Sharing Food (esp British)

A friend of mine (we’re both American) told me about a trip he once made to the U.K. to visit a British friend. He said that they all went out to eat one night and he was going to order some appetizers for everybody to share before the main course. Their friend bitterly replied, “They’re called ‘starters’ and we don’t share them”. I’ve gotten this impression (from that and other stories) that British don’t like sharing food.

Anyway, I was wondering how people (especially British) feel about going to a restaurant with a bunch of Chinese/Taiwanese and sharing 5 or 6 dishes.

Does it bother you that everybody uses their own chopsticks to grab for food on the table?

Personally, I like the options of all the food and I don’t mind sharing in Taiwan. But when I’m back home, and in an American restaurant, I’ll become Neanderthal Man and growl and anybody going for food on my plate.

Really, just the British? That’s interesting. I was brought up to share my food with people at my table. It’s become second nature that once my appy arrives to ask people if they want some or to help themselves. Or if someone remarks on how good it looks to ask them to try it. But here in Taiwan I haven’t encountered people doing the same. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but is it just the British, I’m wondering? Americans, Australians, New Zealanders? Haven’t met any Canadians here, but all the Canadians I know back home are sharers.

Any dirty bastard tries to steal my chips gets a fork in the back of their hand.

I’d say that normally, we don’t share, at least in Scotland, but if someone orders a bunch of “starters” to share and announces same, we’d probably kiss you and rejoice that we weren’t having to pay for them.
Maybe your friends are just particularly uptight?

Actually, in Scotland we don’t really share food at all. What would be the point? All we eat is porridge, haggis and deep-fried Mars Bars.

Don’t they usually have “dish” chopsticks or spoons which people use to put food into their bowls? I wouldn’t feel comfortable with everyone dipping their chopsticks straight in unless they were immediate family.

In Australia when I eat with friends starters are not generally shared but I’ll have no hesitation in asking to try a bit of someone else’s and offer a taste of mine. Actually, I like to try stuff, so this sometimes goes for main courses too :blush:

A big table of people might order a few starters and share them around.

Ahh Food Glorious Food - A meaty topic indeed!

“Appetizers” (‘starters’ to some) are an integral part of dining out in the US and many other parts of the gustatory world. Sometimes used to compliment to entree’, sometimes the entire meal will consist of many dishes of different appetizers.
And YES!, oh Yes they are shared by all. This is a ritual that probably stretches back to cave dude & dudette days of sharing around the communal fire pit. Grab a bone, rip a hunk and pass it on Ogg!
Now about fingers vs utensils.
This is probably determined by what the appetizer consists of. If ita a soupy item or something without definable consistency, then probably a spoon or ladle would be appropriate.
If we’re talking ribs, or chicken wings, or pepper poppers, or shrimp, or fried mushrooms, or fried veggies, or french fries (chips to some), or dried fish (think tapas)
then a tool would be used to move them from the serving dish to your plate…and then…Its FINGER FOOD!.

Regarding sharing and chopsticks here on Taiwan.
In family dinners, at homes or in restaraunts, it seems that sharing, in some cases cadjing abit from other people dish is very acceptable.
Since I have been ‘accepted’ into the familial group of my wife, it seems my plate is a ready target of opportunity for all around the table. Whether I’m looking or not…lol.
As to chopsticks, I prefer the plastic ones rather than the bamboo. I just have a problem re-using porous material where bacteria my hide. So if they are new - Oky doky. If they are old - no way Jose’.

Just my dining input.
El prova en el gusto.

(printed on take-out boxes from a pizza place where I once lived)

I’ve dined out with family as well as my wife’s friends. It seems to be the same either way. The only time there are extra chopsticks is when there is some sort of soupy item. If it’s San Bei Frog, or something, then people just reach right in and grab what they want.

I’m quite keen to try Deep-Fried Mars Bars. I could probably only eat two bites before I got sick of it, but it sounds interesting enough.

