Friday, March 20, 2009

Buffet Faux Pas and Tom Hanks

Do you remember the scene from You've Got Mail when Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) scrapes the caviar off the sides of the brie? Kathleen (Meg Ryan) indignantly scolds him, "That caviar is a GARNISH!" (I couldn't find a clip that showed the entire scene, but this trailer has part of it--but I warn you that it will make you want to drop everything and watch the movie again.)

Well, I have been wondering lately if I am doing my children a disservice with our family's buffet rule: the kids wait while the parents fill a plate for them. Now, I fear that they may never learn proper buffet etiquette, for I have observed some disturbing behavior in grown adults that makes me wonder how they can possibly not know better.

We have this strict policy because it grosses us both out to see little kids with hands and fingers in the food in buffet lines at weddings, parties, and other events. If I go down a buffet line after a child, there is a very good chance that I'll opt to skip eating rather than choose among the rolls that have been touched repeatedly as the child finds just the right one. Is anyone else like this? Am I crazy? Don't answer that.

Recently I watched a woman pull a Joe Fox. Along with a multitude of desserts and other foods, there was a smallish tray filled with See's Candies. They were clearly meant to be just a little something, not an entire course. And yet, she literally filled her plate--her DINNER plate-- with Sees Candies. I was flabbergasted! I know it may be hard to choose when all of your favorite chocolates are before you, but honestly, she walked out with nearly a pound of candy and didn't act remotely embarrassed--in fact, she announced on the way out that "they had all my favorites!" Maybe her mom never let her go through the buffet and thus, she never learned the rules of self-restraint?

Another common buffet faux pas that gets to me is the person who says, "I'm not hungry; I'm not going to eat," and then proceeds to stand over the food, munching away, instead of taking a plate. Don't they know that they are leaving their crumbs (or worse) behind on everyone else's food?

Of course, there is always someone who decides to use their fork to take half portions 0f pre-portioned items, leaving behind a forlorn half piece that looks like it has been mangled by who-knows-what. I understand that you may not want the entire piece of cheesecake, but what makes you think that a stranger who happens along 10 minutes later might want the remains of yours? Just take the whole peice and eat half of it!

Last but not least is the person who, after eating themselves sick at said buffet, fills another plate to take home for later. I am not talking about food they paid for, folks. I'm talking about food at a party or other event where they have been the guests. I guess the thought is, "If getting a free lunch is good, taking home extras for dinner is better!" And I shake my head and think, "if my kid ever does that . . . "

So, I guess we need to add a new course of study at our little homeschool. My kids may be teenagers before they are allowed to go through a buffet line unattended, but it's never too early to ingrain in them appropriate behavior when faced with free food all laid out on a table before them. How To Eat At a Buffet Without Embarrassing Your Mother 101 must be added to our curriculum post haste, or they'll be the next one scraping the caviar garnish from the cheese platter.


Scrappy said...

So true! I feel the same way about kids at a buffet. I probably need to teach my kids too.
We recently went to a ward function where the person in charge made all of the men wait until the women went through the line. So, I went through and filled three plates for my kids and got them settled. Then I went back for my food, after all of the men. Um, thanks but no thanks. I would have rather had my husband there helping me with my kids' food so I could get my own too.

Tamara said...

Ohmyword, I'm totally wondering how I act at buffets now... :)

That "You've Got Mail" clip makes me want to go to my favorite dessert restaurant in the city, Cafe Lalo! You should come visit and try it!

Nana said...

Sounds like a pet peeve. Watch out - you are the parent of a cub scout, and I can tell you from experience, they go through a buffet or refreshment table like piranhas.
However, now that you mention it, I'm afraid you father is the one who taught your brothers to shop a buffet - so maybe a few lessons from mom would be in order.

Prudy said...

OH, Michal... you know I'm really with you on this one. I refuse to take chips out of a bowl under any conditions. The buffet table in general make me lose my appetite. Can't do the salad bar either. And kids who come to dinner should have hands that not only look clean but smell like soap too! The Sees candy is hilarious. I saw someone at a buffet once pick all the meatballs off a platter of spaghetti and meatballs. I never forget that one.

TheQueen@TerrorsInTiaras said...

You may be crazy, but I'm right there with you. I have to REALLY not think about it when I am at a function with a buffet table, or I lose my appetite. Now that our girls are old enough to hold their plates without dropping them, they hold their plate while I serve up the food. They aren't allowed to touch anything. I am hoping that they learn buffet etiquette from me and not from others there, like the See's lady and Prudy's meatball lady.

Kim said...

Note to self: never get in line in front of Michal. :)

We always fill our kids plates and I agree that grubby little hands are not welcome. But I love the comment about cub scouts. Watch out, I am one of those people who will hover around the table jumping in when necessary to try and maintain a piranha-free environment, but those boys are quick, and blech! I hope we can teach our son some etiquette.

My personal favorite is when someone takes a stack of something. Whether it be the meat (my husband is guilty), the dessert (I have been known to sample more than one, but not all on the same plate at the same time) or even the plastic wear, I always get a kick out of people who just don't think about the others behind them in line.

Anonymous said...

I too am horrified regularly not only by buffet manners but by the table manners of people in general. It seems that most people are not qualified to eaat in public and this is being passed on to their kids.

Aly sun said...

This was an exceptionally hilarious post. I identify! I think I've made some of those buffet mistakes though. I'll have to be more careful and not mangle the cheesecake slice as I try in vain to cut it in half. :)

One idea idea might be to practice with your kids and have buffet night (left-overs). Then you can really teach your kids how to take food from a buffet properly.

One you missed: people who take gross amounts of food and then don't eat it. They just return to the buffet for another plate, wasting all that food. Drives me crazy!

My Ice Cream Diary said...

I just watched that movie a few weeks ago. So funny how old their laptops are.

I think I've actually been guilty of a few of these actions so I'm really glad you posted this. I guess I just never thought about it. It is hard to remember manners when eating at an all you can eat buffet like Golden Corral (I guess it comes from eating at a place with a barn word in its name).

Rebecca said...

I love that movie!

I always go through with my kids and help them with their plates. They are not allowed to touch everything.

At my wedding reception, there was a family who let their kids get whatever they wanted, and they polished off all the chocolate-dipped fruit and left none for me. :(

The other thing I hate is when it's announced that there's a vegetarian option, and by the time I get through the buffet the non-vegetarians have taken nearly all of it. If it were just me, fine. But there's nine of us in our ward!