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Slow eaters

Okay, so it's been agreed on that servers should not remove the plates until everyone has finished. Well, my sister has got to be the slowest eater ever. I've seen her cut an olive into three pieces. Our last meal, she cut, with a knife, the most tender medium sizes scallop into at least six forkfulls. Teeny, tiny nibbles of salad. The smallest taste of soup at a time. No more than a half teaspoon of cole slaw at a time. Just to be clear, there are no medical swallowing issues here. She is just the pokiest eater The rest of us are not in a hurry, but get impatient. Family dinners took forever. in a restaurant, I eventually want my plate gone. If there are 6 people at the table who have already finished, isn't there a point where she should pack it in out of consideration to others? Yes, like I started with, plates should remain until all are finished, but there's a point when a slow eater should observe the pace of others.

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  1. What she should do and what she will do are probably two different things.

    If she does what you describe, and others have commented on it and expressed frustration, then she might be using her eating as a power play. Or perhaps not. You know her best.

    1. I think it really depends on the type of place and the company ...whether or not it's an occasion or a simple dinner.

      I'm always the last to finish my meal...even when on a date.

      I always announce when I would like to be home .....just to keep it moving in case we lose track of time.

      1. It sounds as though she's got some food or control issues. Those who are frustrated by her pace need to speak directly to her about it, not by criticizing her but by asking for her cooperation in finding a mutually-agreeable compromise. Explain to her that her pace makes dining together take longer than others find acceptable. Perhaps she can limit the number of courses. No appetizer or soup course for her, ask the server to bring her entree right away. If she wants the other courses, have them packed up so she can have them at home at her leisure. The same kind of situation occurs when a member of the party talks so much that s/he takes forever to finish eating. No restaurant should take the initiative to clear the table while she is still eating, though it might help to point out to her that the establishment would certainly like to be able to turn the table in the typical time interval.

        13 Replies
        1. re: greygarious

          Yep, the behavior the OP describes sounds like that of an anorexic or recovering anorexic. My daughter's good friend (now in recovery) did the same thing while she was ill. We just ignored it when she "ate" at our house and tried to avoid restaurants until she felt ready to go to one without getting stressed out.

          1. re: Isolda

            isolda: yes, anorexia is the closest fit. my bet would be anorexia too. practically classical symptoms.

            another fit might well be some sort of ocd.

            in any case, a professional work up by someone specializing in these issues would be the best approach for the sister if she would agree to it.

            1. re: westsidegal

              But...wouldn't an anorexic use the fact that others have already finished eating as an excuse to stop eating him/herself. Anorexics have a phobia of eating too much, and will generally use any excuse for not eating, or for eating less.

              1. re: josephnl

                The last thing people with eating disorders want is to eat in public or attract attention to themselves eating. However, no one here knows what the issue is. It is pointless to guess.

                Her behavior (for whatever reason) is controlling, passive aggressive and rude because she knows her dinner companions are finished, she leaves them sitting with dirty plates in front of them until she decides to be finished, she knows they are annoyed and irritated but continues to eat tiny amounts while they all watch her.

                IMO even if she had a medical reason for slow eating, she should "pack it up" after a reasonable amount of time, just out of consideration for the others she is dining with. I have had to do that when I had dental surgery. I didn't make the whole table wait for me and watch me eat!

                1. re: sedimental

                  You say no one knows what the issue is, but then you are comfortable knowing that this is passive aggressive? No, we do not know that.

                  1. re: debbiel

                    Her "behavior" is passive aggressive behavior as described by the OP. Passive aggressive behavior is not an "issue" it is a behavior style.

                    1. re: sedimental

                      Well, I"m not much up for a discussion of issue v. style. I still disagree that we know that the behavior is passive aggressive. And that, rather than whether or not it was an issue or what you meant when you used the word issue, was the point of my comment.

              2. re: westsidegal

                i thought the same. i'm currently in recovery myself from anorexia, and the behaviors mentioned here immediately made me think anorexia. in the eating disorders field/world, they're usually called "abnormal pacing" and "micro-cutting".

                every case is different with eating disorders, and not stopping when others have finished is not necessarily an indicator (or not) of an eating disorder.

                her defensive reaction when being questioned REALLY makes me think eating disorder. that said, it's clearly a sensitive topic (for whatever reason), so the best advice i can give would be to 1) investigate eating disorder resources available for friends, family, and loved ones who are concerned about someone else, and 2) sit down with her in a calm, neutral, non-food setting, and express what you've noticed in terms of concern and curiosity, not accusation or frustration.
                these links: http://www.emilyprogram.com/for-famil... and http://www.something-fishy.org/ may have useful information for you.

                it's tough to say if she is or isn't suffering from some kind of problem just from a description online, but i think it sounds worth investigating. remember, even if she is suffering from an eating disorder, control or anxiety issues, or a dysfunctional relationship with food and/or body image, she may reject your advances, deny anything is wrong, become angry or defensive, withdraw, or become angry. she is an adult, and all you can do is make it clear that if there IS a problem, you're available and willing to help and support her if she wants it.

                if there's nothing else underlying it, it's kind of rude.

                good luck!

