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"Dear Abby: I eat my dessert first.

(Dec 2 column) Am I being rude?" Abby says yes, I say no, charmingly eccentric. What do you think?

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  1. As long as it isn't a problem for the restaurant's kitchen, I don't see a problem. Why should the comfort of the dining companions outweigh the comfort of the letter writer? My only advice for the letter writer is maybe refrain from doing this at business meals or meals with coworkers. Would be a shame to affected his/her employment opportunities because of this.

    9 Replies
    1. re: viperlush

      Here is a link to the 12/2 Dear Abby. The meal in question is during a work setting.


      Context is really important. I agree that dessert first would most likely affect career opportunities.

      1. re: Miss Needle

        Thanks for posting the link, which I am too dumb to do. And sorry if my condensed version shorted context. I'm not sure *why* this should affect career prospects, but I have never been a careerist.

        1. re: mwhitmore

          But if you had posted the link I wouldn't have had to search through all Dear Abby letters before responding and would have missed the "the best man in my upcoming wedding is accused of murdering his wife... what do I do?" letter.

          She could have done much better by mentioning how it might affect the career and leaving out the making companions uncomfortable.

          1. re: viperlush

            And what was the answer???enquiring minds need to know

            1. re: Kalivs

              that WAS a good one. Kalivs: on reflection I concluded a careful seating arrangement at the reception, not buffet with open seating for THAT party.

              1. re: Kalivs

                I have been dying of suspense. Surely the high point of this thread.

                1. re: Kalivs

                  I googled and found the answer- she said not to have him as a best man because it would draw attention away from the bride and groom who should be the centre of attention. However, continue to have him as a guest as he is innocent until proven guilty.

                  Hope it's not an open bar.

                  1. re: salsailsa

                    And allow him to eat dessert any time he god-damned feels like it.

            2. re: Miss Needle

              Thank you! What a difference context makes (which is why I asked)! Agreed with your assessment.

          2. I don't think it is rude either, particularly in a restaurant setting where you're not inconveniencing your host. OTOH, I'd be somewhat flexible if you're dining with colleagues and it is a huge deal to them. You can always scarf down a donut before your meal if you really need a sweet fix.

            1. Why should they care what he eats first? Thought Abby was wrong.

              2 Replies
              1. Was the setting a party where the person asking was a guest or in a restaurant where the person ordering can have whatever they like and pay for?

                1 Reply
                1. re: HillJ

                  Restaurant only, letter writer doesn't do this as a guest in a home.

                2. When I dine out with companions, we often share tastes of our food. I don't think I'd like to alternate a bite of monkfish with a bite of hazelnut gelato. And I assume the letter-writer eventually gets an entree, at the time when everyone else at the table is having dessert. I don't think I'd like to smell steak while I'm eating cake. So I wouldn't be thrilled to sit at a restaurant table with this person, especially since Sweet Tooth's explanation for the behavior is that "because I wasn’t allowed to do it as a child, I swore that when I was an adult, I’d eat my food in any order I wanted." This makes me wonder what else s/he insists on doing just because mommy used to forbid it.

                  15 Replies
                  1. re: small h

                    My impression is that she was eating a hot fudge sundae while everyone else was eating salad or app, then getting main courses simultaneously. So, not disruptive of the meal pattern. To me, it is about others dictating what/when she can eat.

                    1. re: mwhitmore

                      Even with the writer taking the time to explain why she eats this way (wasn't allowed to as a younger person) I think calling attention to yourself in a work situation (business meal) is tricky enough. I can foresee some eye rolling by others at the table. I would go with the majority in a work setting unless the entire atmosphere was super relaxed. If she's writing to Dear Abby, I'd surmise the atmosphere was not.

                      If you succeed at noting the tension but fail to accommodate it, you take the risk.

                      1. re: mwhitmore

                        I don't think it's "others" who are dictating. It's convention. You can choose to not follow convention, in which case you have to put up with people thinking you're unconventional. With close friends and family, that's not particularly risky - they'll probably just think you're charmingly offbeat. But with acquaintances or professional colleagues, it signals that your behavior is unpredictable. Which might be a problem.

