Serving and Wasting Food in two Cultures – 20 Jan 09


Today at the dinner table we had a small conversation about manners. It started with Roger saying that it is not nice in this culture and not good manners if you leave food on your plate. You should clear your plate. It doesn’t matter how full you are. Then Ramona added that children are often told that they only get ice-cream if they clear their plates. But when they are already full they first need to finish their food and then eat more with the ice-cream. It seems a bit crazy.

I told that in Indian culture it is also not nice to leave food on your plate. We offer food to God and there is a Goddess of food called Annapoorna. So there is much respect for food and we don’t want to throw it away. In a practical way it also feels very nice to use and eat the food which gives energy for life. There are many hungry people who do not have the possibility to eat much, who do not have any food and knowing this it actually feels nice not to throw food away. I feel sad about it when I see here how much food is wasted and we have so many people in this world who sleep hungry, without having filled their stomach.

Mady said that there are really some differences in culture which are good to know when you go to India. Here I hear it is normal to ask before serving food in a plate how much you would like to eat. In India however this will be considered as bad manners. You are not asked how much you want, they will serve it to you and if you do not want more, you can say it.

Ramona asked: What happens if they put too much onto your plate from the beginning? When I was travelling in India and was invited for food somewhere and I got a big plate filled with so many different dishes and a lot of food, I asked the host for an empty plate before starting to eat. Then I put that food onto the empty plate which I knew would be too much. I kept a little bit from everything so that I did not seem disrespectful. I showed that I wanted to eat their food but before eating I took that much off my plate which otherwise would have been wasted. So everybody could take from that and if I wanted more I would also still ask for some more.

I do not like to leave food in the plate but sometimes it also happens because in India those who are serving want you to eat a lot and sometimes they put it into my plate without asking of even after me saying no. Then I never force myself to eat and finish the plate because I am not in favour of violating my body. Someone forced the food onto my plate but I will not force it into my body. My stomach says I am full. Of course I would always prefer not to throw the food away. But not because of my manners but because of my respect for this food.

7 Replies to “Serving and Wasting Food in two Cultures – 20 Jan 09”

  1. In the US (despite many children being taught to finish all of the food on their plate) a truly unfathomable amount of food is wasted. Perfectly good food is thrown, not into a compost but into waste bins by families, supermarkets and restaurants. Food rots in refrigerates because people do not worry about wasting and would rather have options. Food health and safety regulations require foods to be discarded after certain dates. However much of the food is still fresh at this point and employees of restaurants and supermarkets are not allowed to take it home because businesses want everyone to pay for those items. DUMPSTER DIVING PARTIES!!! If you peek into your local grocer’s dumpster you will notice that enough food to feed a town is packed in their every night and guess what…a lot of it is wrapped up in plastic and perfectly fresh. My friends and I go dumpster diving and this is how we do our grocery shopping. All you need is a box and a flashlight and a few friends that will be happy to boost you into a big metal bin of garbage. Sometimes we bring a little music and have a dumpster dance party. It may sound unsanitary but have a look at the dumspter and you will see that it is a-okay in most places. And my oh my is it fun!

  2. Ahhh, I remember the day I went on a long walk up a mountain behind my university, someone I had met only once before drove by and offered to give me a ride. When I got in, he said “I just have to stop at the grocery store real quick,” I was suprised when it seemed like he’d driven past the store, but then he took a sharp turn into the very back and parked right at the dumpster. What was more shocking then him pulling out whole head of cabbage and a bucket of fresh peppers, was that about thirty seconds after we’d parked ANOTHER car drove up and the man in that car started doing the same thing.Since then I have cooked many gourmet dishes from the dumpster, it is a speciality. Very rewarding also to cook food that was going to rot, because it is thrown away while still fresh.

  3. My family does not waste food. Our fridge is almost always empty and when there is food in it we eat it. My friend’s fridges kind of disgust me.

  4. In my opinion you can always be at the same time polite and also have respect for food. And to ask someone how much he wants to eat, or to put some food on an empty plate is better than to throw food away. Also it’s important to feel the hunger in your stomach and not to follow your eyes 😉