It's decidedly shameful to ask for a doggie bag or a box to take home your restaurant food in England. Naturally, we didn't learn this until we had done it a few times.
It's considered something utterly vulgar. Just another one of those quirks of English culture that reveals to me just how American I really am.
So here's the thing. I regularly read a posh food magazine, whose recipes are the kind that make you say "why would anyone make that?! where could you even get any of those ingredients?!" ...but then it could be the American in me. I only read the magazine because Marc gets it for free as a work bonus. We'll pay you crap but we'll give you this free magazine full of foods you cannot afford. but I digress.
Last month a journalist for the magazine wrote a daring article in defense of the "doggy bag", because in England right now there is nothing more fashionable than railing against food waste -- it's the latest hip cause to take a stand for. And as I read it, I could only think, "one giant duh, England". Throw the food away, or take it home to eat another day? It's a no brainer for Americans, right? Get on board, stuffy Brits. Well this posh magazine's posh readers weren't so keen on the idea -- well, the ones who had visited America were, but one person was deeply disturbed. Here are their letters to the editor:
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Thank you, thank you, thank you for being the first magazine to champion the doggie bag. I cannot tell you what a relief it was to read your article and discover that I have not been alone in asking for doggie bags over the last 25 years. I would by lying if I said it hasn't been a lonely journey. Even today my husband leaves the restaurant to "warm up the car" while I ask. Friends have looked on in horror. In my youth I often wouldn't get asked on a second date if I asked for a doggie bag on the first. Now I feel vindicated and I urge readers to swallow their pride and ask for the bag. Once it was awkward to ask for tap water when dining out, but look how that has changed.
Bishop's Cleeve, Gloucestershire
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I've just read Katy Salter's article on doggie bags, and I'm happy to say I'm already a convert. My family and I have just returned from Texas, where not only are portions bigger, it is also normal to take your leftovers home. In fact, you were thought strange if you left food behind! One other habit that has sadly not made it across the pond is the option to "split a plate", or for two people to share one main course. It was never something to feel uncomfortable about, just a very successful way of preventing waste.
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[But this lady clearly has not been to America...]
I can think of little more reprehensible than asking for a doggie bag. Perhaps I'm old fashioned or just plain polite, but to me it bespeaks gluttony and parsimony, as well as a complete disregard for the taste, temperature and presentation of a dish. I detest waste, so I suggest ordering sensibly. A main course only, perhaps, or a starter followed by another starter or pudding. It is interesting that the concept seems to stem from America, where obesity is rife. Let's have an end to greed and a call for restraint.
good stuff, huh? Marc and I like to read it out loud with an accent and a sour face.