                1. re: chartreauxx

                  "if there's nothing else underlying it, it's kind of rude."

                  -------------

                  Right on. I spent years being angry at a "slow eater," and I felt like a cad when I later learned that she had been struggling with anorexia the whole time.

              3. re: Isolda

                My youngest step daughter was and still is a painfully slow eater. I first noticed when she was 8 years old but any comments I made were dismissed with 'leave her alone, she'll be fine. She'll grow out of it'. She was a very slender, frail child and apparently bottle fed until 5 years old.

                Now at age 21 she behavior is no different. Her BMI is about 14.5. At meal times she still cuts food into tiny pieces and spreads it over the plate to give the illusion that she has a lot of food. She takes small bites and often appears to lose concentration, almost to be in a trance, between bites.

                While she was in school it was not too big of an issue, just an annoyance for me. But now she has just had to quit a job because should just could not handle any physical activity. Her fitness level is 'very low'.

                She appears unable to gain weight, but loses it easily. She often comments that she is fat, spends a lot of time in front of a mirror and takes numerous 'selfies'. I am very concerned about her but her mother and rest of the family seem oblivious.

                1. re: matmeeking

                  BMI under 17.5 is diagnosable for anorexia nervosa, particularly considered along with the distorted body image. While this thread has shown that slow eating can be for a variety of reasons, including just temperament and habit and preference, it sounds like your step daughter may benefit from a professional evaluation.

                    1. re: matmeeking

                      that's dangerous low, like death dying emergency low. if it's not an eating disorder (i'd bet the farm it is), then she has some other health crisis going on. she needs a doctor NOW. no, not now, yesterday. good luck...

                2. My dad was a slow eater. My mom was like lightning. I fell somewhere in the middle.

                  When we used to dine out, if we were finished while Dad was still eating, we'd order coffee or a cocktail to sip while we all chatted and he finished.

                  I don't want to be maudlin, but there will be a time when you won't have your family around the table with you. Either deal with your sister, or don't go out to eat---eat in someone's home, or eat at a restaurant that's not worried about turning tables quickly. It's not a business lunch, so what's the rush?

                  Just playing devil's advocate.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: pinehurst

                    I agree. I would give anything to have my sister back to have a slow lunch/dinner with. Cherish the time together.

                    1. re: basketwoman

                      Well said. Everbody is in such a hurry these days. Spend time with family or the people you enjoy being around when at a restaurant or at the dinner table.This is what matters. Not the food. Slow down and enjoy. Life is short.

                    2. re: pinehurst

                      Yep, add me to that list. My mom became a very slow eater over the past few years. My brother and I were sure it was some kind of passive-aggressive thing on her part. She passed away two months ago and I would give anything to be able to take her to one of her favorite restaurants and sit through a mediocre chain restaurant meal watching her eat at a snail's pace.

                      1. re: jlhinwa

                        Well said, jlhinwa. That's rather poignant.

                    3. While the restaurant should never take the initiative, you could, after an appropriate interval, ask that the rest of the table be cleared. Then enjoy dessert and coffee while she finishes her entree.

                      1. Left on my own at home, I am a slow eater. No clue why. But in a restaurant or any other situation where a group is gathered, I do try to be mindful of the pace of others.
                        So, yes, I think slow eaters should observe the pace of people around them to make a pleasant experience for everyone. Us slow eaters sans underlying reasons can pick up the pace if we want to.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: alliegator

                          Yes, I feel she is not considerate of others. I enjoy a leisurely meal, too, but watching one person eat is not enjoyable. When we are out for a walk, we adjust our pace, so why not for a meal?

                        2. What have you said to her so far and how has she responded?

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Hobbert

                            I have questioned why she cuts her olives into little pieces. I get the look. No answer. I got the look this past weekend when I let the server finally remove my plate and she had almost all of hers still to eat. She is not going to change. I'm not going to change, well, as far as this anyway. I just feel I don't want to be considered the one who is rushing and inconsiderate when there is no compromise and awareness on her end. This is not about turnover in a restaurant. It's about social cues and the company of others.

                            1. re: Leslie

                              Well, there ya go. She doesn't plan on changing so, if I were you, I'd eat at a normal pace, linger a bit, then leave after I paid for my share. You only have to feel inconsiderate if you want to. You don't want her to slow down your day? Leave. You don't mind? Stay.

                              1. re: Leslie

                                cutting an olive into three pieces, and a scallop into six pieces (even if it's a huge ocean scallop!) is an exercise in control.

                                When you sit and wait for her to quit playing with her food, she wins.

                                1. re: Leslie

                                  In her case, it sounds like this is less about being a "slow eater" and more about attention and controlling others.

                                  I wouldn't play along.

