Thursday, July 6, 2017

Restaurant Meal Monogamy

I cringe when I am about to go out to eat with several people.  And it's not just because I'm an introvert.  It's because it very likely that people will order their meals and just assume that when all the meals arrive, that they can offer to share and expect a nibble of my meal when they ask.  Even if I don't accept their offer.

Some people claim that the sharing of food from companions' plates is a time-honored behavior.  The predominate opinion is that you shouldn't be too disappointed to order a meal that you were undecided about because you can always grab a bite of another meal from someone else.
I lot of people seem to use the strategy of first offering a bite of their own meal and thereby encourage their dining companions to return the gesture.  That might be a rather passive-aggressive maneuver but it seems to work because who wants to be the bad guy. 

There are folks that see all the edible eye candy on the table and want to sample a little bit of everything. 

I'm not even talking about the people that are afraid of the sharing of germs - if someone is a germophobe, they certainly don't want other peoples' forks in their food after they've been in their own mouths.  These people probably have a hard enough time being in such proximity as a crowded dining room without them having to worry about sharing spittle.

Now don't get me wrong.  I fully understand the reasoning if my companions want to know what something tastes like so they will be better informed when they next visit the place.  I fully get this, but it doesn't mean that I have to like it especially if it happens time and time again.

I feel that, unless it's agreed on beforehand, if you want to eat something, you should order it yourself.  Not rely on the people eating with you to fork over something that you really had your mind set on.  Plus what's wrong with wanting to enjoy your own meal and savor your own dessert?

Now if I were to ask someone else for a bite of their dinner, then it would open up the sharing floodgates and I'd fully expect that to happen.  However, I don't ask anyone else for some of what they're eating.  Ever.  And if I don't do that, then why does it seem like I'm obligated to share my food with someone else if they ask? 

I saw a forum where a woman asked the question, "Is it OK not to share my food in the restaurant?"  The very first response was for the person to go out and eat on their own if they didn't want that to happen.  The woman was told that the point of eating in restaurants was for everyone to order a different dish and to swap food and share with your dining companions.

When did this become the societal norm?  Now granted, there are restaurants where sharing is expected, like a tapas bar or a restaurant with communal dining.  There's an Ethiopian restaurant near where I live that serves each table a huge platter of food and everyone digs in.  However, I don't believe that sharing should be expected when dining in groups in a typical restaurant.

Etiquette guru, Emily Post, states that you have to know the rules to know when to break them.  The baseline rule for dining is: "You eat off your plate and I eat off mine."

In my particular situation, I am being very intentional about what I eat.  I try to make smart choices and order only a small portion.  If I know that something is more likely a double portion, then I know that I can bring half of it home and have it another time.  Most of the time I order salads - something to fill me up in the time being but it usually means that I'm hungry later. So when someone asks me for some of my meal, then that messes up my meal plan and leaves less for me when I know that I've ordered just enough.

It has been suggested that if you don't want to share with anyone else that it is up to you to politely mention that you'd like to eat your own meal, and that's something others should respect.  So why then is it deemed rude to turn someone down?  Why do we feel guilty and that we've done something wrong if we refuse (in a nice manner) to share?  And why is it all on us, as the people that don't want to share the meal that we ordered for ourselves, instead of it being on the person that wants our food?

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