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Dec 12, 2006 07:42 PM

Friends who just don't understand communal dining

Anyone else have a problem with friends who just don't "get" ethnic communal dining? They each order a plate which is "theirs". How do you explain to them that is not how it is done, without lecturing?

I've been to chinese restaurants with a large group, and end up having 7 same fried rices at the table. Most of it ends up getting dumped, because who can eat a whole plate of it? That money could have been pooled for SUCH a better meal. It's so sad...

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  1. A lot of my friends are like that. On the other hand, my mom doesn't get the "order your own entree" concept, either. She has to share with everyone and try everyone's entree. My poor dad can only order what she wants to try.

    5 Replies
    1. re: chowser

      LOL, better than my grandfather. He's getting a little on in years and senile, and walks from table to table in the restaurant, ordering from them like it's a big picture book menu.

      1. re: qtxniki

        Funny. I do the crane the neck as obscurely as possible if I see something that looks good that someone else has ordered. Maybe one of the benefits of getting older is I can just get up and walk over to check it out! I like your grandfather!

        1. re: chowser

          yeah, senility will be my excuse as well. thx for the tip!

        2. re: chowser

          LOL chowser...this is so my life. Our poor dads!!!

        3. Maybe it should be explained to the group before one reaches the restaurant and is seated. Suggest it as an adventure in gourmet dining. The word 'gourmet' may get thru to those who have no clue. You may also ask if anyone objects to the idea.

          1. Growing up we always shared food, whether it was at a Chinese restaurant or not - it was just understood that everyone ordered a different dish and we all shared. I would laugh when we went to a Chinese restaurant and I saw people at another table where everyone ordered their own dish. I couldn't understand why they didn't want to try as many of the offerings as possible.

            When I started dating my husband we went to dinner with his mom and my parents and my now-MIL was really taken aback by my family picking off each other's plates. It took her awhile to come around, but now she doesn't mind sharing.

            1 Reply
            1. re: SarahEats

              Well, there's a distinct difference between "communal dining," where everyone orders an entree and it's passed around for everyone to sample, and literally eating off of someone else's plate. I can spot that having someone (especially multiple people) literally eating off of each others' plates would be considered a bit tasteless-to-nauseating to some folks (especially when messy children are involved). I'm happy to pass around shareable entree platters, and I may even ask to sample someone's food, or offer a sample to someone else, but it should certainly be quite limited in scope. After all, we're not swapping silverware, are we?

              Certainly, though, when food is brought in a platter with a serving spoon, it's time to "share and pass." In fact, to faciliate this without really lecturing, the best way is to take a *small* portion of yours, and immediately pass it to the left/right. That way, everyone else gets a feel for the idea, in a sort of "dining with the family at home" sort of way. If the person you're passing it to seems surprised, smile(!), and say, "Oh, you've got to try some of this. You all do!" You'd be surprised how well it works, and how quickly people "get it."

              One of my best dining memories ever happened in the Washington, DC area with my family and my cousin's family at a Chinese restaurant, where everything was shared. It's amazing how much further the food goes, and it also helps spur discussion of the food itself.

              "That's especially good!"
              "Could I have some more of that?"
              "There's too much ginger in there for my tastes..."
              "I've never had that before!"

              Always fun! ;)

            2. Sharing from someone elses plate, and sharing from a communal dish are two different things. While my husband and I may consider sharing from our own plates, it is a put off to many.

              Perhaps the way to go is to suggest, before ordering, that everybody chooses something to be shared 'family style'...and if one dish is especially coveted double that order. I remember going to Chinese restaurants when I was young that had a large lazy-susan in the middle, all dishes with serving utensils were placed there and the thingy swirled while we all took our portions. I agree that five plates of fried rice is overkill for any dish! Try to get the conversation going as to ordering 'family style' many can have a taste...and be sure that enough of the fab is ordered. I think we need to bring Lazy Susan thingys back!

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                1. And properly eaten with the injera, the Ethiopian communal meal has less of a germ factor then passing plates, I would think. Ones hands only touch ones own bread, and the communal plate is never touched with, say, a used fork or spoon.