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Etiquette: What do you do with the olive pit?

I had a green salad in a restaurant at lunch today, and there was one, lone reddish olive hidden in it. I ate it, lifted the little cup the dressing came in to my mouth, and allowed the pit to fall into it. But this made me think?

How does one politely eat olives with pits in Western dining?

When I was in China, I remember seeing a woman allow a small bone to fall out of her mouth onto her plate in mid-sentence. I was aghast. But I don't really know how she could have dropped the bone otherwise.

(As an aside, I don't like olives, but I always try them hoping that maybe I will like this time. It was actually ok today.)

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  1. spit it at a sibling.

    Miss Manners I believe maintains, anything that needs to be removed from the mouth should exit the way it came in. But I feel a discreet deposit of a pit in a napkin and transfer to plate is also acceptable.

    4 Replies
    1. re: hill food

      LOL I was thinking the same thing. Does one not learn this basic tecnique at a young age with watermelon? I just put them back on my plate. Please don't serve me those tasteless pitted olives just because some one might be offended by my pits.

      1. re: hill food

        Agreed- it's supposed to come out the way it went in.

        1. re: hill food

          Umm, what would Ms Manners advise if one used a toothpick to convey the olive to one's mouth? (Imagining trying to balance an olive pit on a toothpick to remove it! ;-)

          1. re: Niki in Dayton

            Miss Manners probably expects you to serve olives with proper olive forks or in a dish, so that you don't have the toothpick problem! ;)

        2. Same way as when I'm eating olives with a drink. Just take it out of my mouth and put it on the side of the plate.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Harters

            Agreed. Just take it out and back on a plate or napkin. Unless a very elegant formal affair, just be normal like everyone else. No need to hind and pretend.

          2. lol to the one lonely olive in the salad. I'd be dissappointed, i love olives in every variety.

            While it'd be fantastic if restaurants would get on board and realize that kalamata olives CAN be purchased pitless (more $$ i know) or that pits are easily removed by smashing with a knife...i vote against spitting it into a cup, that could get messy or not so nice to view. I usually bring it to just between my front teeth or lips, and swiftly remove it with my fingers or a napkin if i don't want to get anything on my fingers or have anyone else see it.

            Barring that i guess you could store them all in your cheek like a chipmunk until you excused yourself to the washroom ;)
            I wonder how many unenlightened diners have lost a tooth on one of these babies?

            7 Replies
            1. re: im_nomad

              For some reason, I always find that pitted olives seem to have less flavour than ones with stone still in. Is it just me? Or is there a reason? They always seem to be softer as well.

              Fortunately, my local supermarket now stocks its own brand of jarred non-pitted organic Spanish green olives. Good product - olives are tasty and nicely chewy.

              1. re: Harters

                Oh yes - pitted olives don't have the same great flavor or the texture! But eating them at a restaurant is a bit sticky. I try to very discretely remove them from my mouth and deposit them on my plate.

                1. re: Harters

                  yes once the pit is removed the olive's texture is compromised and it decomposes faster. the appearance is also not as nice, there is more waste, the fruit is less appealing to the customer. . .

                  1. re: soupkitten

                    why do canned pitted olives taste rubbery, soup kitten? and sort of "squeak"? vastly different from "real" olives! is the black variety of olive in the can ever sold as a "real" olive -- scooped out of a brine-filled olive barrel, e.g.?

                    1. re: alkapal

                      well i am not a huge olive expert but i know a couple of things-- canned commercial black olives from california are often artificially aged (with lye or other chemical means) green olives that don't have the flavor complexity that is typical with wonderful european olives that are riper when picked. i've tasted home-cured california ripe olives (with pits) and they are really good, but i don't know if there is a good brand with widespread distribution-- maybe the hounds in cali would know--

                      brine or salt cured olives from europe or the middle east can have a lot of character, i think the texture is better too. i think that the skin of the olive does a lot to preserve the fruit in brine, when the pit is removed, the brine can get in there and it seems to make the flesh mushy very quickly. kalamatas in brine with pits can last for a very long time in the fridge, and their flavor improves-- but once they've been pitted the flesh gets mushy very fast and the flavor gets-- muddy? for lack of a better descriptive? i used to stock kalamatas with and without pits but the ones with pits are so much better!

                      i think that people around the mediterranean have an appreciation for the delicious & subtle flavors of aged olives (aged olives, not aged olive oil) that isn't common in the u.s.-- i think it's only possible to age olives for any length of time with pits intact, and these aged olives are among the very best imo.

                2. re: im_nomad

                  I'm with Harters on this one. I would prefer my olive unpitted, unless it has been recently depitted for the dish I am eating. Just like cherries, olives taste better to me when they have the pit. My feeling is that if I have been served food with an unpitted olive or cherry, they expect me to get rid of the stone. As long as I am discreet, and don't contaminate the food of others, it should be ok. So either the setting is casual enough that using a napkin or placing it into a small pit bowl is ok, or the people who served me the unpitted item value the item for the properties for the quality it brings to their dish, in which case they understand it will have to be discarded and they are ok with it. If I am in a setting where discarding a pit from my mouth will be frowned upon, then my feeling is that the person who served the dish made the mistake, they should have taken into account the setting, and not served a dish which would require potentially distasteful behavior. Fortunately, I have rarely been placed in this uncomfortable position of having to decide between leaving the olives or participating in "distasteful" behavior. Most of the times, I am with people who relish olives and are happy to eat olive after olive and dispose of the pit in a reasonable manner. I happily follow suit!

                3. I agree with hill food. If there is a pit (or something inedible), it is appropriate to remove it idiscreetly n the same manner it went in- with a fork, a spoon, your fingers, however. Don't worry about it.

                  1. More power to etiquette (so little of it around these days) - olive pits should come back out exactly the way they went in.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: PDeveaux

                      I agree. I was at the bar at the Plaza this week and they actually had little metal toothpicks for the olives, though of course I couldn't remove the pit with one of those, so discretely (as discretely as one can sitting in a huge lobby bar) put the pit in my cupped hand and placed it on the provided plate.