                        1. re: small h

                          Fair enough. Odd behavior by rich person? Eccentric. Odd behavior by poor person? Crazy!

                          1. re: mwhitmore

                            Oh I'd don't think it's either. Eccentric or crazy.
                            It's about professional social cues. The writer acknowledged her dilemma, she just decided to ignore it and order dessert.

                          2. re: small h

                            Sure, but we're talking about convention related to dessert. I mean, that's fun unconventional.

                        2. re: small h

                          So, if the table next to you is having their steak while you're eating dessert, that's also a problem?

                          I also understand that it's your thing, but I never, ever order my food with the caveat that everyone else at the table will be taking bites and to order accordingly.

                          1. re: Violatp

                            <So, if the table next to you is having their steak while you're eating dessert, that's also a problem?>

                            It might be, but my opinion of their behavior has no effect on them. However, my opinion of a dining companion's behavior, especially if I am said dining companion's boss, might well have an effect on him or her.

                            <I never, ever order my food with the caveat that everyone else at the table will be taking bites and to order accordingly.>

                            Yes, people are different. For instance, I never, ever care if someone brings wine to my house and expects to drink it right then. I also never, ever care if a server greets my table with "hey, guys." And I never, ever care whether the other patrons of a restaurant are what I consider to be properly dressed. But I understand that other people care quite a bit about these things. That's why Dear Abby exists.

                          2. re: small h

                            "because I wasn’t allowed to do it as a child, I swore that when I was an adult, I’d eat my food in any order I wanted."
                            As a child I was not allowed to torture kittens, push old ladies down stairs, pick my nose when others are eating their pre-dinner dessert.

                            1. re: Parigi

                              What a deprived childhood you had!

                              1. re: bcc

                                Damned right ! And you know what ? I'm with the OP. Those days are over !

                                1. re: Parigi

                                  As a child, I had to finish everything on my plate. I find it very hard to leave food behind as an adult.

                              2. re: Parigi

                                silly - you don't push old ladies, here's what ya do: as they start to take a step, you slide your toe under their heel and give a slight lift. they never notice the source of the mis-step and blame themselves.

                                back on-topic: ehh I have never noticed or cared what people order, just how they eat it (I know there's a difference in hand/utensil manners among regions, but precariously balancing/shoveling a backwards fork isn't really one of them.
                                dessert? in a business situation, yes I'd tone it down. and snarf in the room before or after.

                                1. re: hill food

                                  LOL, reminds me of a Mr Bean episode.

                              3. re: small h

                                I'd wonder that too. To me it's like wearing a neon sign on your forehead: Person with Unresolved Childhood Issues. Why would you want to do that? Seems like behavior best reserved for home and intimate friends.

                                1. Oh, I get so tired of fake etiquette and conventions for their own sake. Let her eat as many desserts as she wants in whatever order she wants!

                                  She's not harming anyone. She's not taunting anyone. She's not being rude or mean or petty - she's just eating dessert first. I say, why not.

                                  1. In a personal context, I'd think it was really weird but not particularly rude.

                                    I have a friend who routinely orders dessert off the appetizers menu because she can't eat most desserts, and nobody takes issue with that. In fact, most of our mutual friends take delight in it, because it's an example of how accommodating she is. Of course, it's also a similarly small plate of food to dessert and not her entree being fired out of order, so it's not as much different as this is.

                                    Dessert first would potentially cause problems at some of the more food-oriented dinners I attend, because then there's an expectation of shared tastes and shared experience that's being defied, but if it was primarily a social dinner rather than a food-focused dinner, it wouldn't necessarily be a problem, provided it didn't screw up the restaurant's service too badly.

                                    In a business context, it might still not be rude, but it probably is career-limiting. Eccentricity is rarely seen as charming among coworkers or bosses unless you work in a very creative field. And the explanation that her mommy didn't let her eat dessert first as a child so now she does it that way because she's a grown-up and she can control her own life is ... not reassuring.

                                    1. Short answer... you can do what you like in your own home (I often have my dessert in the middle of the afternoon when I'll enjoy it more than after dinner) - but you should have manners enough to follow generally accepted dining etiquette for group functions.

