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that whole mandatory sharing thing [moved from General Topics board]

Seems like there's a major trend these days (sprung up out of the small plates trend I suppose) towards mandatory sharing. As in, you sit down, the server explains how what the chef really likes to do is just send things out as they're ready and have everybody share, and of course you don't argue with the chef, so you go along with it.

Now, I like to try as many dishes as I can, so this generally works, but I find myself sometimes getting impatient with feeling coerced into sharing. Like when the meal takes an hour longer than necessary because the courses come out one by one instead of two at a time, or when the serving size isn't actually large enough to share easily or well, or when dining with others who are pickier and you end up just getting everything they are willing to try because you want to not feel like a jerk.

Thoughts? Comments?

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  1. I love sharing, small plates, family style, etc. But you definitely have to pick your company carefully for these places.

    1. I like to share in small groups. When I go out with my family, we always share. But the minute you go over 4 people, it's far too tricky to accommodate everyone's tastes.

      Also, as a vegetarian, I sometimes find it easier not to share. That way I can order my tofu/tempeh/seitan without imposing on my meat-and-potatoes friends. And they don't feel obligated to deprive themselves of steak.

      Plus, there are times I just don't want to share. It's my sushi, dammit - get your own! :-)

      1. I remember going out for Thai food with my four closest friends in college. One was mildly allergic to peanuts, one would not eat meat, and another would not eat shrimp or pork, another wasn't keen on noodles, and I didn't like anything too spicy. I know, it was totally ridiculous, but we all really loved Thai food, in our own special ways, and for some reason, it never occured to us not to share. We went for a policy where everyone at the table was able to eat two of the five dishes, and those meals are some of my fondest memories of college.

        Sharing was family policy when I was growing up, be it Chinese food or expensive French haute cuisine - a major shuttling of plates and side plates and forkfuls of food across the table. My dad called it Yiddische ping-pong. I must say that when it comes to dim sum, it's easiest when your party is divisible by three. So many dumplings -so hard to share- come in threes.

        In terms of 'mandatory sharing' I think the problem arises when you don't know the people you're eating with that well, or they're really picky eaters, or you end up compromising on what you really feel like in the name of consensus. Although the OP's complaint seems to be more about the speed with which fancy meals are served. It doesn't seem to be in the chef's best interest to me; I eat less when I'm forced to slow down. I believe it boils down to the people you break bread (or dim sum) with, which will make or break the experience.

        1. Sharing has two methods, one sanitary and the other gross.

          If there are utensils for each dish and every abides by the "No Double Dipping Rule" I love sharing. What drives me bonkers is someone using their fork after it has been in their mouth to take the second try, or the first try with a new dish. My rule of thumb is try to get there first, just take a little so you do not look like a jerk for grabbing and the watch very carefully at how others are grabbing the food. Wait out the rest of the table as well. I have never been to a sharing table when the last dish arrives and many are full. Remember the kitchen is normally putting out the easiest and less complicated first, so the latters are normally more complex. Likewise if you run out of food, just order another dish.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jfood

            I understand that you sincerely feel that way and are entitled to but I couldn't disagree more. 1) I think Americans are *paranoid* about hygiene and it doesn't improve our lives or our health. Studies are beginning to be definitive that kids have more allergies because we don't let them be exposed to ordinary flora and fauna and develop healthy immune systems. We're not less sick, we're merely less happy and secure. 2) My own response is if someone is my friend I would kiss them. If I would kiss them what's the big deal about some germs?

            At the same time, I wouldn't be the least intimidated saying "We don't care to get one dish at a time. Will you please ask the chef to make sure each course comes to us complete?"

          2. i've made a point NEVER to go family style with vegetarians. all the omnivores usually get shanghaied into skipping meat altogether. to insist on meat comes to seem like an act of "disrespect" for the lifestyle choices of the vegetarian at the table, which really irritates me (clearly).

            food politics............

            3 Replies
            1. re: amandine

              Wow, I'm a vegetarian, and I've *never* had this experience. (Must be hanging out with the wrong crowd!) Usually end up with some bland veg option that won't weird out the rest of the crowd too much, and end up making an entire meal out of that while everyone else enjoys the variety. Food politics indeed...

              1. re: amandine

                I don't see why it is disrepectful to order meat when dining with vegetatians. It is just as disrepectful for them to expect you to embrace their eating style.

                I don't want to share plates and I also don't want to travel with people other than my DH. We will share tastes occasionally across the table when we order different items but often, after 35 years we find we want the same things anyway. The only expection to this is when we are in a restaurant such as Chinese or Indian for instance and the food is served communally.

                1. re: Candy

                  Candy and spyturtle, I agree with you both. I didn't mean anything personal against vegetarians but yeah, I've had some bad run-ins with non-meat-eaters as an undergrad in Northern Cal. I admit to a little chip on my shoulder. In those occassions, it was as if eating meat was an "unenlightened" choice and unhealthy too. But yes, both choices should be equally respected.

              2. In my experience places that have small dishes as a part of their menu should be able to accomodate serving several dishes within a short time frame. Those that send a couple of dishes out at a time when they are ready are either short staffed or have an ineffecient kitchen staff.

                I dislike sharing with picky eaters too. I am still a little irked about a trip I took to Portland, OR. There were only three of us and the less adventurous eater of the three ended up dictating what we should eat. The purpose of the trip was for her birthday so she had us over a barrel. I love lamb and kept seeing incredible looking and smelling lamb dishes go past me but had to eat chicken instead.

                2 Replies
                1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                  That reminds me of a friend telling me about going with a group to SF. All of the group except 2 sisters, have lived all over the world and have very broad tastes and wanted to do eat all sorts of ethnic foods. The 2 sisters could have gone off for meals on their own when where to eat and what came up each day buy opted to stay with the group and complained through out the meal at every meal. They were/are very plain eaters. Damon's Ribs is about as exotic as they get.

                  1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                    "I dislike sharing with picky eaters too. "

                    Gee, I dislike people who order dishes I don't like and then insist on eating 3/4 of the dish I picked. If I wanted to join a commune I would have moved to California.

                    I sometimes feel coerced into sharing by people who think their preferences are naturally shared by the entire world. All they have to do is poll the table before ordering to see if people really want to share. But no - you get the "We're all sharing everything, right???" with a look that tells you you're going to get a pained expression if you say "No".

                    When did every meal become a form of dim sum, a type of "I get bored with more than 2 bites of anything" game. There is nothing inherantly wrong with sharing as long as everyone wants to play along but there's nothing wrong with people ordering what they like and eating it either.

                  2. i love sharing. i hate when other people won't share just because they're not used to it... trying more types of food is always more fun [and more healthy]!!

                    but yes this would probably only apply with people who you know well ... cause of allergies and picky eaters or whatever! it'd have to be with good friends who you know will eat everything!

                    1. I'm resigned to bad meals if I go to an Asian restaurant with a group of people. I've found few people who want to eat what I like, so I just grin and bear it. Some times you dine for the company, not the food.

                      1. When I go Chinese I warn the other diners that I am ordering a very spicy dish so they should order what they like for themselves (they can share of course). I tell them I'll gladly let them have some of mine but it WILL BE very spicy. Seems to work for me. I do find that people always want to sample my food just to see if it IS really spicy.