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Restaurant Table Manners


seawakim
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The more I dine out, the more I notice some habitual "manners" people have conformed to.

The most annoying one of these I've found to be the "leaving a bite on the plate".

My question is obvious: WHY? :blink: As a foodie I feel that this is plain wrong!

Is it to show some kind of polite restraint? What is the reason behind this nonsense?

"If we don't find anything pleasant at least we shall find something new." Voltaire

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I wonder if leaving a bite on the plate goes back to day when you would leave the last serving on the communal serving plate, presumably to avoid being greedy (I guess someone ate it once the platter went back into the kitchen).

I've also heard dieters say they will leave the last bite because that means they've eaten fewer calories :laugh:

morda

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Are you sure this is being done as some form of manners or etiquette? That would seem wierd to me. I try to finish my food because I am aware some chefs actually look at the plates and get upset if the dishes aren't eaten completely. Mrs. B, on the other hand, stops eating when she's had enough, or even before if it's a long meal with many courses. She is more intersted in ensuring she has enough appetite to enjoy at least part of each course than she worries about leaving the restaurant hungry.

If the food is good and portions not overwhelming, I'd say the gesture showed some restraint, but I see nothing polite in it.

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I relate this apocryphal anecdote in the hopes of getting some confirmation and, perhaps answering seawakim's question.

I recall reading of two American diplomats arriving in Israel (?) and eating dinner at somebody's home. Being diplomats, they, of course, cleaned their plates, only to have the hostess serve a second helping. After finishing that, they were manfully making their way through a third helping when a local, realizing what was happening, let them in on the relevant local custom. It seems that one signalled that one had eaten their fill by leaving a morsel on the plate. Otherwise, the hostess (it seemed important to the story that this was a family-style, mom-run meal, not a formal banquet) asssumed that you were still hungry and ladled out a second helping.

More generally, I can't recall being nearly as irritated by ideosynchratic "manners" as by the lack of manners, generally. Even then, I'm pretty happy with anyone capable of decent conversation and picking up their share of the tab though, as a waiter, I disliked people who used the wrong fork, as I had to re-mark the table.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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The reason is to show that you have eaten sufficient ("I couldn't eat another mouthful") and to indicate that you would not appreciate another helping. My DW does it and it drives me nuts, but what can you do?

Edited by britcook (log)
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What woud the servants and the poor eat if you did not leave food?

Meaning that I think you can trace the custom back to where the Lord would dine first, and what was left over go to the commoners, and then as alms to the poor..

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I'm the child of Depression era parents, who grew up humbly, having enough to eat but seeing many around them who did not or were forced to survive primarily on potatoes and the like. It was ingrained in me at an early age that you always had to eat everything that was on the plate, whether you liked it or not. Second helpings were generally available if desired but it was implicitly understood that all servings were to be eaten in their entirety.

To this day I feel compelled to eat what is on the plate but find that restaurants often serve too much so I just take home half the meal.

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I relate this apocryphal anecdote in the hopes of getting some confirmation and, perhaps answering seawakim's question.

I recall reading of two American diplomats arriving in Israel (?) and eating dinner at somebody's home. Being diplomats, they, of course, cleaned their plates, only to have the hostess serve a second helping. After finishing that, they were manfully making their way through a third helping when a local, realizing what was happening, let them in on the relevant local custom. It seems that one signalled that one had eaten their fill by leaving a morsel on the plate. Otherwise, the hostess (it seemed important to the story that this was a family-style, mom-run meal, not a formal banquet) asssumed that you were still hungry and ladled out a second helping.

Boy, do I wish this was customary at some of my favorite restaurants! :wub:

"If we don't find anything pleasant at least we shall find something new." Voltaire

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Guess I'm not polite, then...I'm a clean plate girl :biggrin:

Well, in places that offer reasonable sized portions, anywy.

You know what I've never understood? Now, this may not hold true any more, but when I was growing up, salads/side dishes were placed to the left of the plate (Midwest, put all your food out at once). I'm right handed, and I always had to reach over myself to eat my salad... never made sense to me.