                              2. sometimes I ask for the plate to removed when I'm finished eating because I'll pick at those stupid fries/garlic bread/onion rings even though I'm really no longer hungry.

                                Absolutely nothing to do with the slow eater...it keeps me from eating what I don't want to eat in the first place.

                                1. Well, though depending on the conversation with my guests, I might be even slower, than she is.

                                  All of the servers immediately know who the "talker" is, at our table, but the good ones, make accommodations.

                                  Hunt

                                  1. For me it's I go out to dinner to fill up, and who give's a S.... in and out. But there's the other side.When I was in Italy. It would take me two hours to finish. Some food,some wine.Savor the flavor.I was always last to finish.The better the food the slower I eat.

                                    12 Replies
                                    1. re: emglow101

                                      <<When I was in Italy. It would take me two hours to finish. Some food,some wine.Savor the flavor.I was always last to finish.The better the food the slower I eat.>>

                                      That is the attitude that I try to bring to each of my meals. Add great guests, in whom I have an interest, and things slow down a bit more.

                                      When I moved from New Orleans, to Denver in at the end of the '70s, I was amazed. In New Orleans, people lived to eat, while in Denver (at the time), people ate to live. There was a totally different mind set, and everyone ate as quickly, as they could.

                                      If I am in that big a hurry, I just do not eat - simple as that. Same thing, if there is no good food to eat - I do not eat. Same for wine - if there is no good wine, I do not drink. Life is short, and there should be no hurry. One's e-mails, text messages, Tweets and FaceBook "Likes," will still be there, after the meal.

                                      I just do not understand the preoccupation with haste, especially when enjoying good food and good wine.

                                      Guess that I just come from a different time, and a different place?

                                      Hunt

                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                        No, Bill,I think you just do not understand the OP. Who is faced with a passive aggressive family member that cuts a single olive into 6 pieces, to slowly and leisurely torment her fellow dinner companions that want to complete dinner in a reasonable amount of time.

                                        1. re: sedimental

                                          Or, perhaps that person has an obsession?

                                          Some folk deal with things in their lives, in different ways.

                                          Hunt

                                        2. re: Bill Hunt

                                          love ya Bill, but you're also not working-- some of us (even though we try not to) end up with 15 minutes to grab something to eat between meetings -- at 2:30 in the afternoon when your blood sugar is starting to flag and you're getting a headache because you're hungry.

                                          We all would LIKE to sit and enjoy long leisurely meals with wonderful old wines, but the reality is that those meals are the exception.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            the situation the OP described has nothing to do with whether or not the others at the table are employed.

                                            from the original post:
                                            <<The rest of us are not in a hurry>>

                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                              who was addressing the OP?

                                              I was addressing Bill and his statement that "If I am in that big a hurry, I just do not eat - simple as that."

                                              It's simply not always that simple.

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                For me, it is.

                                                No sense in suffering indigestion, later in the day, when I do not have an opportunity to dine in a leisurely manner. Why should I wolf down my meal? Just not my style.

                                                Hunt

                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                  Appointment-based careers where one's income is directly linked to those appointments frequently means that long, leisurely lunches are simply not possible.

                                                  Add to that the vagaries of airline and highway traffic, and you would have starved to death years ago in my profession.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    Those are some of the reasons that I plan in great detail.

                                                    Hunt

                                            2. re: sunshine842

                                              You are correct - I AM retired now, but it was not always the case. I have always dined slowly, and have tried to savor each mouthful, when doing so.

                                              As mentioned, when things were rushed, I just did not bother to eat, rather than wolf down the food. That is just the way that I am - perhaps some deep-seated neurosis?

                                              My wife was always a very fast eater, and that might have been nurtured by working double-shifts at her hospital. It has taken years, but now she can slow down, and enjoy each meal. She has even instituted a policy of booking adequate time, for working lunches. Once, her assistant would only allocate 30 mins., between meetings. New assistant understands enjoying one's life much more. Things have changed, and her boards, and those meeting with her, appreciate that change.

                                              If I absolutely have to have nutrition, but have zero time, then I grab a can of some dietary supplement - not order actual food.

                                              Just the way that I am.

                                              Hunt

                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                The question here is what do you do when dining with people who all have a different style of eating? They figure an hour for dinner is fine, or they have plans for after dinner (or a babysitter than needs to be taken home) or only gets an hour for lunch. Or for that matter, someone who can only afford/finish a main course and a single drink, rather than a multi course meal with matched wines.

                                                Do you adjust your eating style to match? Do you have a can of dietary supplement while they eat their meal? Do you warn them before taking plans that you never, say, take less than three hours and three courses over a meal out? Do you refuse to eat with them because neither of you would enjoy it? Or do you think to yourself that they are uncultured and have no idea how to enjoy a meal, and let them watch while you eat your appetizer, and watch while you finish your main course, and watch while you have your dessert, and watch while you savour your wines and coffee and after dinner liqueur, and then get annoyed if they aren't happy to do it?

