Members of the “Clean Plate Club” are proud of their eating prowess, the sheer fortitude it takes to consume a mound of food. Surrounding World War II, U.S. Army mess halls displayed posters imploring soldiers to clean their plates because food was a limited commodity. And “waste not, want not” is a mantra that families have followed for countless generations.
But today, we want to talk about a different kind of clean plate. Whether it’s family dinner at home or fine dining at an exquisite establishment, there is some etiquette surrounding a place setting that really ought to be followed.
One of our servers once commented on how unfortunate it was that her thumb repeatedly landed in leftovers smeared to the edge of the plates she had served and cleared during Crave events. The rim of a plate exists for a reason – it’s the serving portion of your personal dish. Within the eating circle, people may have a proclivity for organizing their food in any given matter, but the delectable morsels should stay within the confines of the food-designated area.
Really, who wants to clear this from the dinner table?
(Aside to parents: we understand that children of various ages may have peculiar eating habits, but setting good examples as the adult is always a technique to get through to our little darlings – albeit slowly over many, many repetitions.)
Buffet dining is another occasion where normal etiquette sometimes gets obstructed by the generous portions in front of us [Editor’s note: “first-world problems,” we know.] Self-restraint meets with being a respectable guest by taking all that you can eat, but eating all that you take. From the food professional’s perspective, every plate should be equally impressive. Granted, the buffet allows guests to choose their preferred dishes and portions, but each of us should remember that someone else also wants to try that amazing lobster mac ‘n cheese.
One other bit of etiquette that can be very helpful for both guests and wait staff is the placement of utensils during and after a meal. Employing some simple visual cues can be helpful for servers to know where you are at enjoying your food. And for those in the business of serving those meals, make sure your people know how to read this language of cutlery. Below are a few simple maneuvers that make non-verbal communication possible across the table.
Practicing good meal etiquette at home sets a positive example for those around us and ensures we are ready for a special occasion when a high level of decorum is expected. Of course, we would argue that respect for the food in front of us and the person that prepared it are fundamental to daily living.