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You eat too fast! ... No, you eat too slow!

What do you do when your dining companion eats at a different pace from you?

If you're eating with someone who is a fast eater, do you find yourself eating quicker to keep pace so that there isn't that awkward moment when you're still chomping away on your sandwich and your companion is sitting there counting the ratio of Splenda packets to regular sugar packets?

What about when someone eats slower than you? Do you chew extra long and take slow long sips of water to pace yourself?

How do you cope?

(Not trying to make judgments about whether eating slow or fast is better or more healthy -- just trying to figure out if there are coping mechanisms to synchornize eating speeds.)

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  1. I'm by nature a slow eater. I like to say that i take the time to enjoy and savor my food, and indeed that is what I'm doing. I frequently find myself dining with friends that wolf down their food. If i'm not as comfortable with them, then i might up the pace a little at the end, or just not finish my meal. But if i know you, and you scarf it down? Damn straight i'm gonna take my time and enjoy my food, and you can just order another beer

    1. If this is what you're worried about you're A) Not eating food that is delicious enough B) Dining with someone that isn't interesting enough.

      2 Replies
      1. re: KTinNYC

        Eh, it happens. School and work related functions come to mind. Unfortunately not all meals are grand and not all company is stellar.

        But to the OP, I'm a relatively quick eater, so I usually try to pace myself when I'm out with people that I don't know well or that I know are slow eaters. I usually try take a longer time between bites, drink more water, and try to keep approximately the same amount of food on my plate as others. Admittedly, this backfired on me once when my dining companion ate about half of her meal and then said she was done--so clearly my plan isn't fool proof.

      2. I tend to fall in the middle. Fast than my BF (he eats slower than in 95 yr grandmother), but slower than most others. I don't mind waiting for my BF to finish since I do most of the talking and I like the additional time to digest before dessert. When eating with those who eat faster I try to sneak a bite off their plate as soon as I can before it's gone.

        1. I just finish after they do. Why would someone worry about synchronizing eating speed? I've never had awkward moments such as you describe. Then again, my companion usually has a drink of some kind to keep them busy...maybe that would help?

          1. My husband could compete with the worlds best Japanese Speed Eaters (he blames boarding school LOL). I have never seen anyone eat so fast (including my labradors and not to mention I'm a nurse and we are notorious for bolting our food) and I just find it oddly fascinating. It doesn't really bother either of us, he will sit with me while I finish and I make the odd joke about his food inhalation technique.

            1. It depends who I am eating with. My ex was slow (eater) and sometimes I'd clear the table and load the dishwasher and then return to him at the end of his meal. The kitchen was in adjoining room so I wouldn't be far away. Poor guy gets a lot of teasing over his slow eating. If I am on a date or eating with a friend I don't know well I try to pace myself to their eating pace. If it is a good friend that I eat with often I usually eat faster. I have slowed down over the years as I am aware snarfing your food is not as enjoyable as taking your time.

              1. If it's a salad or other food that's good at room temp, I'll take my time. Fish? Steak? I'm not going to linger, I don't care what my dining companions are doing.

                1. My husband is notorious for stabbing his fork into his beef stroganoff to pick out all the meat (this takes about 5 minutes) and once he has finished this he places his fork and knife neatly together on the side of the plate to signal that he has finished, so his plate is removed from the table, and he sits there and looks at my plate as I am eating. 5 minutes into the meal I’m contemplating another gin and tonic and still being surprised at what I am finding in the fried rice.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: snax

                    How about instituting a House Rule: Whoever finishes dinner first does the dishes.

                    1. re: pikawicca

                      or who ever finishes first buys the next round of drinks - I mean adapt it to your own needs

                  2. Dining out should be special. Take your time between courses. Conversation is good. Act like you own the table. 90 minutes for a meal is a bare minimum.

                    What you do at home is your own business.

                    1. I really do not worry about the speed with which others eat. I find that trying to change the speed of my eating is unnatural and really detracts from the enjoyment of my food. Of course, the other side of the coin is that my behavior should in no way make my dining companions uncomfortable. But to synchronize my speed with theirs...no.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Sinicle

                        I'm 100% with you Sinicle. I couldn't care less whether the people I'm dining with are wolfing it down (the way our son and son-in-law eat - they're talking to each other and watching the rest of us about 5 minutes after the plates hit the table), or enjoying every morsel (the way our daughter and granddaughter eat ice cream - one gram at a time). I'm going to go at my own pace and enjoy what I've selected. I'm almost always the last person finished at holiday meals and it doesn't bother me one bit!

                      2. What a great idea for a post ipsedixit! I've run into some awkward situations over the years I guess it depends on the setting and the company (obviously) but salads can be great in a restaurant as you can eat them slowly even when your main dish is long gone. I've been on both sides of the fence. I love broiled salmon and I tend to eat it very quickly while it is still hot, so I like to order a salad or even a baked potato that can be fiddled with until just the right amount of butter and sour cream is achieved. I had a friend named George who loved to eat fast and admitted that he ate faster than most people. I remember eating with him in a nice mexican restaurant and he bolted his food and then gazed longingly at mine. I finally gave him some of my food just to put myself more at ease but I kind of resented it. No easy answers there, but these days if I had dinner with George again I might just relax and enjoy my food and ignore his envious glances. Talking a lot has mixed results. My dad was critical of people who really enjoyed their food so much that they didn't talk much while they were eating. So to make sure my mom and I wouldn't fallen into that habit he would ignore his food and pretty much force us to converse as we ate. After our last bite was finished he would quickly wolf down his own food in silent gusto.