                                      1. Work functions have different rules than if you're w/ close friends and family. I'd do it depending on the career, whether it's conventional or not. Bank VPs, maybe not. Clown convention? Go for it.

                                        If I were single, I'd try it on a date. A guy who would be turned off by unconventional (especially dessert first!) would probably not be the kind of guy I'd want to go out with.

                                        1. For a dinner with friends - no problem, do what you want.

                                          For a business dinner - unless you're the senior/highest ranked member of the group, I'd avoid it, unless you're willing to accept the risk of making a bad impression, or being identified by your eccentric eating habits.

                                          It would be different if it were a serious dietary restriction/issue - eating vegetarian, for example, or dealing with an allergy. But insisting on eating dessert first because your mother never let you do it as a kid would fall in the category as telling the server to make sure that none of the food items on your plate touched because that's icky.

                                          If I were eating with the LW, I wouldn't say anything, because that would be rude, but I would view it as being rather childish - like someone who hasn't emotionally grown past the "When I grow up I'll stay up as late as I want and eat ice cream for dinner and you can't stop me" declarations of a small child.

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                            " 'When I grow up I'll stay up as late as I want and eat ice cream for dinner and you can't stop me' declarations of a small child."

                                            And here i thought this was the advantage of being an adult.

                                            1. re: chowser

                                              The child's view doesn't include things like "If I stay up all night, I still have to go to work the next day" and "eating ice cream for dinner at a business function could hurt me professionally" (or, "eating ice cream for dinner every night will make me unhealthy").

                                              IN other words, contrary to what a six year old thinks, adults can't do whatever they want with no consequences.

                                              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                An adult can do whatever they want and accept the consequence. No one can stop me from eating ice cream for dinner which I have done.

                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  "An adult can do whatever they want and accept the consequence."
                                                  If the OP wants to accept the consequences, this thread should not exist.

                                                  1. re: Parigi

                                                    True. The question to me w/ the OP's view is whether there are consequences. I can have ice cream for dinner myself, no problem, no real consequence. If I only serve ice cream for Thanksgiving, is that okay? Sure, if I want to put up w/ the consequences.

                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                      And a "charming eccentric" who wants opinions of others? How does that work ? :)

                                                      1. re: Parigi

                                                        The letter writer never calls him/herself a charming eccentric. That's from the OP. I assume people write to Abby for advice. An adult can do what he wants, but there are consequences. I fully accept that I might gain weight if I eat ice cream for dinner. I don't choose to put people out and serve only ice cream for Thanksgiving dinner. But, I CAN do it. I just don't choose to. The same goes for the letter write.

                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                          "The letter writer never calls him/herself a charming eccentric."
                                                          I was referring to the OP. I was not referring to the letter-writer, who did not write on this board to ask for opinions, that I know of.

                                                          1. re: Parigi

                                                            I see what you mean. Good point!

                                          2. Only if the letter writer never wants a promotion or a positive recommendation from colleagues. Business/working lunches have societal expectations, and to get ahead sometimes you have to play their game.

                                            My BIL does some random stuff like this, and tries to explain it as "part of my fun personality." And comes off looking childish

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: autumm

                                              I agree. Unless this person has to eat every meal out with other people, I would think she could curb her enthusiasm for dessert at business meals unless she just wants to be seen as peculiar.

                                            2. A business dinner is not the time to showcase your charmingly offbeat food eccentricities stemming from childhood. Plenty of time for that when dining with friends or at home. Many of us have issues from childhood.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Kat

                                                yeah these comments about "everything goes" seem "clueless"

                                              2. Abby is a hack...this person didn't say she was having a business meal, she said he/she said she was on a business trip and was sharing meals, which I take to mean they were all eating at the same restaurant table, not that they were sharing food off each other's plates. It was not a meeting.

                                                I see absolutely nothing wrong with having what you want at a meal in whatever order you want to eat it. What rule or law says everyone has to have soup, salad, appetizer, main then dessert when everyone else has it? What if one of those at the table only wanted a appetizer & dessert & everyone else wanted a four course meal? Should the one person with the app wait until the others eat all three courses before ordering her dessert? I wouldn't; give me a break!!