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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You know what I've never understood? Now, this may not hold true any more, but when I was growing up, salads/side dishes were placed to the left of the plate (Midwest, put all your food out at once). I'm right handed, and I always had to reach over myself to eat my salad... never made sense to me.

That's because you Yanks eat with the fork in the wrong hand. The fork goes in your left hand and the knife goes in your right. And they stay there! None of this putting the knife down and switching hands and nonsense like that!

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That was when I was young. I've since seen the error of my ways, and have eaten Euro style for decades. :wink:

But I still don't understand why salads went on the left. Was it a leftist conspiracy?

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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I'm all about what I call (good) "manners" and don't care so much about what I call "etiquette". I realize this is quite subjective, but...

Etiquette, to me, refers to: 1) a bunch of rules that people (throughout the ages) who had too much money and time developed to further differentiate themselves and exclude the have-nots, e.g., multiple and duplicate pieces of flatware at one place setting, just because you can, with all the respective rules of usage that come with them and 2) antiquated rules of behavior that aren't exactly relevant anymore, e.g., hands always above deck so no one would think you're trying to, I don't know, SHOOT them under the table, squeeze their nuts, grab their womens' thighs???

Those kinds of things in this age (IMHO) don't really show whether you are a decent human being who is considerate of others and possesses good manners. If you're one of those people who takes half the Mongolian Beef at a family style Chinese dinner because it's your favorite, but there are lots of people dining with you, I'd say you're rude. But if you don't place the napkin on your lap, or actually place your elbows on the table within your personal space, I could give a rat's ass - just leave some Mongolian Beef for me. :wink:

Then there are those things that are just culturally relative. A friend of mine was telling me the other day about how mortified she was that her Chinese F-I-L would burp at the table, and her Chinese S-I-L would talk with food in her mouth. Now, these are personal pecadillos for me as well, but I think you have to put them in the proper cultural context. Such things are apparently not considered rude in their culture, and since she was eating with the whole darn Chinese family, I say, when in Rome... (which is not to say burp and talk with your mouth full - just try not to take so much offense). But then again, if the whole darn Chinese family were eating out somewhere else (i.e., NOT a Chinese home or Chinese restaurant), it would behoove them also, to do as the Romans, keep the burps to themselves and try not to display all your chewed up food during dinner conversation. :smile:

Edited by bottomlesspit (log)

sg

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The more I dine out, the more I notice some habitual "manners" people have conformed to.

The most annoying one of these I've found to be the "leaving a bite on the plate".

My question is obvious: WHY? :blink: As a foodie I feel that this is plain wrong!

Is it to show some kind of polite restraint? What is the reason behind this nonsense?

Geez Kim! If it really bothered you so much how I leave food on my plate so often when we eat out together, you could have just said someting, not start a whole thread about it!..... :wink:

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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The more I dine out, the more I notice some habitual "manners" people have conformed to.

The most annoying one of these I've found to be the "leaving a bite on the plate".

My question is obvious: WHY?  :blink: As a foodie I feel that this is plain wrong!

Is it to show some kind of polite restraint? What is the reason behind this nonsense?

Geez Kim! If it really bothered you so much how I leave food on my plate so often when we eat out together, you could have just said someting, not start a whole thread about it!..... :wink:

LOL, believe me, fellow sauce lovers like yourself are excluded from this habit, as we tend to clean our plates extensively to feed our endless cravings for more sauce. :biggrin:

"If we don't find anything pleasant at least we shall find something new." Voltaire

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LOL, believe me, fellow sauce lovers like yourself are excluded from this habit, as we tend to clean our plates extensively to feed our endless cravings for more sauce. :biggrin:

Just so long as you don't do as my brother and lick the plate... in restaurants. At home I can understand, but in a restaurant is a bit much for me.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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That's because you Yanks eat with the fork in the wrong hand. The fork goes in your left hand and the knife goes in your right. And they stay there! None of this putting the knife down and switching hands and nonsense like that!