                        1. We were discussing this subject at a recent dinner with a new friend. She admitted to being a very slow eater. She had a serious complaint when eating in a restaurant and the waiter cleared the plates of those who had finished while she was still eating.
                          Was this a valid complaint?

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: mexivilla

                            I think it is! I really don't like dishes in front of me when I'm already finished but I try not to have mine cleared if the other people are still eating. Sometimes works, sometimes not! I have a friend who eats very slowly (she taught herself to do this when she was overweight and it really helped her not to overeat as they say it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to know you're full) and has had her food removed when she is still eating! Also, when everyone elses plate is gone she feels a little awkward. Doesn't make her eat faster though!!!

                            1. re: mexivilla

                              That's really a separate topic, and one that's been discussed out here ad infinitum, most recently here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/675837.

                              To sum up the state of the debate: in traditional table service, no plates are cleared until all diners have finished a given course. Many non-traditionalists insist that it's ridiculous that they should have to sit with their dirty plates in front of them waiting for everyone else to finish. The traditionalists consider the clear-me-now crowd to be impatient, self-indulgent boors; the latter consider the traditionalists to be hide-bound prigs who can't see the plates in front of their face. And the debate goes on (and on, and on - hey, could someone clear the used rhetoric, please?)

                              But on the original topic - my wife is a VERY slow eater, and I've learned not to be impatient. We chat, we people-watch, we enjoy the food. Maybe I have another glass of wine. She finishes eventually (or maybe not - she also has a very small capacity and often can't finish an entreé, especially a "hearty American-sized" one). No problem.

                              1. re: BobB

                                Another glass of wine is a great idea! I'm usually the slower eater so when I finish far ahead I find having something to do with my hands, like sipping a beverage, keeps me from fidgeting. I think this variance in eating speeds can cause a lot of problems. I can remember back in the day my Aunt Ceil finishing early (or maybe I was tardy) and lighting a cigarette and reapplying her make up at the table. I don't recommend her technique but it did solve the problem. I lost my appetite.

                            2. I'm an incredibly slow eater, and my boyfriend is an alarmingly fast one. We both are also extremely talkative, so I've never noticed an issue- he just talks to me and steals random things from my plate until I'm finished. The only time I've ever had issues with others waiting for me to finish was with family- so impatient, and close enough to me to complain about it :)

                              1. I don't really do much of anything. With current portions the size they are, I usually don't want to or can't eat a full main course and end up finishing a little early because I've only eaten half of what is on my plate. If someone else eating with me is having the whole thing, of course s/he's going to take longer. The same thing occurs if not everyone is eating a main course. I don't see a reason for someone eating a smaller amount to slow down to the point where she's eating a cold meal just to keep pace with someone eating a larger portion.

                                I find that in most cases where someone is eating far slower than me, it's because the person is so intent on non-stop talking that he doesn't have time to take a breath for air, much less eat his food. I am not going to encourage that behavior by slowing down, so in many cases I finish my meal to make a point that he needs to move it along. I don't really enjoy eating cold food, so I tend not to be a heavy talker when I am eating.

                                1. I eat relatively slow, always have. It's just my pace. My Mom, who is a frequent dining companion, eats fast. It evens out tho' because she loves dessert and I never eat it (hate sweets).
                                  If people finish before me, well I see that as their problem. I do not try to adjust my pace to suit them. And if someone was rude enough to stare at my food with a mind to get some because they gulped theirs down, would get a snarky remark back. Not that that has happened lately...but my brother used to get lots when we were growing up. He was a speed eater!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Quine

                                    The dessert thing sounds like it works great for you and your mom, Ouine. I agree with you about not talking too much when eating queencru. It leads to people being done at widely different times. And then there are the conversational bullies like my dad. Which reminds me of a dinner at my friend John's house. His mom made a lovely ham dinner with tasty side dishes and bread for her husband, John, his new friend George, and me. She went all out and everything was quite edible this time. John begged me to come so his mom wouldn't put George under the microscope during dinner. It kind of worked. John's mom only took a few bites of her food and just kept asking John, George and me lots of questions. John knows his momma! I ended up feeling a bit jealous of John's dad as he actually got to enjoy his food without lots of nosy interrogation.

                                  2. One of my frequent dining companions is a fast eater who also has the need and capacity for considerably more calories than I do - 5' 4" female who sits behind a desk all day vs. 6' male with a job involving lots of physical activity - life is not fair, but I digress. Anyway, our disparate eating habits have turned out to be a great portion control mechanism for me. I order whatever I want at a restaurant, or put whatever I want on my plate at home; he's done with his food by the time I'm about half way finished, at which point I'm usually getting full but I don't want to waste food (especially if it's really good), so I start transfering bites from my plate to his, where they are gratefully accepted. Win/win all around.

