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?
GENTLE READER: 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.