Vous avez fini de manger ?

Vous avez fini de manger ?

voo zaa-vay fee-need mah-ZHAY?  Click below to hear this pronounced!

Are you still working on that?

Breughel: Le Repas de noces

I am hardly the first to point out that only Americans would consider eating to be a form of “work”. In pretty much any other country, eating is a pleasure, something to be lingered over, appreciated, and talked about.

So the waiter who asks Are you still working on that? is doing a disservice to the very food that his/her restaurant serves–twice over. First of all, it shouldn’t be a chore to eat it! And secondly, to point to your half-eaten meal and call it that suggests that it is something distasteful, unpleasant. Rather like pointing to your hungry baby and telling your spouse to “Feed that!”

That’s why a French-speaking waiter is more likely to ask something like, Vous avez fini de manger ? Literally, have you finished eating? And they will take their time asking you, too. Diners are not to be rushed. Waiters will not hover over you as if they couldn’t wait to bring you the next course and get you out of there.

If you want to show your respect for your meal, follow these rules of French culture:

  • Don’t talk about business. Talk about the food.  Compare these frites with the frites you had last week, or the best ones you ever had. Say why they are so good (or below par). It helps to know your cooking and ingredients.
  • Keep both your hands on the table, one on each side of your plate. It’s okay to rest your wrists on the edge of the table, or keep your hands flat (but no elbows!). It’s extremely rude to keep your hand(s) in your lap.
  • Don’t put your bread on your plate with the sauce or gravy. Put it directly on the tablecloth, and don’t butter it. Bread is sacred. Don’t sop up juice with it, and don’t cut or bite off a piece. Break it with your fingers.
  • If you are eating alone, don’t read, play Sudoku, or listen to music at the table.
  • Don’t. Disrespect. The. Meal. Honor it. Enjoy it. Take your time over it, and enjoy the company you are sharing it with.

And think about this: You’ll stay thinner if you eat like this! Yes, the faster you eat, the more you eat.

If you want more rules for the French table, check here.

Bon appétit!

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