Haggis, on the other hand, reminds me of a quote by Mike Meyers in “So I Married An Axe Murderer”. He said, “I think that most Scottish food is based on a dare”.

I would probably try it anyway. After some of the weird stuff I tried in Taiwan, Haggis doesn’t seem like it would be all that unusual.

The only thing that really annoys me is if we’re going to some “all you can eat” place and my wife insists that I get enough for everybody. All I can think is, “It’s all you can eat. They can get their own damn food”. :loco:

[quote=“mrjared”]A friend of mine … British don’t like sharing food.

I’d would say that pretty much reflects my experience. I remember the first time I went to eat with a load of Americans, and was amazed when the plates arrived and everyone started passing their dishes up and down the table, so that when they finally returned to the orderers, half the food had gone. In England I will give someone else ‘a taste’ of a particulary amazing dish, but you would use an unused fork/spoon. This would apply to even friends and family, but maybe I am a bit excessive.

Here in Taiwan I’m used to the eating ways, so will order an extra dish e.g. fried rice for myself. Then when the other dishes come I will try to take the amount I plan to eat early before everyone else sticks their chopsticks in it, and then leave the rest to everyone else.

It used to annoy me when my girlfriend took food off my plate, so now she doesn’t, and I give her my plate when I’ve finished. That reads really badly, and sounds like I’m giving scraps to a dog or something, which is not the case. I am a really fussy eater, and there have been a few times when food I like e.g. beef was eaten by everybody, and I was left hungry because the only other things to eat I didn’t like e.g. seafood.

I can see the sense in eveybody sharing, but there have been times when I’ve watch my girlfriend eating other people’s food, and got vivid images of what she had been doing before, and exactly why we arived at the restaurant 30 minutes late. I wouldn’t want to share food with someone who had been to the places I’ve been :slight_smile:

I was going to write something about people being analy retentive hygene freaks but then I remembered my new year’s resolution - if i ain’t got something nice to say, try to keep quiet.

Re eating out in the Uk versus eating out here. For me there are three annoyances with eating out here.

  1. Food often gets served luke warm. A big no-no back home.
  2. Food comes at rather random times. Even in western style restaurants no attempt at timing the cooking seems to take place. It is apparently perfectly acceptable for one customer to be on dessert whilst an other waits for their starter.
  3. Hot pot and Korean BBQ. If I want to cook my own food, I’ll stay at home!

Oops, i think I broke my resolution :blush:

[quote=“butcher boy”]I was going to write something about people being analy retentive hygene freaks but then I remembered my new year’s resolution - if i ain’t got something nice to say, try to keep quiet.
…[text omitted] Oops, I think I broke my resolution :blush:[/quote]

Nonsense. An deeply impressive show of restraint. :bravo:


I always like a share of someone else’s boiled potatoes.

To add more international perspective, it’s my experience in NZ that if we order an appetizer/starter/entree it’s usually for us to eat personally, but it’s not uncommon for tow people to say “let’s share a starter” or even if they can’t decide what main to have for two people to share two mains, so that they can have variety. It is very rare to order starters for everyone - probably just in ‘ethnic’ restaurants sometimes.

Here in Taiwan, I have no problem with everyone sharing and using their chopsticks to do so. I like.


I think it’s pretty much this same as this in the UK. Two people may split two main courses or share a starter, but it’s not common for a whole table of people to do it unless it’s a tapas place or something.

[quote=“daasgrrl”][quote=“mrjared”]Does it bother you that everybody uses their own chopsticks to grab for food on the table?[/quote]Don’t they usually have “dish” chopsticks or spoons which people use to put food into their bowls? I wouldn’t feel comfortable with everyone dipping their chopsticks straight in unless they were immediate family.[/quote]I find that generally people in Taiwan use a separate set or sets of chopsticks and spoons for communal use. Lots of people are downright squeamish about using personal utensils for public dishes.

