- a blog about food and value

Why are you waiting? Just eat!

Why oh why do you want my food to go cold? (Photo: Sue Jefferson, Cheapeats)

Some people are so rude. As in, mostly all of you.

Out to dinner in a party of six, four people have food and two are waiting; at home, you serve your guests as fast as you can, but some plates will arrive at least two minutes before the rest. The hungry guests eye up the food – and proceed to sit there, politely letting it go cold.

I’m on a mission to end this food and craic ruining tradition. “What are you waiting for?” I usually ask. “Just eat! It will go cold while you wait.”

“But it would be nice if we could all eat together…”

Of course, it’d be lovely. I’d be delighted if all the food arrived at once; indeed, in restaurants, it is very poor form to leave any customer waiting more than a minute or two for their food – but hey, sometimes it happens. And of course, when cooking for friends at home, it’s good form to get all the food out all at once – but sometimes it doesn’t happen.

So people sit politely, quietly accepting another pointless diktat of table manners, hungry and watching their hot meal cool. Not on my watch. It’s a well-meaning but wrong-headed approach to food – what could be ruder than demanding that your friend’s meals could be ruined because you haven’t got your food yet?

Table manners are very different in different countries: slurping is still so hot right now in Japan, you really ought to cleanse your palate with a loud burp in India, and my mother swears that it’s rude to finish your entire plate in a restaurant (answers on a plate with leftovers, please). So maybe a different culture lunges in when the food hits the table?

What table manners do you think should be thrown in the bin?


  1. why is it rude to finish up your plate in a restaurant? Is it because you may look greedy? But if the food is good, I would think it would be rude NOT to finish it.

    Table manners that should be thrown in the bin? Having to use your right hand to cut your meat. Left handed people find it a battle (I’m right handed, but I feel for them).
    Not being able to mop up the sauce with a piece of nice bread. The sauce is nice, why let it go to waste?

    I went to a school that served hot lunches Everything, and I mean everything, had to be eaten with a fork and knife. Now, have you ever tried eating crisps with a fork and knife? Ludicrous. Same for peeling your orange without using your fingers. It might be the reason why I eat a lot with my fingers, which is still considered the norm in a lot of countries. As long as the hands are clean…

  2. Just follow the crowd, you’ll never go wrong and everybody will love you…
    When in Rome…

  3. I thought once it’s hot, you start? Unless you can see the other food coming out of the kithen. Within reason, wait. If you’re a guest in someone’s house. I’d wait until the host sat down to eat.

  4. I was told that while it was rude to start eating before others had their food, it was also rude to the chef to not eat the food as s/he intended. So, the balance is when you have, say, seven people in your group. Fewer than that, wait for all the food to be served; more than that, dig in!
    My pet peeve is people not putting their cutlery in the correct way after finishing or while pausing (it’s not just a random rule; it allows servers to know when everyone is finished). I know that the position of the knife and fork varies from country to country, but that’s easy enough to figure out.
    I think the idea behind not finishing everything on your plate is that it might look like your host hasn’t given you enough. To leave a small amount shows that you are satisfied.

  5. I’m all about finishing everything on your plate….surely finishing every last morsel says ‘that was delicious’ not ‘i’m a greedy pig and you didn’t give me enough!’. I agree you should be able to use your bread to mop extra sauce on your plate I always feel it’s such a waste otherwise. In general I think it’s all about your audience when it comes to table manners….when with friends you can kick back and shrug things off but in a more formal setting with people you don’t know I suppose it is probably safer to stick to all the oddities associated with ‘politeness’ and ‘good manners’!