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.