                                                If you aren't expecting the rest of your group to conform to your personal ideas of dining, there's no problem - do whatever you want. The problem comes when one person out of a group has a vastly different dining speed, and is imposing it on everyone else, even though the others are irritated and inconvenienced by it.

                                                1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                  No. I do not adjust my dining style.

                                                  If anyone is in a hurry, they should not have accepted the invitation, in the first place. I will not change my habits, because someone could not count a few hours.

                                                  I will stand, kiss their cheeks, and bid them a good evening, but I cannot imagine that I will begin shoveling food into my mouth, because someone did not plan adequately. That is their problem, and not mine.

                                                  Sorry,

                                                  Hunt

                                        3. "isn't there a point where she should pack it in out of consideration to others?"

                                          No. Absolutely, no.

                                          She should enjoy her meal in her way as the rest of the party have enjoyed theirs.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: Harters

                                            With no consideration to literally ALL the other diners at the table?

                                            1. re: Midknight

                                              I used the word "absolutely" knowing its meaning.

                                            2. re: Harters

                                              We MUST dine together. Somehow, I think that our pacing would be in sync - plus there WOULD be conversation, between forkfuls.

                                              Hunt

                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                I am a slow eater. I like to enjoy my food and converse. My husband, however, is such a slow eater that there may be frequent periods during an average meal of 5-10 minutes with no bites taken at all. There is a difference between the two, and I think the OP is speaking of the latter one.

                                                Hubby's metabolism has slowed to almost nothing as a result of this habit.

                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                  For me, that only happens when the conversation around the table is so very good, that to break into that, for a mouthful of X, is just not an option.

                                                  Hunt

                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                    I cannot imagine speaking for that long without a break for that ever to be a possibility. In a conversation, both sides speak, no? When the other person speaks is when I eat.

                                                    Besides, if the food is good, I cannot imagine letting it sit and get cold just so I can pontificate.

                                            3. Since you say family dinners took forever, does that mean she has always eaten this way?
                                              Does she eat this way with friends, too, or only with family.
                                              Does she insist upon ordering multiple courses?
                                              And if you were to wait patiently without drawing attention to the matter, would she eventually finish her meal?
                                              Just trying to understand the situation...

                                              1. There absolutely is a point where she should speed up. Dining is a group activity. One owes something to the group. That is the essence of etiquette. Endless dallying over a meal when everybody else is long done is just plain rude.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: sal_acid

                                                  Correct. Everyone is supposed to modulate their individual preferred speed of eating so that people are eating within a reasonably proximate speed of each other. Applies to both ends of the spectrum in social dining.

                                                  That said, it's obvious this is immaterial to the sister of the OP. The OP is not obliged to enable the behavior, but should not get reactive to it, either.

                                                  1. re: sal_acid

                                                    My husband's sister, I figured out pretty early on, is not only a compulsive talker, but she really doesn't have the attention span long enough to finish a meal in one sitting. With her it isn't control, it's being pathologically scattered and disorganized. She's actually much better at restaurants, but DH tells of long hours of waiting for her to finish her dinner when they were kids.

                                                  2. My wife and her sister both eat slowly, but it's not that they cut things into very small pieces. What they do is move things around with their forks................ seemingly forever.

                                                    We eat a lot of dinner salads at our house and I'll watch my wife move pieces of lettuce, tomato, etc. around dozens of times on the plate before picking up a small fork full of anything to eat it. Often she'll pick something up and then put it down again. I'm sure this is a lot healthier than the opposite behavior, but I'd really love to know if it has any hidden psychological basis.

                                                    Same thing with any food on her plate that can be moved around. Doesn't matter what or what course. For a long time I thought she was sorting through to find something she's interested in eating, but she says she's not even aware of doing it. Just a 'place holder' of sorts during the meal.

                                                    I have to wonder if her parents were especially insistent that they chew food completely as kids, so this 'moving thing' became something to do while chewing.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Midlife

                                                      Midlife,

                                                      I have done something similar, though probably for a different result. When dining, as a guest at a friend's home, if there is a dish, or an ingredient, that I do not wish to eat, I will move things on my plate, to appear that I did eat everything, or at least a bit of everything. If the cook were to survey the plate closely, he/she would notice that all of the bell pepper slices were there, accounted for, but in an arrangement that looked like I did eat some.

                                                      Now, I am an avowed "slow eater," but I do not "play with my food," beyond the above. I also reach for one of my wines, after most bites. Then, there IS the conversation.

                                                      Hunt

                                                      1. re: Midlife

                                                        Auntie is a very slow eater. She'll take slow deliberate bites, cut stuff up, move it around her plate, talk while she has a fork with food on it, the whole works. My father-in-law and I call watching her eat "Still Life with Auntie".

                                                        She just laughs, because she's just a slow eater and that's all there is to it.

