Sharing plates at the dinner table creates connection and encourages idea sharing! As a proudly efficient (fast) eater, I find that sharing inevitably results in a more democratic meal pace. Seriously, spare your friends and family the self-righteous indignation and enjoy your meal — together! FOODSNOOT, BROOKLYN, N.Y.
This is how much of the world eats every meal. I work with refugees, and most of the time there are communal platters of food. They offer me a plate, and occasionally will have a bowl for soup, but usually all eat from platters. They usually use a piece of a flat bread like pita or bigger ones to pick up food. Sharing probably precedes cooking. KATHLEEN, TUCSON
‘I don’t want to be distracted by watching to see who’s licking her fingers’
Some readers complained they found food-sharing unsanitary.
Hygiene. That’s my chief objection. Even with designated serving utensils, there are opportunities for sharing bacteria and viruses. I don’t want to be distracted by watching to see who’s licking her fingers, who’s touched his phone. (Everyone knows where that phone has been.) H.L., DALLAS
That’s all a restaurant needs — a table full of guests who get the flu or some other infectious disease from eating from each other’s plate. JOAN IN CALIFORNIA, CALIFORNIA
‘I have finally left the table with back spasms and nausea, feeling as if I’ve fled a Roman orgy’
Other readers said allergies, dietary concerns and other health issues discouraged them from participating in shared meals.
I am not a heavy eater, and I have chronic back pain that gets worse and worse as the banquet goes on. Some servers refuse to take no for an answer if I ask to skip a course, and, unless I’m alone, I still have to wait for everyone else to finish. Several times, including one birthday dinner, I have finally left the table with back spasms and nausea, feeling as if I’ve fled a Roman orgy where the participants were encouraged to vomit so they could continue to eat and drink all night. This is not my idea of fun. SUSAN SETTLEMYRE WILLIAMS, RICHMOND, VA.
I have food allergies and there are some cuisines that I just do not enjoy. Being forced to share a meal that I carefully choose based on likes and limitations is sometimes quite challenge to me. HOPE, MCLEAN, VA.
As a vegetarian in a mostly not-veggie society, sharing has other downsides. Even if there are some other veg-heads in attendance, the risk of a dead animal tainted serving spoon winding up in the wrong place turns my stomach, as does the inevitable idiot who doesn’t use the serving utensil and dips right in with their fork. B. DAWSON, WEST VIRGINIA
‘A nice meal is not a game of Go Fish’
The pacing of shared meals was a concern for several readers, as it was for the author.
A nice meal is not a game of Go Fish. Give me a plate of separate foods: classically meat, a vegetable and a starch. Then I can enjoy the use of my fork and knife to mindfully consume my meal at my own pace with dignity. JOSEPH MURPHY, PORTLAND, ORE.
What is lost when an exquisitely prepared meal of several courses is consumed like a communal basket of chili fries? BOBMEINETZ, LOS ANGELES
Small plates are an excuse for the kitchen to serve in any order, with any timing. They’re designed for pictures and not for a well-paced, well-designed dinner experiences. MHM, NEW YORK
‘Four people or less, very similar palates and/or food sensitivities and an ability to not be selfish.’
And while some readers felt that communal dining has its advantages, most agreed that certain rules should be followed.
Basically small plates require rules: Four people or less, very similar palates and/or food sensitivities and an ability to not be selfish. MJ, BROOKLYN, N.Y.
I believe in a well-composed meal where ingredients work together, not against each other. PERSON OF INTEREST, SEATTLE
What really annoys me is restaurants that encourage sharing but create dishes that are impossible to divide. I was at one recently that served a single piece of crostini that, when we tried to cut it, cracked into bits and flew off the plate. At another place, we were two people, and they served three croquettes. So we each had one, then tried to split the third, only to have it fall apart and ooze all its cheese filling onto the plate. How hard would it have been to serve four croquettes? ELIZABETH, NEW YORK
A distinction should be made between a communal meal, where small plates are drawn from large platters, and are shared “family style,” and the format where a dish you order specifically is passed around randomly to all. The “tasting menu” version, where “Chef” decides the timing and order of the delivery, is very much part of the new cruelty. And it’s getting old. SERA, NEW YORK
‘Old Man Yells at Cloud’
And finally, one disgruntled reader had enough.
The headline for this article, but more so the comment section, should be “Old Man Yells at Cloud.” ANONYMOUS, NEW YORK