Two examples of arbitrary manners amuse me:

1. Americans who cut a piece of meat, then lay down the knife and transfer the fork to the right hand.

2. Right-handed Europeans who struggle to eat peas with their forks upside-down in their left hand (virtually impossible without the adhesive medium of mashed spuds).

Any form of table manners which leads to difficult or awkward manipulation reduces eating to an obstacle course.

. . . fellow sauce lovers like yourself are excluded from this habit, as we tend to clean our plates extensively to feed our endless cravings for more sauce.
Mirabel Osler had the answer in the title of her wonderful book, A Spoon with Every Course. In a restaurant I always ask for a spoon if it's not supplied, and I don't let the waiter take away the bread until I'm certain I don't want any more for final mopping-up.

Good French manners, I'm told, is mopping up the sauce with the bread on the end of a fork rather than held in the fingers. :biggrin:

Edited by John Whiting (log)

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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2. Right-handed Europeans who struggle to eat peas with their forks upside-down in their left hand (virtually impossible without the adhesive medium of mashed spuds).

I eat my peas with honey,

I've done it all my life,

It makes them taste quite funny

But it keeps them on the knife.

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Why do youall eat with the fork upside-down? It just seems weird to me because of the configuration of the fork. I mean does it go back in tradition (like somebody almost poked some king's mistress' eye out with the fork tines up) or to make the meal go slower? I have had 2 English, and one Zanzibar-Colonial aunts and they all ate like that...

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When I was a kid I was taught that you signalled the waiter when you were finished with your meal by overlapping (crossing) the knife and fork.

At that point he/she was free to sweep the plate away.

Usually do it (old habits are hard to give up) but heck if I know why.

I guess it was a ancient tradition that has gone the way of the Great Auk or Dodo bird.

I don't eat very much and when I am away, and cannot take the doggie bag, will tell the waiter that I thought the food was excellent, but the portion was too big for me.

Unless it was not.

If I don't like the food in a restaurant will generally just leave it on the plate and ask for the bill.

If the waiter asks whether everything was OK, I will just ignore the question.

Just do not want to be bothered.

At that point, one would think, I should be allowed to retreat in peace.

But sometimes, no.

The staff will sometimes decide to pursue the matter, I consider that exceptionally rude.

But have had that happen.

Folks, if someone merely wants to flee from your establishement without comment, LET THEM.

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Forks are a comparatively recent invention.

Before that you had a knife, and you used the point to spear food to carry it to the mouth. Forks replaced that. Originally with two prongs, then three, now four.Since in the English tradition a fork is thus primarily a spearing instrument, not a shovel or a spoon, you use it tines down. It is regarded as bad, or at least juvenile, to use a fork like a spoon. Use a spoon for that.

Some faddish people lay their forks tines down on the table, so that people can see the hallmark on the back to show it is real silver. This is as vulgar as inspecting the hallmark, or even the makers mark on the bottom of the plates. Even more vulgar are those who use hallmark the face or bowl so that the hallmark is visible when in use or laid the correct way. I suppose you can have cutlery hallmarked on the wrong side and then laid upside down, but that is just perverse.

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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Forks are a comparatively recent invention.

Actually, dating from well over a thousand years ago. In the 19th century a small bone-handled three-tined fork was the eating implement that a sailor carried with him. We have one that belonged to one of my wife's ancestors -- still in regular use in our kitchen.

Some faddish people lay their forks tines down on the table, so that people can see the hallmark on the back to show it is real silver.
I've encountered this in very distinguished French restaurants. It corresponds to the way the diners would use it. Edited by John Whiting (log)

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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That's because you Yanks eat with the fork in the wrong hand. The fork goes in your left hand and the knife goes in your right. And they stay there! None of this putting the knife down and switching hands and nonsense like that!

Two examples of arbitrary manners amuse me:

1. Americans who cut a piece of meat, then lay down the knife and transfer the fork to the right hand.

Holding the knife and fork in the correct manner was one of my dad's bugaboos when I was growing up. We were not, under any circumstances, allowed to transfer cutlery from hand to hand!

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