Dear Miss Manners: I often eat out alone and order a few appetizers or "small plates" dishes. When they are served, how much is polite to transfer onto my main plate?
If more than one item has been delivered to my table, I'll often serve three or four bites of each onto my main plate at the same time. After finishing that serving, I'll refill my plate from the serving dishes.
Is this correct, and if not, how should I be serving the food? Also, when I place my knife across the corner of my plate, while eating with my fork, for example, should the serrated side be facing outward or toward me?
The proliferation of plates in restaurants does indeed produce a conundrum for the diner. In the case of actual serving plates (larger dishes holding food for more than one diner), the custom is to transfer a complete serving.
Miss Manners recommends applying the same rule to side dishes and appetizer plates served with the main meal. In addition to the etiquette: The table is undoubtedly too small to hold all those dishes anyway; the waiter — who has been told to rush you through the meal to make room for the next customer — will appear, to his boss, to be doing his job; and the dishwasher will get to go home earlier.
And the cutting edge of your knife goes toward the plate as an indication that you do not plan to use it on anything except your food.
Dear Miss Manners: My husband and I, along with one friend, are taking a trip. We have already paid for and split the three-bedroom house three ways.
Since we have a bedroom no one will be using, my husband wants to invite two other people, but says they cannot afford to pay. He says since we have already paid, "What's the difference?" and thinks our friend would be okay shouldering the cost for these two additional guests.
I said the cost should be divided by five, reducing the costs our friend already paid. I also was raised with an "If you can't afford it, you don't get it" attitude, and don't want to pay for these two additional people. He says I'm selfish not to do so, and I should help those who can't pay. Who is right?
You are both wrong, a formulation Miss Manners uses intentionally, even though she understands that both answers contain some justice and logic.
Your husband is wrong to think that he can change the terms of the arrangement with the original friend without consulting him or her. He can then make his argument about sunk cost to the paying friend, who is free to accept or decline.
It might help to point out that an equally logical formulation would have had you and your husband paying half of the cost for one bedroom, rather than two-thirds. Your husband will first, however, have to convince you that there is a place for charity in private life.