Tasting Another Person’s Food at the Table
At a formal, private dinner, or even a formal, public one, rarely will the occasion arise for one person to taste another person’s food at the table since the same menu is generally served to all. Besides, the notion of “tasting” from another person’s plate in a formal setting simply would not “sit” right with most people—the way one would not drink beer directly from a bottle at a black-tie event. Yes, beer may arguably “taste” better when drunk directly from the bottle, but it certainly would indicate a lack of good “taste” if drunk accordingly in a formal setting. In less formal settings, however, as in restaurants for example, where close friends or couples are dining together and different menu offerings have been selected, the occasion often arises for someone to request or be offered to taste another person’s food. The rules of etiquette do not prohibit such generosity under the circumstances; but there is a right way and there is a wrong way to do it—even between the most intimate of lovers or friends. And a gentleman must know the right way, of course….
The correct way is to use a clean utensil to collect the food to be tasted, then pass the food to the taster, handle first. Expert assistance should be engaged for more complicated transfers of food, however. If a whole, unwanted side-order, for example, is to be given to a dining companion, the table assistant should be summoned to the table, where he should be asked to provide a salad plate-size plate or dish onto which the side-order should be placed. If the request is made at the time the food orders are brought to the table, the table assistant will transfer the side-order. Once eating has commenced, however, the plate should be requested, but the sharer should transfer the side-order himself since it would be inappropriate for a waiter to “meddle” with food that is already being eaten.
Reaching across the table with one’s fork to “taste” food in another person’s plate—not matter how intimate the people may be away from the dining table—is to be avoided. And worse yet, to pick up one’s plate and extend it across the table in order to share or receive a portion of a dish is simply unacceptable at any dinner table, formal or otherwise.