DEAR ABBY: Regarding "Ruminating in Rio Rancho" (Feb. 19), whose wife has an issue with his eating style, I too am a "serial eater," and I have taken a fair amount of kidding and abuse over it. However, the tactic of claiming it is poor etiquette to shame the eater is a new one to me.
In my experience, people react to serial eating because it is unusual. I can't explain why I do it, just as I can't understand why other people feel they must rotate their bites. I just know it works for me, and their method seems as odd to me as mine does to them.
I recall this subject was mentioned years ago in your mother's column. The writer said as a boy he was teased for eating this way, but an uncle of his had a different take. The uncle said that he had the capacity to become a great success because he did one thing at a time, and finished what he started before moving on.
So, to "Ruminating," what I advise is: Use your silverware, chew with your mouth closed, and compliment the chef. Tell her/him that each dish is so good that you don't want to dilute the taste, which would hamper your enjoyment. -- FINISHING WHAT I START IN RALEIGH, N.C.
DEAR FINISHING: My readers agree unanimously that a person's eating habits are a matter of personal choice and "Ruminating's" wife should resist the urge to be such a control freak. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Eating one portion at a time is not uncommon. During a home-cooked meal in Thailand, I made the mistake of taking a little from each platter and eating a bit of each one in rotation. My host informed me that in his country one takes a serving from one platter, eats it, and then takes another serving from another, etc.
There is no universal standard for proper etiquette. Customs vary from family to family and country to country. To establish their family "standards," the couple should discuss and do what they decide. At any meal, I follow my host's lead and then I am always correct. -- POLITE IN ANY COMPANY, DWAYNE OZEWALLA, PH.D.
DEAR ABBY: It is actually proper to rotate selections of food on your dinner plate. A good chef plans meals so that the taste of each selection complements the other, and the polite diner acknowledges each one. It's the second-best "gratuity" a chef can receive. Those who formed the habit of eating one item at a time were introduced to this style of eating by their mothers -- who opened one jar of baby food, fed their infant from that, then closed the jar and fed them from the next jar. -- KEITH FROM HOUSTON
DEAR ABBY: "Ruminating" eats the way some dietitians recommend: protein first, vegetables second, starch last. That's the healthiest way to eat, especially if you are trying to watch what you eat. -- DANA FROM KATY, TEXAS
DEAR ABBY: Do as I do, and take your eating to the next level. Instead of just consuming every item completely before moving to the next, try eating alphabetically ... mashed potatoes, meatloaf, then your peas. -- ORGANIZED IN UTAH
DEAR ABBY: My husband eats his least-favorite thing first and ends with his favorite. This was incorporated as a young boy to make sure he cleaned his plate. I suggested as an option that he eat his favorite first and then, when he gets full, he will stop eating, instead of always cleaning his plate. He has lost a few pounds in the process. -- WIFE OF HUSBAND FROM THE CLEAN PLATE CLUB
DEAR ABBY: Does "Ruminating" know he shares the same style of eating as Albert Einstein? This natural habit is a sign of genius. -- SHIRLEY IN BROOKFIELD, WIS.
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