As of last weekend, I am another year older. I am definitely greyer but, as for wiser, I very much doubt it. Unusually, my parents were over from Ireland to help me mark my birthday, which was very enjoyable. Normally it’s just me, DJ and our small army of pets assisting in the festivities, so it was great fun having a real family birthday celebration for a change. Fortunately they got their trip in before the nightmare of the Icelandic volcanic ash began, or otherwise they would still be stuck here.
I can’t say that my birthday was a wholly frugal affair, though. My folks treated us to a lovely meal at a local Chinese restaurant, which was delicious. It’s a great place and well known in our area for its tasty ‘all you can eat’ buffet. The rare occasions when DJ and I visit, we usually fill up on the delicious starters and crispy duck course and struggle to order any main courses. But, interestingly, at the bottom of the front page of the menu it clearly states that ‘uneaten food cannot be taken home’. The sentence always used to make me chuckle – presumably it’s there to prevent people from deliberately ordering more than they can eat and taking it home with them. But it raises a serious issue.
My late grandmother often used to ask for a doggy bag if she couldn’t finish her meal. When I was 14 it used to embarrass the heck out of me (don’t most things at that age?). But, given she had a smaller and smaller appetite as she got older, asking for a doggy bag made sense, especially if she had ordered something expensive, such as steak. If she didn’t finish it herself at home, then Rusty the cat usually got to enjoy it.
I was at another restaurant a few months ago when the waiter asked me if I would like a doggy bag. At the time I was a bit taken aback and automatically said no. To be honest, I felt that familiar British embarrassment take hold of me. But afterwards I wondered why I’d let something as stupid as that stop me from taking home the food I had paid for. My neighbour told me that she and a friend ordered an extra bottle of wine in a restaurant recently which they couldn’t finish and, perhaps bolstered by Dutch courage, asked if they could take it home. Apparently their waitress looked at them as if they’d crawled out from under a stone, despite the fact they’d paid £15 for it. But they got the cork back and succeeded in their mission to take the wine home with them. Good for them.
People often complain that portion sizes in cafés and restaurants are far too big nowadays, so it makes sense to ask for a smaller portion or take leftover food home if you can, as people often do in the USA. After all, it’s only going to end up in the bin anyhow, and it’s time we cut down on what we waste, both at home and away. Many of us will happily eat leftovers at home, so why should it be any different because we’ve been eating out? The next time somebody asks me if I’d like a doggy bag I will take them up on their offer, and I intend to overcome my reluctance to ask for one myself, too.
Do you ask for doggy bags in restaurants or cafés or are you too embarrassed? Do you think food outlets should offer them? Leave a message and let me know.
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