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Oct 18, 2006 12:23 PM

Double-dipping at Tapas Bar

OK so I need to vent a little.

Last night I went to an office gathering (13 people) at a Spanish Tapas bar. I’ve been looking forward to trying this place as I’ve heard great things about it. I arrive and about half the crowd is already there drinking Sangria and bread. So Jfood takes over and suggests we need to start ordering since its 7:00 and the others will be here soon and I guess it will be simultaneously to the food arriving (about right in hindsight). We stand around three separate stand-up tables. Coworkers order the basics (calamari, steak, shrimp) and then waiter looks at me and I add some more unusual items. Food arrives and everyone takes some onto their individual plates. Rest of the coworkers arrive. The food is OUTSTANDING!!

Here’s where it gets a little dicey (I’m being nice). We need more food and order. We all have individual plates, forks and knives. The tapa dishes arrive with serving utensils. Now people start putting their “used” forks in the “shared” food plates. :-( I think this is absolutely disgusting. The lobster risotto had seven different “used” forks picking at it. :-(( I basically sit back and wait for the next round to arrive and pounce on one dish, grab the serving utensil and then sit back and watch in horror as others “double-dip”, “triple-dip” on and on. :-((( I had plenty to eat so that’s not the issue, but,

Why do people think that it’s an acceptable practice to use their dirty forks in shared foods?

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  1. Your post immediately brought me back to a thread about Korean banchan. These sidedishes are placed all around the table for diners to share and no serving utensils are offered. I'd never thought twice about using our individual chopsticks to eat from the dishes until a couple who joined us asked how to eat them. Until then everyone we'd taken to the restaurant just dug in as we did. As it turns out, the expectation from Korean chowhounds was the everyone just digs in, so we were intuitively using correct form.

    Still when the couple said "so how do we eat these?" and I said "we just east them with our chopsticks" and they said "all of us?" and I said "that's what we usually do, but we can figure out a different way", I felt a bit embarrassed that I'd even suggested that we eat communally. When you think about it, I guess that eating out of the same dish is a little weird. But apart from concern for my dinner companions' feelings it just would never occur to me as something to worry about.

    But your story is different in a couple of ways. First, though I'm sure Myth Busters would have a field day, chopsticks just seem less gross than forks. They don't go into your mouth and people don't touch their lips or tongue with them as much. And secondly you were out with a large group of coworkers, not your friends. I think that might make the whole 'sharing plates' thing a very different experience. You didn't choose these people and even if you're reasonably confident that they have good oral hygeine you may not have an affinity for them. Let's face it, potentially gross stuff is far less gross if it involves people that you like. I would never think twice about sharing a hairbrush or lipstick with a girlfriend, but if asked to do that with a random normal, clean person I would be disgusted.

    At the end of the day, I do think that it was a little bit gross, but I think that clearly the majority of the group didn't share your aversion. You went along and didn't make an issue which was the correct thing to do. Expect that this will happen again in the future and take precautions to eat beforehand or order something that none of them will touch! : )

    1. I have the same feeling with fondue. Those forks are for dipping. Drives me nuts when I see people eating with them. You're served a dish and regular forks. Use them. Maybe the heat of the fondue "disinfects" but I don't like to see my companions eat with the fondue fork and then put them back in the communal pot. Besides being gross, doesn't it burn?

      1. I can't see why anyone let alone seven people see this as acceptable! If there's a serving spoon right there why in the heck would you use your used fork? Maybe we're just anal as I started a thread about why some people deem it acceptable to re-use their plate at buffets and many people replied stating they had no clue they shouldn't do that. If it were my family doing that, I'd be OK with it, but not with co-workers.

        1. I come from a family that shares off of plates and shares utensils at almost every meal. I have never thought of that as something only acceptable with certain company and I would probably need to be consciously prodded to notice doing it in mixed company.

          Although, when I did go out with friends (rather than family) for Dim Sum, I waited to notice how others were eating before going forward. Everyone (all 9 of us) were comfortable sharing out of the bowls.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Atahualpa

            Sharing out of bowls is not the issue in itself. Using a utensil that went from your mouth into a shared bowl from which others will eat is another thing.

            I am almost speechless that you and the OP's tapas buddies would never think that was inappropriate.

            Would you use their toothbrush? Maybe that is a bit of an exageration, but just think about someone putting a spoon of ice cream in their mouth, dipping it back into the pint and giving you a mouthful on that same spoon, and then doing it again, one by one, for 7 people.

            1. re: chow_gal

              I'd do that. I'd probably share toothbrushes too.

              I figure I am willing (not that I want to though) to kiss them full on the lips without hesitation.

            2. re: Atahualpa

              Family is different from friends and coworkers. Now even with family that's not immediate, we use a serving spoon or a communal chopstick. That's pretty standard when we go out for dim sum or other Chinese food even with very good friends.

              1. re: PeterL

                a communal chopstick or serving spoon?! Never seen that happen with dim sum here in LA (with the exception of stewy stuff) -- though the implicit rule is once you touch it, you grab it for your bowl/plate. (and of course, the trick of using the other end of chopstick to grab from communal plates, but that's a rarity too.)


            3. "Why do people think that it’s an acceptable practice to use their dirty forks in shared foods?"


              Because their parents didn't teach them any better.

              I frequent a tapas bar in the Boston area, and whether it's 2 or 8 people, everyone always uses the serving utensil to spoon the tapas onto their individual plate. OR...if no utensil came with the dish, someone will use their spoon from their place setting into the tapa dish *and* leave it there for everyone to use.

              However, you said the tapas came with serving utensils, so why people used their forks instead of the serving utensils can only be explained by lack of teaching from their parents......or the amount of sangria consumed. :-)