Monday, November 16, 2009

Not wasting food is also part of good eating habits

MY colleagues and I were aghast at a recent buffet gathering when a group of guests left behind a plate of at least 15 sticks of uneaten satay, piled together with used plastic forks and spoons, and a polystyrene cup of half-drank syrup.

When the waiter arrived to clear the table, most of us were embarrassed, wondering what he must be thinking when he saw the wastage.

But perhaps he had seen so many instances of such wasteful leftovers that he was no longer troubled by it.

I now recall why I stopped going for high-tea.

While eating was never my favourite past time, I think it was the sight of food being wasted that had kept me away.

I avoided high-tea events because I figured that they were for people with huge appetites and super-efficient metabolism, or simply deep p o c k e t s.

Otherwise, it would take quite an effort to down as much food as one could stomach without feeling the guilt of having spent a bomb and not eating every sen’s worth.

I remember one amusing incident in which a young woman was alternating between her table and the food counter.

She piled her plates with all the “e x p e n s i ve ” food as if it was an eating challenge — much to the embarrassment of her partner at the table.

He was trying to hide his face behind a menu as she prodded him to go “grab some food before everything is taken”—despite having literally brought half the food from the counters to her table.

I also recall an occasion when a boisterous chap with his midriff spilling out of his pants told his children to take as much food as they fancied because they were all paid f o r.

He didn’t even notice the disgusted expression of the waitress when she came to clear the table of food left by the children who had turned the dining experience into a food tasting session, leaving food half eaten food as they went for more.

I salute restaurant owners who were brave enough to make the diners pay for uneaten food that they had left on their plates.

However, many places in town still shy away from this practice because they do not want to offend their clients.

Although the costs have been factored into the pricing and a tidy profit is made at the end of the day, allowing willful wastage is simply not right.

My friend Panir tells me that cooking is a labour of love and good food cannot be served if the chefs do not put their hearts and souls into the cooking.

To put more on one’s plate than one’s palate could handle and later discarding it because the food is free or paid for is an insult to the chef and his kitchen crew.

Good eating manners, like good nutritional habits, start from young.

If a child is not encouraged to waste food, he or she will grow up mindful not to take more than he or she can eat.

Dining with my friend’s daughter is such a joy as I watch her dutifully eat up every bit she has taken.

Not even a grain of rice was left when she was done.

I asked her what made her to literally clean up the plate.

She said she had once watched a documentary about hungry people in drought-ridden countries on television.

When she asked her father why they were so skinny, he told her that they had nothing to eat and would give anything to just have a grain of r ice.

Since then, she said, she had made it a habit not to waste food.

Remarkably, she is only 9, and I am praying that she will never outgrow her habit.

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