                                                        1. re: Midlife

                                                          The moving-food-around thing is a trick women use to not eat.
                                                          I speak from personal experience and the experience of most of my female friends and acquaintances.

                                                          I am a fast eater and when I have meals with others, this trick also helps to avoid sitting with an empty plate while others are taking their time. I don't want to make them feel uncomfortable or have to rush.

                                                        2. I find that speed depends on the situation - there's a difference between a quick lunch with work colleagues, or a leisurely multi-course dinner and drinks with friends, or between the same meal in the US and in Italy or France.

                                                          But if you're regularly taking 50% longer or more than your dining colleagues, then it would be courteous to either eat a smaller amount of food (so you're done faster), or get some of it packaged up, or learn to eat more quickly.

                                                          On the same note, if you're regularly finishing your meal before the other diners are half done, you should make an effort to slow down, rather than sitting there in front of an empty plate making others feel like they have to rush.

                                                          Chinese family style meals would be a good solution for this. If someone is too slow, the food gets eaten up by everyone else, and you're ready to go at a decent time. And it's not possible to pile an entire meal onto your rice bowl at the beginning of the meal.

                                                          In other cases, yeah, I'd ask to have the plates removed, and order a coffee or a beer to enjoy. I'd also have no problem with having to leave early on occasion if I had other plans or commitments later that day.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                            Or maybe those, who act like they are at the July 4 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, should think about slowing down, and perhaps even tasting that mouthful. It is not a competition, but too many act, as though it is. I doubt that most could even tell you what they just ate, let alone describe the flavors, or the textures. They might as well have dined on some liquified dish, that they sucked through a straw.

                                                            Hunt

                                                            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                              <On the same note, if you're regularly finishing your meal before the other diners are half done, you should make an effort to slow down, rather than sitting there in front of an empty plate making others feel like they have to rush.>

                                                              I'm not really a slow eater, just not a big eater. I like to savor my food and I don't mind having some leftovers for later. Grazing every couple of hours suits me just fine.

                                                              A couple of good friends of mine, who I truly love to see, are the opposite. I swear, I don't know how they do it. We'll be talking, so I don't notice any rude manners. It's just that their plates of food disappear in 10 to 15 minutes. It's like a magic trick. I love these women, but they need to slow down. Afterwards, they complain about being too full and their need to lose weight and 'how do I stay slim?'

                                                              I've explained myself several times about the 'grazer' factor. I eat when I'm hungry and when I'm full, I'm full. That's what works for me. Swear they think I have an eating disorder.

                                                              I don't think it's unreasonable to allow a half an hour for a leisurely lunch from the time the food arrives at the table. That's my experience with other friends, often taking up to an hour. Meals are for relaxation when we're not on the clock.

                                                              Cutting up an olive into three pieces? No! She does sound controlling if not just downright weird.

                                                              I'd always have an 'event' planned afterwards to slink out gracefully.

                                                            2. My husband is a very slow eater, and he's gotten worse over the years. He's ADD, so inattention might have something to do with it.

                                                              He has always told stories about how he used to be left eating after everyone else in the family was finished, and while his mother was cleaning up the kitchen, she would "bop" him on the head every time she went past, and this was the signal to take a bite.

                                                              Yes, I am sometimes tempted to do this...

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                but, sandylc, since you are an understanding, loving, realistic, adult, you don't actually do this.
                                                                that is one BIG difference between you and your mother in law.

                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                  Thank you for your faith in my character - ;-)

                                                                  The MIL was the proverbial monster.

                                                                2. re: sandylc

                                                                  Funny you should mention ADD. I have a sister who is a slow eater, although a generally very energetic person, with ADD. When she eats, she'll stab the food multiple times, then let it go. She'll make a circular motion with the fork in the air, before bringing it to her mouth. She'll make a circular motion with the empty fork while she chews. She's never still, but she still takes a long time to eat. She also talks a lot during meals, and just generally gets distracted.

                                                                  1. re: MelMM

                                                                    One of my friends is a very slow eater because she talks alot!

                                                                    She knows she is slow and is always the last one to finish, but she always says something like "don't worry about me, I'm a slow eater" and doesn't mind if the plates are taken or you get a coffee or dessert.She would never hold a table hostage to it. I try to pace myself with her, but my food gets too cold!

                                                                3. DH is a fairly fast eater... he can inhale his plate before I've had more than six bites of mine! I tell DH that if he eats too fast he'll just have to sit and watch me eat. He doesn't mind... but I do try not to take too long, and I usually take half my plate home with me if I think I'm eating too slowly.

                                                                  My mother is such a slow eater she makes me look like speedy Gonzales! She has bad teeth, and she would be a slow eater anyway. We always had to sit and wait for her to finish. I think I eat slower because I used to try not to leave her on her own at the table (my father and brother would just get up and leave when they were done...) which is probably why we gave up 'table meals' and switched to eating in front of the television most of the time... but eating out we'd have our plates cleared and just sit and sip drinks while we waited for her.

