Table Manners: Are You Supposed To Leave Some Food on Your Plate?


This is a sore issue between me and my extremely uptight, ultra-White family. The “table manners” game. They’ve always insisted that my table manners are atrocious. I think that’s ridiculous. No one else has ever remarked on them except for one Black girlfriend, who was one of the most uptight people I’ve ever met. I actually don’t like slobs either, and I am White, culturally and obviously, but I think that at some point you are just too White.

My violations?

  1. Putting my left wrist on the table while I eat with my right hand. I really hate the eating with one hand thing and keeping the other forearm off the table in your lap. I feel like my left arm just got chopped off!
  2. Finishing every last bit of food on my plate.
  3. Eating soup. Something asinine about eating soup that I can’t quite remember. Could it be leaning over the bowl? You’re not supposed to lean over the bowl?
  4. Using my left fingers as a “pusher” to help ease recalcitrant food onto my utensil. I guess I could use a piece of bread to do this, but I’m usually too lazy. Anyway, my uncle, a wealthy business owner who spent all his life having business meals, uses his fingers to push too.
  5. Eating with my mouth open. This accusation really pisses me off, because even I don’t think I do that! Like I said above, I’m into manners too.

Can’t think of anymore right now.

My father being dead is not a good thing, but I am glad I don’t have to listen to his table manners crap anymore.

The only one I looked up about was the “always leave a bit of food on your table.” The version I learned was the White genteel version that says you leave some food on your plate to show you’re not a pig. Also, trying to get the last scraps does tend to involve some of those “pushing” violations.

According to this article, that rule is all but dead. It’s a rule from the older generation, and at the moment in the US and around the world for that matter, it’s either out or on its way out. Around the world, manners seem to be moving in the Japanese direction: eat it all up to show how appreciative you are. The only problems are in a few countries where, if you lap it all up, the host thinks you didn’t get enough to eat, so they demand that you have seconds. In other places and in some US groups, it’s considered rude to leave any food on your plate!

If there’s one thing that sucks about being White, it’s this table manners crap. There’s no way on Earth that other cultures are as nutty about this stuff as we are.

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0 thoughts on “Table Manners: Are You Supposed To Leave Some Food on Your Plate?”

  1. I agree. My ex wife used to say I had bad table manners because of stuff like this. I should have dumped her the first time she started in on this when we were dating. Hindsight is 20/20.

  2. The thing about soup: I remember learning that as you are finishing your soup, you’re supposed to tilt the bowl away from yourself.

    And eat your soup with your spoon turned sideways. 🙂

  3. My family had the opposite food hangup–I was expected to clean my plate, every time. Never mind whether I was full or had a stomach-ache, I was constantly being pressed to join the “Clean Plate Club.”

    Then there are all the parents who apply guilt re: “all the starving kids in Africa.”

    It’s not just white folks, if what I read in Pearl S. Buck’s _The Good Earth_ rings true–the main character’s Chinese parents tell her that every grain of rice left behind in her bowl equals a pock mark on the face of her future spouse.

    Nowadays I wouldn’t put up with either sort of insanity. Either you’re expected to eat beyond the optimum amount for your own health and comfort, which is insane, or you’re supposed to waste food, which is worse–such a bizarre affectation of refinement! It makes about as much sense as using sawbucks to wipe your ass, doesn’t it?

    Good manners puts the comfort of the diners first. Otherwise you’re being a prick no matter how much you dress it up.

  4. My mother is South African and very uptight and always made us eat with our left hands and sit up straight when we at soup.

    1. That’s it! I have to sit up straight when I eat soup! I tend to bend over the bowl too much. Sitting up straight seems ridiculous to me because it is so much easier to spill. I hunch over the bowl so there’s less distance to my mouth and I’m less likely to spill the soup.

      1. I confess I like to hold the soup bowl up under my chin–strictly en famille, though–I wouldn’t do that in a more formal setting!

  5. I grew up with very mixed messages. My dad spenrt a lot of time with white trash as a kid so he adopted their mannerisms. He taught us that it was perfectly acceptable to drink soda straight out of the bottle, or eat ice cream straight out of the carton when there was only a little bit left.

  6. Other cultures are as uptight about table manners but with different rules. Thais are very picky about not taking too much food from common dishes at a time (you are supposed to pick at food, rather than take enough for the whole meal) but make slurp and eat with their mouths open in a way that grossed me out.

  7. In India and Ethiopia, people use their fingers as eating utensils. I guess you’re parents would’ve collapsed at the sight.

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