agreed we knew Caesar salad and vegetable soup. We took about half of each appetizer and placed the rest into carry-out boxes.


I should have stopped then and there. I didn’t. When would I ever again get a chance to have just a taste of every dish on the menu? Never.


Clearing away the empty appetizers, the smiling manager brought us our first four entrees — dishes from the Orient. We each grabbed a dish and began scooping out a small serving — just a taste. A taste usually infers at least a teaspoon, no more than a tablespoon of the dish. We did not stop with one, we took two and sometimes three. We should have stopped with one.


A taste for all still left plenty of food in each dish. Adding four more boxes made a small stack of carry-out containers with 12 more entrees to test. Like the sorcerer’s apprentice, the manager brought us four more entrees — Mediterranean this time. We tried a taste of each. The stack of take-away cartons grew taller.


He brought four American dishes. We looked at each other desperately. Could we do it again?


We did. We ate one tablespoon of each and four more boxes topped the stack of take-aways.


We declined two of the final four entrees as too common to taste. We miserably, quietly groaned when two more offerings of food appeared.


Finally, barely able to burp, we accepted a take-home dessert from our host and waddled away. My son took home all but four of the boxes.


We drove away holding our stomachs, whispering, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”


We headed for the Interstate and hit the road hard. We added many miles, stopping only for gas. Even well into the next day, not even the pumpkin spice latte looked tempting after our tasting feast.


Joan Hershberger is a retired journalist who lives in Parkers Chapel with her husband. She may be reached at joanh@eldoradonews.com