Mmm, that’s what I thought as well - it does surprise me that other people have experienced otherwise, but I don’t eat out that much here :idunno: .

bb, since you’re so laid-back, you might as well finish my rice. I think I might be coming down with the flu, but I’m sure it’ll be fine :wink:

From my experience in the US (having grown up there):

Usually, in restaurants, people order their own appetizers and eat them for themselves. But often, if everyone at the table agrees (key point), we order a number of appetizers (or “combo” or “sampler” appetizers) to share, thus getting a sampling of different kinds of foods.

During the main course (which we in the US call the “entree” for some reason) we generally order for ourselves and eat our own dishes. Sometimes we might say to someone near us, “Would you like to try some of mine?”, but the more formal the event, the more we keep the food to ourselves.

Food taken from a common serving plate is transferred to your own plate by means of a serving spoon or some other utensil people don’t put in their mouths.

It’s common for couples to try food from each other’s plates, but only if someone offers their food or asks the other person. It’s rude to simply grab something off the other person’s plate without consent, or to put something on the other person’s plate for that matter.

That being said, it’s common in Chinese (especially Dim Sum), Thai and other Asian restaurants, as well as restaurants that serve meals “family style” (like some German restaurants), or Tapas, that we order food for everyone and everyone shares, as if you’re at home with your family.

Now, here’s one of my pet peeves eating with Chinese people here in Taiwan: it’s when someone takes it upon himself to grab something I don’t want (peeve #1) with his own saliva-covered chopsticks (peeve #2) and plonk it into MY bowl (peeve #3). “I’m sorry, sir, but there’s a reason I didn’t help myself to that fermented squid eyeball. And there’s also a reason that hepatitis B is so prevalent here.”

Another pet peeve here in Taiwan is the lack of two things I consider necessities when eating: napkins and drinking water. I try to make sure I bring my own…but then I’m expected to share!!

bb, since you’re so laid-back, you might as well finish my rice. I think I might be coming down with the flu, but I’m sure it’ll be fine :wink:[/quote]

Xie xie :slight_smile:

If we eat out at a Chinese or Indian restaurant then the food will most likely get shared around. If it is a western restaurant then I would find it wierd to share my Lamb Shanks braised in mint sauce with peas, mashed potato and carrots with someone else.
Although as someone pointed out, starters are fine (As long as the utensils have been cleaned to surgical standards, placed in boiling water and then fired to 500 deg/C to remove any hint of previous usage by somebody else).

Haggis is great with mashed sweed and potatoes. Try it, mrjared.

And you’re the one being rude if you don’t eat it, right? The only people who do that to me are my wife or my mother-in-law. And they know I don’t eat things like fermented squid eyeball.

On some rare occasions I will see somebody turn their chopsticks around and use the back end to pick something up for somebody else but it doesn’t happen that much.

Funny. When we eat Chinese food in the states, they will always bring water for Americans or kids but never bring them for Chinese who are sitting at the same table. There’s this one waiter that brings me a fork every time, though. It pisses me off because I never use it. I might use it to stab him next time.

Dangermouse: I found this definition of Haggis:

[quote]Scottish round sausage: a Scottish dish made from the chopped heart, lungs, and liver of lamb or beef mixed with suet, oats, onions, herbs, and spices and packed into a round sausage skin and usually boiled.
Haggis is traditionally cooked in a cleaned sheep

Obviously the problem lies in the fact the UK doesn’t use chopsticks.

Once you master cutting food by using the vice like grip of chopsticks even deep fried mars bars can be shared.

Fish and chips…no problem. Mushy peas…wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot chopstick.

Isn’t it traditional to “break bread” together. So stop being so stingy and please share.

The English don’t do the communal eating thing very well, usually because starters (and the rest of it) come in such measly and stingy portions!

Except for curries.

Haggis is great with mashed sweed and potatoes. Try it, mrjared.[/quote]

Haggis with neeps and totties as my Scottish mate would put it. God’s own food. Black pudding is damn fine too, but most people get squeamish. Oh well, more for the rest of us I guess :smiley: