I don’t like waste, and wasting food, particularly very good food, ranks quite high on my list of things to avoid. In some cultures, licking one’s plate is acceptable (or even expected) — in that sense, the privacy of our apartment is perhaps its own little subculture.
Licking your plate avoids food waste and ensures that you get every last bit of goodness, plus, you can put the plate straight into the dishwasher, no rinsing required (saving water), or set the dish aside to be reused. But what about those pesky mugs and bowls where you can’t reach the bottom?
Enter the spatula.
Most any spatula will do, but a few years ago, I discovered the perfect implement at our local Italian grocer — a spoon-sized spatula with a silicone head and a wooden handle. What started as a sometimes-used item quickly became an essential part of my place setting.
Eventually, I bought a second one to keep at my desk at work, and I often tuck one into my bag if I’ll be eating when out and about. The spatula accompanied me to Portland, as well. I still feel the need to use it discretely, but, where I would not lick my bowl in the lunchroom at work, I used my spatula with only minimal hesitation. I believe I have yet to actually use the spatula in a restaurant, but that may only be because we don’t eat out all that often.
The spatula’s usefulness is not limited to the end of the meal. You can use it throughout the meal to keep the sides of your dish clean — if you wait until the end of the meal to bust out the spatula, you’ll probably have you cooled, dried food that is impossible to remove. Using the spatula as you go eliminates that problem.
While it may not be incorporated into dining etiquette books anytime soon, my place setting is incomplete without this useful, practical tool.
Do you go to great lengths to clean your plate or otherwise avoid food waste? Please share your tips and ideas in the comments.