                                                                  1. WIth people like the OP's sister, who have a know history of slow eating, I would manage my expectations. She is YOUR sister and you know exactly what to expect going in. I am sure there are times you can't control and have to go out to a sit down meal with her. In those cases take a deep breath and make the best of it. I also think there is nothing wrong with letting a grace period pass and then asking to have your plate cleared and a cup of tea/coffee/digestivo brought while your sister finishes her meal.

                                                                    If you really can't bring yourself to let go then avoid the sit down dinners whenever possible. Invite her over for cocktails and apps, a breakfast buffet or any other casual meal where people eat at their own pace. BBQ's, pot lucks etc.

                                                                    Maybe dinners out could be before a movie or show something that would force a "hard stop".

                                                                    1. Someone very dear to me who eats painfully slowly has just been told by a physician that he is malnourished.

                                                                      This person is daily offered a wide variety of fresh, tasty, healthy, made-from-scratch-with-love food.

                                                                      He eats so slowly that he never eats enough.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                        Wow. I hope he gets faster, for the sake of his health.

                                                                        1. re: EWSflash

                                                                          Thanks. It's hard for even him to know the whys of whatever is going on in his head.

                                                                      2. Ive read the whole thread, and find the alternate opinions fascinating. Cutting your food into tiny pieces, and eating it one piece at a time, definitely IS a sign of some sort of control issue. This is something only that person can change, and she is (or so it seems) unaware or unconcerned about her fellow diner's pace.

                                                                        I am the slow eater in our family. Always the last to leave the table. I am slow because, as other have noted, I want to enjoy my food. I put my fork down between bites. but I do not cut my food into tiny pieces. And I do pay attention to how others are proceeding through their meal, especially during the business lunches I am invited to. When my fellow diners are done, then so am I, and while plates are cleared, I ask for a to-go box (if appropriate). In the business scenario, I usually order an app as my main, so that I can start eating when others do, and the chances of finishing together are good.

                                                                        My spouse, on the other hand, inhales his food, depending on how hungry he is. The fork never rests. When its just two of us in a casual place, I am still eating while he pays the bill, and has his keys in his hand. He's learned that I will finish when Im finished. When we're out with friends, Ive had to slow him down and remind him that just because he is finished, doesn't mean everyone ELSE is ready to go. He doesn't always enjoy the camaraderie of friends sharing food, but is a good sport (usually) about sitting still for a few more minutes. I usually give him the final bill and let him haggle over who pays what - it keeps him occupied while I enjoy my coffee and shared dessert.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                          My dear wife was not THAT quick, but still quite quick (not sure how one could effectively measure quickness, without a stop watch, and then some established baseline... ). Over the years (maybe living with me), she has begun to slow down and more fully enjoy her meals. When it is just the two of us, we often discuss the presentation, the spices and pick out all ingredients (especially the ones not listed on the menu). Going back many years, that would never have been possible - the presentation would be gone in an instant, then everything would be empty, and I would have to give her little tastes of my food, to discuss it with her - her plate would have been empty. Now, we are almost on the same page. I can say that I changed her, in that aspect, but she can take much pride on changing me, on many, many others. I am just glad to have contributed to one little aspect of her personality. Now, I do not know how she dines, when I am not around, but would hope that it's still much slower, than it once was. She also finds that she is full, much earlier in a meal, than she once was, when it was consumed, as quickly, as possible.

                                                                          Just some idle observations on speed of dining.

                                                                          Hunt

                                                                        2. I'm also a very slow eater. I don't pick at my food, I do chew my food very well, though and take small bites. At home it's really not an issue, but out at a restaurant, I generally use the opportunity to cut my food intake by "being finished" when the rest of the diners have finished their plates.

                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                          1. re: ChefJune

                                                                            If she doesn't have an eating disorder, which I doubt very much, she is exhibiting classic passive aggressive behavior as others here have noted. If this is the case she will be exhibiting the same form of behavior in other areas of her life. Chronic lateness for example.
                                                                            Her age is important. If she is pre pubescent she's in a heap of trouble already. Get her looked at by a qualified professional.

                                                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                                                              You are right on. This is way beyond being a slow eater. This is clearly manipulative behavior and likely passive aggression. Slow eaters don't cut a scallop into teeny morsels, they just eat slowly and talk between mouthfuls often letting distraction slow them down from continuing to eat. This is way beyond that!

                                                                              1. re: josephnl

                                                                                Maybe at a future dinner, the OP and her family can make up a new rule: "Last one to finish picks up the tab !". That might be one motivator to get OP's sis to speed it up !

                                                                                Just kidding (I think) ;-)

                                                                                1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                                  Actually that is a brilliant idea!

                                                                                  My own experience--I used to be a not slow but definitely not fast eater. In the last few years, the demands of my job require me to eat at odd hours and frequently while having to be available to my client or other people. I eat at my desk alot and quite frankly, just inhale my food. I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at my desk today--breakfast was a bit slow, 1/2 hour, but lunch (pasta and meat saue from employee cafe) and dinner (frozen meal) took about 10 minutes max.

