Q)I am a small person with a small appetite and often am unable to eat everything that is placed in front of me. Many times, in all types of restaurants, I've had to endure countless people coming over to my table, wanting to know what was the matter with the food and insisting on replacing it with another entree.
I realize their intentions may be good, but their attention is humiliating. Grown-ups shouldn't be made to feelguilty for not cleaning their plates, especially when they're paying for the wasted food.
I try to be gracious about the fuss, but once I almost ended up in tears over the waiter's insistence on bringing me something else. Shouldn't waiters simply clear plates without comment on the food remaining?
A) Well, yes, but Miss Manners finds this concern slightly more understandable than similar behavior in hosts who comment on what their guests fail to eat and urge them to consume more.
Restaurants are, after all, in the business of selling food. (Miss Manners has to repeat this often, because so many people believe that what restaurants actually sell are "good tables" and public prestige, for which one must pay in social credentials as well as money.) A conscientious waiter may well worry that the customer who bought but did not finish the food was actually dissatisfied but too timid to say so, because of that very mystique that inhibits the ordinary complaints one makes in unsatisfactory commercial transactions.
To answer this query without there being a fuss, you say firmly, "Everything was quite satisfactory, thank you very much; I hope to dine here again." The stilted wording is there on purpose. You will find that it lends itself to an air of finality that precludes further discussion. But if the waiter persists, you should merely repeat that statement in even more clipped tones.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.