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Miss Manners: Politely eating a bread bowl

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Dear Miss Manners: A popular lunchtime meal is soup in a bread bowl: a small, round loaf of sourdough bread that has its center carved out and filled with soup, often clam chowder.

The etiquette problem comes when you have finished the soup portion. Are you then supposed to use a little plastic knife and fork to cut up the bread? Metal utensils are usually not available at establishments that sell this type of meal. Or is tearing it apart with your pinkies aimed skyward permissible? Sourdough bread is tasty, and it seems a waste to leave it behind.

The purveyors of bread bowls are not the first etiquette wags to entertain themselves by making the guests eat the packaging. Ice cream cones are a summertime example, while desserts served in edible marzipan cups date to at least the 18th century. The proper — indeed, the only — procedure is to consume the container in a way that does not leave the contents all over one’s clothes.

In the case of a bread bowl, this can be done after the soup is finished either with real utensils (i.e., not plastic) or hands, depending on the formality of the meal. Miss Manners would not attempt to cut soup-soaked bread with a plastic knife even if she owned a skirt with a clam chowder pattern.

But please stop making cracks about pinkies. As a practical way of holding a hot, handless china cup in the 18th century, it is an anachronistic way to suggest snobbery.

Dear Miss Manners: I contributed to a group gift for a friend. Two of us contributed only monetarily, while the third person also purchased the items and delivered them. When the gift was dropped off, it was made clear to the recipient that it was from the three of us.

As of yet, I have not received any acknowledgment of the gift, unless you include a forwarded email wherein the giftee profusely thanked the person who delivered the gift, but did not mention myself or the other person. While I understand 99 percent of the gift entailed shopping and delivering, I still feel as though myself and the second gift-giver should be acknowledged.

This has happened to me in the past, with a wedding gift where my contribution was much higher. I was embarrassed to think the wedding couple did not think I gave them a gift, but let it slide without saying anything.

In this case, I would like the giftee to know I cared enough to think of them. How should I approach this? And, for the future, is there a way to ensure this doesn't happen again, aside from refraining from group gifts?

Every gift-giver is entitled to a letter of thanks. But Miss Manners says this with slightly less than her usual conviction, having noticed that your own effort was reduced to writing a check.

Her solution is to assume that the giftee made no such observation, but perhaps missed your contribution because of the extremely informal way in which it was communicated. Ask the purchaser to correct the mistaken assumption, and next time, arrange to include handwritten cards from each of the donors.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website,

2019, by Judith Martin