This week’s unsuspecting inquiry comes from a delightful character who would like to be known to the world as “Peeved in Pennsylvania.” They wrote into Dear Abby and complained that their wealthy daughter and her wealthy family didn’t finish their food and because Peeved in Pennsylvania was picking up the check, they naturally also wanted to pick up the leftovers.
Let’s ignore for a second the fact that I seem to be picking food-related questions lately, because that surprises no one. Instead, let’s focus on the fact that this question was tagged as an “etiquette” question by dearest Abby, and not “common-sense” because that’s really what’s important here. Maybe it’s just me, but when I am at a restaurant, regardless of how fancy it is, regardless of the relative income of the other patrons in my party, if I see someone leave even just a few square inches of uneaten food on their plate without asking for a doggie bag, I wince visibly. Etiquette has nothing to do with it.
Okay, so yes, the fact that I physically cannot bring myself to leave even just a couple of not-even-that-tasty french fries on my plate is probably not a great sign for my health, mental or physical. But I think most of us can agree that wasted food is not something to be taken lightly. We all likely have distinct memories of our parents giving us the stink eye at the end of a meal and warning us in dark tones, “There are starving children in China right now who would give anything to be able to finish that meatloaf.” Now that we’re adults, we can of course see the plot holes in that argument–the meatloaf would not ship well to China, and probably the kids wouldn’t want it, because it’s pretty rude to assume that, because you’re poor, you’d happily eat someone else’s half-eaten meat loaf–but the emotional damage has been done.
So, Peeved in Pennsylvania, I am officially also Peeved in Pennsylvania. Peeved at you for not filling your daughter’s childhood with poorly researched, semi-traumatic lectures about the economics of world hunger to the point where she is actually brought to physical discomfort at even just the idea of food thrown into dumpsters. Shame on you!