I love to eat, and maybe I pay too much attention to food, in general. Everyone has their favorite foods, and foods they won’t touch. But I’ve recently paid more attention to the way we eat what we eat. I’m sure some of it comes from family upbringing, but some of our eating behavior develops out of preferences, fears, and even a touch of OCD behavior in all of us. Maybe it’s because we’re just coming off of a holiday famous for food, but I felt a blog post on this topic would be interesting.
First, let’s talk about food placement on the plate. Some like to keep everything separated, with nothing touching. No running rivers of juices or gravies slopping into anything else on the plate. Some will let things touch, but never mix. And some will pile everything on top of everything else, and eat it all as if it were meant to be a dish all in itself. I’ve witnessed someone making everything into a salad…lettuce and salad ingredients on the bottom, piled high with mashed potatoes, hot vegetable dishes, meat…whatever was being served!
Now consider the order in which we take bites of things on our plates (unless you are the piling eater I just described…then this part is a no-brainer for you.) Some rotate through in order, taking a bite of each thing. Some mix certain bites together. Some eat all of one thing before moving on to other things on the plate. I’m usually either a combo bite person, or need to have certain things followed closely by others. When we had liver and onions as kids (something I would hardly ever eat now), I used to have to have a bite of liver and a bite of mashed potatoes in my mouth at the same time, or I wasn’t going to eat that liver. Bread would be a close substitute for the mashed potatoes for me. When I’m at a potluck, I tend more towards eating all of one thing up before moving on to the next thing on my plate. But when eating at home, I’m a follow-up biter…meat then potato or vegetable right afterwards.
Can we talk condiments for a minute? I season my food well when I cook, but I almost always add salt, and maybe pepper when I eat most savory foods. If something is based in red sauce, such as spaghetti, pizza, or tacos, I will use hot sauce or chili pepper. I’ve met folks who use NO condiments, and those who camouflage their food with seasonings and condiments until the food is almost unrecognizable. My dad was a big salter, and I have a friend who salts until there is a layer of white on the food. I recently witnessed a friend putting hot sauce on everything on his plate. I like to still be able to taste the food. There’s also the matching of condiments to be considered. Sandwiches seem to lend themselves nicely to some sort of spread…some like mustard, mayo, ketchup, or butter. My choice depends on the contents of the sandwich. For example, pastrami would obviously require mustard, ham or turkey needs mayo, and NOTHING needs ketchup! Others would slather ketchup on anything, including even eggs!
When we eat at home we have quite different eating behaviors than we do at a restaurant or at a friend’s house. When you eat with your family, or when you are alone, you know what you like, and you are used to your family’s quirks. But start to eat with outsiders for the first time, and watch out! Some are sharers, almost putting a forkful of food from their plate into your mouth. Others are downright thieves, stabbing their forks into your food without warning (although I’ve only run across one of these in my life.) I’m all for offering a bite to someone if I feel like it, or agreeing to split something when ordering at a restaurant. But do NOT come stabbing at my plate without asking, and do NOT thrust your fork at me to just take a little taste of this. My plate, my fork, my rules!