                                    1. I wolf my food down rapidly so I can go back to texting. Oh wait, I think that's a different thread.

                                      1. My dad always ate about twice as fast as the rest of the family, so I just grew up thinking it was not worth thinking about. Like some people are left handed and hold their silverware differently.

                                        1. Being a little physically impaired myself, I am inherently a slow eater. I was once *incredibly* impressed by a meal eaten with a Dutch friend who carefully paced himself to me. I asked about this and he said he had been raised explicitly to do so; that it was a sign of bad manners in his country not to aim to finish together. I have no idea if this is really a national trait, but certainly it seemed gentlemanly to me.

                                          I actually think the question raises interesting issues about table manners and also one's relation to food and conversation, etc.

                                          I realize this is slightly OT as ipsedixit asked about mechanisms, not rationale. My friend seemed to take more time between bites as I recall. Conversely, I could do more shutting up... ;) (as perhaps there ought to be a reverse imperative to try to move things along when you are the slacker, or at least not impose an uncomfortable hardship. I actually felt simultaneous awe, appreciation and embarrassment at the time, for imposing obvious trouble).

                                          1. I have a friend who I avoid eating with because she eats so slow & it drives me nuts. If I try to pace myself with her I find that I am always checking her plate & drinking lots of water and it ruins my enjoyment of the meal. The reason she eats so slow is because she is a Talker. She is one of those people I love but can only take in small doses because she never shuts up.

                                            1. One of my best friends eats so slowly that it's comical. She will raise her fork and having long, long ago finished my appetizer and starving for my entree, I'll silently beg any deity that might exist and be listening to please-please-pretty-please let it enter her mouth, but sure enough, about 90% of the time, it's nothing more than a tease as it descends back down to the plate.

                                              It's not really a serious problem as much as a wild amusement to me, but I do have to plan accordingly when she invites me out, as lunch with her can take a solid two hours (without dessert, even), through no fault of mine or the restaurant.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: vorpal

                                                This drives me crazy - not from a dining companion perspective, but as a server. I understand from an above comment that this was already the topic of another thread, so I won't say too much. But, if you are out with a group of people and everyone is done but you (especially on the appetizer course), or if you are one of a few in a large party who ordered an appetizer, why would you talk and talk while everyone is done and waiting? Meanwhile, I'm somewhere nearby trying to clear your table so your mains can come out at appropriate time. That fork hover - raised to the mouth, then held there while you talk, the finally lowered still full.....

                                              2. I have another question cuz if your going on a date will u eat fast or slow?

                                                1. Notoriously slow eater here - I was always the last one at the table, after my siblings had inhaled their food and moved on to their homework. I live with a man who eats at a normal pace, but if we're in a restaurant and served at the same time, and he's really hungry, he wolfs down his food, never once putting down the fork or pausing between bites. In these cases I am only halfway through my meal when he's finished and asking for the check. After years of this, I just continue at my own comfortable pace. If I can see from the get-go that this is going to happen, I will just order an appetizer as my meal, a smaller portion, and we can finish "together". If it bothers him, he's never said so.

                                                  The only time I really even pay attention to this type of situation is when I am eating with clients, and then when they are finished (and these are usually hungry men who eat fast) so am I. I'll take the rest to go. The polite ones apologize for rushing me (sometimes we just cant spend 90+ minutes at lunch); the rest just don't care.

                                                  1. I remember when I was young and eating dinner at the home of friends of my parents. It was amazing at how fast they were eating I later asked my mother about how fast they ate. I learned that they ate at a fast pace because the husband was an OBGYN and was frequently on call. They never knew if their dinner was going to be interrupted.

                                                    1. I'm a slow eater and my DH is a fast eater. This is a non-issue. We each eat at our own pace. If he is done before I am, he talks and keeps me company, until I am done.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Michelle


                                                        On the flip side I;m a fit male that sees no need to rush my meals unless business or a situation dictates it.
                                                        Years ago I dated a "lovely" girl who told me over a dinner out I need to eat faster because it made her look "fat" by my eating so slow. Huh?

                                                        I eat a little faster in the winter to keep food from getting cold but grew up in a family where speed did not dictatedinner portions you received.

                                                        I see fast eating a lot in work areas where lunch or dinner time is confined to 30 minutes 5 days a week. It usually carries over to the other 2 days.

                                                        But yep--girls can indeed find repulse with slow male eaters.
                                                        Who knew. LOLZ.

                                                      2. The last thing I'm concerned about when eating out with other people, is how fast or slow anyone is eating, including me.

                                                        Is the food tasty? Is the conversation moving along? Are we all having a good time? Much more important.

                                                        The only time I can see this coming into play is in a high-end restaurant where they are obsessed (and rightly so) with seeing that all diners receive their next course at the exact same time. I wouldn't want to be that person who kept everyone else waiting for their entree, or dessert.