Miss Manners

Miss Manners: Dessert is to be enjoyed, not necessarily shared

Dear Miss Manners:

I was raised to be a sharing person, but when it came to food, you received your portion and everyone else received theirs. Lately, whenever my husband and I go out to restaurants, from family level to the more elegant, a very annoying gesture takes place at dessert time. Dessert, ordered by one diner, comes with multiple forks or spoons to be “shared” with others at the table.

My husband orders his drink, I order my dessert. He makes it clear to the wait staff he does not wish dessert. His drink does not arrive with an extra cup or glass for me, but my dessert seems to always arrive with an extra utensil for him.

When did this annoying custom start, and why? In the last establishment that did it, I raised an eyebrow and asked that if they felt it necessary to bring me two spoons for my tiramisu, why did they not bring two cups to share the coffee? The waiter did not comprehend my sarcasm and asked if I had changed my mind and wanted a cup of coffee. To which I pointed to the additional spoon and said no, thank you, but did you feel as though I should use a spoon in each hand to eat my dessert?

He caught on then and slowly backed away from the table, looking for the nearest exit. Our check arrived via the drinks server.

I find it offensive that some restaurateur guide has determined that I am to share my dessert with my table mate. What is next — I should stand up in the restaurant and announce I have an extra spoon for whoever wants to assist me in eating my dessert?

My husband says to ignore it, and my grown sons say it’s no big deal. I find it very rude that in an establishment that I am paying to enjoy, the end of my meal is spoiled by having the staff place me in the position of being rude if I do not wish to share my dessert.

I do note they do not bring an extra fork to enjoy my salad with my dining partner, nor an extra fish fork to share my main course, but always dessert comes with multiple utensils.

I share enough in my life journey with my husband, children and friends; I would prefer to be the person to determine if I need an extra fork or spoon and to be the one to determine exactly whom I wish to share dessert with.

So am I the rude one for resenting the extra utensil, or is the restaurant the rude one to foist some sort of communal behavior on me? Inquiring minds wish to know.

All right, all right. How do we get you to stop harassing waiters and embarrassing your family?

Mind you, Miss Manners agrees that it is not the place of the waiter to imply that you should share your dessert. Well, not the waiter, personally, because he has doubtlessly been instructed to do this. Restaurants come up with all sorts of annoyances — self-introductions, help shaking out napkins, repeated interruptions to ask how things are — in the name of refined service.

Many people do share, but then they should ask for the equipment with which to do so. But your sons are right: It would be no big deal for you to give back the spoon, saying, “I don’t need this.”

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

@ 2011, by Judith Martin

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