                                                                                  I find that if I eat alone, I almost always eat quickly, but when with others, not that fast. I would love to eat a leisurely meal, but just don't, ever.

                                                                                  1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                                    Hope you get to eat your lunches and dinners slower more often !

                                                                                    I seem to think that slow eating = better digestion = better health. When I was in Weight Watchers 10 years ago, one of the key messages we got was slow(-er) eating helps prevent overeating, since it takes the brain about 20 mins to register that the stomach is full.

                                                                                    Plus you actually taste what you're eating.

                                                                                    1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                                      Just inhaled another lunch at my desk - pizza and caesar salad brought in for a baby shower that I can't spare the time to sit thru. Took less than 10 minutes max, to eat 2 slices and salad, while someone stuck their head in my door and we talked for 1/2 that time. But, I DID taste the pizza--it was GOOD :)

                                                                                      I did WW (started 12/01) and lost 50+ lbs. I worked for them as a receptionist for a few years then had to give it up. I've slowly gained most of the weight back which is very frustrating. The stress of my job has increased steadily over the years (added responsibility, extra workload) and I have reverted to bad eating habits. Not to mention, the abundance of food in the office and access to it constantly.

                                                                                      Maybe when I retire, I will be able to retrain myself to eat slower.

                                                                          2. OP here. I haven't commented beyond the first few responses because my question was if a slow eater should observe if others have finished and "pack it in", and if she won't , it's been agreed that we can move on. The discussion about whether one should pick up the the pace and consider others is relevant to the discussion. All this stuff about passive aggressive behavior, anorexia,etc. is actually not the case. She eats this slowly by herself, too and eats well and enjoys her food. She is just a slow eater.

                                                                            8 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Leslie

                                                                              Since I first read this post, I have started to notice that every time I eat with a group, I am almost always the last to finish. I can imagine myself absentmindedly cutting an olive into slices.
                                                                              No passive aggression or anorexia at work -- I'm just a naturally slow eater.
                                                                              It's a dilemma: do I stop eating before I am finished to adjust to others' pace? I usually do, but if I'm really enjoying a meal it's a tough call.

                                                                              1. re: Leslie

                                                                                Sorry, but I find it hard to believe that this person does not have some type of disorder. You say she "eats well". If she is as slow as you say, she'd have to spend at least 3-4 hours a day eating in order to consume a healthy diet's worth of nutrients. Unless she's independently wealthy, she probably doesn't have that much time to devote to eating. I doubt she's enjoying food that's sitting on her plate getting cold and congealed as she picks at it. You refute the idea of it being evidence of passive aggression by saying she eats slowly when by herself - but how do you know? Is this just what she tells you? If she's really eating when alone, no one sees what she's doing.

                                                                                Atomic76 makes an excellent point as regards her inconsiderate behavior toward the server and establishment. I hope she tips extravagantly to help make up for the income she causes them to lose.

                                                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                                                  from my mind to your keyboard...I kept turning over how anyone knows how she eats when she eats by herself.

                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                    Well, maybe since I've known this person for more than 50 years, as she is my sister, and I've had many opportunities to observe her when i and others have no stake in how long it takes her to eat, such as when she's snacking by herself. I really don't believe that she would be able to carry out this ruse since toddlerhood as a way to stick it to the rest of us. I guess I really don't know if she scarfed her lunch down and remained in the kitchen for another 20 minutes just to prove something to us.

                                                                                    1. re: Leslie

                                                                                      if you were in the house, she wasn't alone.

                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                        Well, then I guess we're rarely alone - not when on the toilet, in the shower, etc., if someone else is in the house. Also, i guess I'm not as self centered as some people, since I don't believe her eating speed difference, not disorder, exists solely to annoy me.

                                                                                        1. re: Leslie

                                                                                          of course it's not solely to annoy you -- it's to annoy everyone who ever sits at a table with her -- but to be fair, she may not even be aware of how much it irritates the snot out of people, especially if she's been blithely faffing about with her food for this many years.

                                                                                          It annoys you more than you let on, because you logged on and posted about it...and have been following the thread.

                                                                                2. re: Leslie

                                                                                  But Leslie, really...in your own words, she will cut the "most tender medium sized scallop into at least six forkfuls", and eat "teeny, tiny nibbles of salad" and cut an olive into 3 pieces! And, you admittedly say that she keeps others waiting at the table for her. She is not "just a slow eater". There is obviously something else going on here, and that's what others are trying to tell you (some more gently than others).

                                                                                3. I would just get up and leave, and let her sit there by herself like a moron nibbling on her food like a gerbil. If she doesn't care about holding up everyone else, then she shouldn't be alarmed or offended when everyone leaves her there by herself too. I can't stand passive aggressive people.

