The clean-plate club loosens its belt

A s a child, I was skilled at shuffling food around my plate and hiding sad-looking green things behind lamb chop barricades. The ruse rarely worked, and a mouthful or two was usually required before dessert appeared.

My British father was a long-standing member of the clean-plate club. World War II rationing seemed to linger in his mind, so chicken bones were stewed into soup for weeks with such reluctance to throw them out that one half expected the remains to be ground up into mortar for some pointing on the front porch.

For me, all this solid training came to a bloated end.

The first few weeks of living in Cairo after high school were a battle of upbringing versus impossibly large quantities of food. And my stomach had to weather the crossfire. Whenever I was invited to dinner, Egyptian friends would pile wonderful delicacies on my plate. My hosts would then insist on seconds – and thirds. I would take the tiniest spoonful of this or that and clean my plate again. It was a mistake, tantamount to saying, "You haven't fed me enough." And consequently a recipe for exploding.

Food is the currency of hospitality in the Middle East – a sign of generosity even in the most hard-pressed household.

Each culture brings its own subtext to the eating ritual. For Americans, speed and super-size portions seem to be the dining experience of choice. This is producing an explosion of a different kind as obesity rates soar. And right now lawyers are pointing their chubby fingers at the fast-food chains (see page 13).

In Egypt, I came to appreciate the graciousness of my hosts and learned to leave a stray heap of rice or half-eaten pastry as proof their generosity had overwhelmed me.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK