DEAR MISS MANNERS: My girlfriend is very particular about table manners. She makes a point of leaving a scattering of food on her plate at the end of a meal rather than finishing every crumb as I do.
I know it only amounts to one or two forkfuls, but having traveled extensively in very poor countries, I think this is wasteful and absurd. The plates are also harder to wash. What are your thoughts?
GENTLE READER: That she would like to be excused before someone discovers her responsibility in this matter. But that would be cowardly.
The sad truth is that a century ago, it was indeed the case that children in families that could afford it were taught not to finish everything on their plates. The embarrassing part is that the rule was phrased as "Leave something for Miss Manners" (and in England, "Leave something for Lady Manners").
So yes, while some people were starving, others were wasting food. Miss Manners was not starving, because she got all the rich folks' leftovers.
It was Eleanor Roosevelt's grandmother who repealed this rule. As recounted in Mrs. Roosevelt's "Book of Common Sense Etiquette": "My grandmother came to believe that food was needed in the world and we who had an abundance should not waste it."
Miss Manners agrees -- thoroughly and, as you might notice, selflessly.