                                                                                  Not to mention, that is beyond disrespectful to the server and the restaurant itself. She's not sitting at home, she's sitting at a table that a server is supposed to be making their living off of. Several other people could have been seated there and served in the time she's wasting putzing around.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Atomic76

                                                                                    Oh my. What a mean spirited person you are.

                                                                                    1. re: Atomic76

                                                                                      It's a little ove the top, but I'm somewhat inclined to agree

                                                                                    2. My brother in law does this as well. To add insult to injury, he is a huge eater and always orders a ton of food and he is always at least half an hour late to any event. That coupled with his slow eating is excruciating.

                                                                                      The family has lost any pretense of politeness after many years of this behavior. If the meal is at a restaurant and he is not there at the appointed time, we order without him. If it is at someone's home, the hostess serves the meal when he/she is ready.

                                                                                      I do think the slow eating is a control issue and we just don't play into it any more. When everyone but him is done, we ask that the plates be cleared and we order dessert & coffee if desired. You would think he would get the hint but no such luck. I think it's best to ignore it completely. One person cannot be allowed to control the entire group.

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: baseballfan

                                                                                        I'm done with this nonsense.
                                                                                        Lucky for the 'slow eater' she's never eaten at any table I've been eating at.
                                                                                        Close the thread.

                                                                                        1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                          Moderators can close the thread if they'd like. I would just like to say that the only relevant and helpful post here has been from basketwoman, who said " I would give anything to have my sister back to have a nice slow lunch/dinner with. Cherish the time together." And I will.

                                                                                          1. re: Leslie

                                                                                            Leslie -- I think you were asking a legitimate etiquette question, not for long-distance pyschoanalysis of someone you know very well and none of the rest of us know at all. But it does happen on NAF (a reason I mostly only lurk here). The slicing of the scallops and olives is quite an image, and I'm thinking obscured the actual question. Good you can enjoy her company even as keep sighing over this particular trait -- sisters love and annoy each other, right?

                                                                                      2. Nothing wrong with being a slow eater and enjoying ones' food.

                                                                                        But it sound like she is being so deliberate that she is constantly holding up everyone else while she carve up olives. She should be considerate of others once in a while (as we all should) take their feelings into consideration and either pick up the pace or as you say pack it in.

                                                                                        I agree with you about the plates. But given the situation why not have them cleared? If she doesn't approve too bad clearly she's not bothered by her actions. Or uses the downtime and go stretch your legs make a phone call.

                                                                                        It does sound like see has some sort of OCD.

                                                                                        1. "isn't there a point where she should pack it in........"?
                                                                                          Obviously she doesn't think so.
                                                                                          I had an uncle who would literally show up in front of where the dinner etc at the agreed time then he'd drive around the block enough times to make sure he was late so he could always make 'the grand entrance'. He did this for decades. He thrived on 'negative attention'. Sound familiar?
                                                                                          If, as you say, she doesn't have an eating disorder she doing it on purpose, which in of itself is a disorder.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                            Negative attention. I have/had several people in my life that thrived on it. Annoying and fascinating to witness.

                                                                                            "If, as you say, she doesn't have an eating disorder she doing it on purpose, which in of itself is a disorder."

                                                                                            I agree. I have known several painfully slow eaters in my life. The majority were that way because they could not stop talking. The rest had eating disorders.

                                                                                            What struck me most about the OP's original description was the olive carving. That is something my child would do when he felt like playing with his food or delaying something "unpleasant" like post-dinner toy clean up.

                                                                                          2. "isn't there a point where she should pack it in out of consideration to others"

                                                                                            maybe that point is when friends move to the level of "i can't meet you for dinner, but how about a drink or coffee instead?"

                                                                                            1. There are a few members of my family who may arrive late at a family event. We order/serve the meal at about 15 minutes after the scheduled time. We also would continue in the "normal" progression of courses while the late-comer would catch up. Could this work for your family?

                                                                                              1. conversely, does she feel put out that everybody "races" through their meals -- in her view? does she eventually mostly finish her plates?

                                                                                                having worked many years in restaurants i have seen this behavior and it's far removed from those deep in conversation and savoring their meal. i grew up italian-american so am no stranger to spending hours at the table. however if your sister is still mincing her salad olives while everybody is waiting for dessert and it's a bother? then forge ahead. especially out in a restaurant. if she's always been like this and indicates she has no intention of changing her pattern, then you need to just set her issue aside while finding a way to accommodate everybody else.

                                                                                                1. Yes, there is a point at which the slow eater should recognize that he/she is disrupting the natural pace of the meal and make plans accordingly (speed up, take leftovers home, etc.). I shall, with no particular qualifications to do so, place *the point* at 175% of the mean time it takes other diners at the table to finish their entrees.

                                                                                                  Of course, if it doesn't matter to you, you are perfectly within your rights to accommodate the slow eater. Me, I'd like my dining companions to observe the 175% rule. MIL, I'm talkin' to you.....

                                                                                                  1 Reply