                                                If everyone is so concentrated on what this person eats when, they really have serious issues. They need to focus on what's important instead of judging someone how they eat. It would be another thing if the individual in question ate a salad with his/her fingers or some such other out of the way.

                                                1. 1. If you are eating alone, you do whatever you want.
                                                  2. If you are eating with colleagues or your superiors, you take the responsibility of consequences that can affect you a great deal and on which you have no control.
                                                  3. If you are eating with friends, that's another matter entirely.
                                                  When I eat with friends, it is a social occasion for me to enjoy my friends' company. If you think your eating habits are the most important in all occasions, you should eat alone and not impose your self-proclaimed charms on your friends, whom you can see in other occasions. Win-win.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Parigi

                                                    I grew up in a house where I was allowed dessert first. Then I would eat all my good for me food. I'm older and retired but in a business meeting years ago everyone at the table stopped to watch me consume my sugar - it didn't stop me from moving up. I was told later they were amazed that I could be thin eat all that and would have liked to them(their)selves. I did stop eatting what I was when everyone was watching me. Felt funny.

                                                  2. "because I wasn’t allowed to do it as a child, I swore that when I was an adult, I’d eat my food in any order I wanted."

                                                    Get over your childhood issues...at least when you're in a professional setting. This person will set themselves up as an oddball with mommy issues.

                                                    When you at home or with friends who know you enjoy!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Withnail42

                                                      If I was with a work colleague and they stated that this was their reason, it would make me wonder what other childish behaviors they might exhibit. One can call that unfair, but that's life. Eccentricity is not always valued in a professional setting.

                                                    2. If, by "dessert" you mean an extra order of chicken wings, I think you're welcome at the right hand of the Z at the table. If you mean some sort of cake, ice cream, pie, cookies or other sweety yuckels, then I think you need some 50 minute hours on a couch with a professional. I think dessert is for Yelpers, children, and fat folks.

                                                      True 'hounds gnaw bones or get the cheese plate and another glass of wine after the second meat dish.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: MGZ


                                                        So, in your humble opinion, based on some 'hound standard you've dreamed up, no dessert is worthy for the 'true' chow hound?
                                                        First I've heard of this.
                                                        I'm not the least bit fat and my daily workout is strenuous, a child or a Yelper and I'm very fond of a few desserts.
                                                        Does that make me not worthy?

                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                          I think based on his post you would have to sit on the left hand of the Z table. That's all! Don't worry I think his left side is his better side anyway, enjoy!

                                                        2. re: MGZ

                                                          But eating a extra order of wings or a cheese plate couldn't possibly make folks fat? I disagree; my family is from the South; we feel that a meal is not complete without dessert and when we cook we make sure the dessert is as delicious and important as any other part of the meal.

                                                          I like cheese but not at the expense of a dessert, and I'm not fat.

                                                        3. i usually eat dessert first then eat more dessert after meals because I can't just stare at other people eating dessert by themselves. Am I being rude and selfish???

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Monica

                                                            Only if you're eating other people's desserts without asking them first.

                                                          2. In a work setting it's completely inappropriate. I often have a second entree (what you lot would call an appetiser) instead of dessert. I would do this when dining with my current workmates because there are only three of us and they know me really well. I would also be considerate of the fact that most of the time it would take longer to prepare a starter than a dessert and I'd run it past my fellow diners before I did it.
                                                            Anyway, wouldn't eating dessert first throw off the timing of the meal - i.e. you would be eating the entree (sorry - appetiser) while the others were eating their mains, then you would be eating your main while they had dessert, and a main course takes longer to eat than dessert? Unless you were served your main immediately after the starter so that you would be finished at the same time as the others. Either way it's socially awkward so not the best in professional or formal situations.

                                                            1. Eat the dessert first! ...:))

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Dagney

                                                                Leave the gun, take the cannoli.

                                                              2. in a work setting it really comes down to status and hierarchy. I suddenly remembered a scene in Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar": during her internship at someplace like 'Vogue' she attended a work lunch in honor of someone (forgive me it's been years) and either the guest of honor or the editor-in-chief chose to eat his tossed salad with his fingers, leaf by leaf in utter confidence and aplomb and no one batted an eye.