Where To Put Discarded Food Scraps On Your Dinner Plate

We all know that there are special rules that need to be followed during the course of a fine dining meal. Start from the outside and move in with the silverware. Elbows off the table. Napkin across the lap. Don't lift your menu off the table, etc. However, there is one rule that you might not know existed. Even if you do know, you've certainly broken it. The rule in question is knowing exactly where to put your discarded food scraps.

The correct place for your food scraps is in the upper left of your plate. Dinner scraps in fine dining are considered to be things that are not normally meant to be eaten. Think errant fish bones, rubbery steak fat, olive pits, or citrus rinds. These are the sorts of things that no one will consider rude if they are left on your plate uneaten. But, if you don't place them in the upper left you will certainly be breaking etiquette.

Be aware, too, that the upper left area does not mean pushing the discards to the edge of the plate. Those should be kept as clean as possible, out of respect for those serving you. Still, you may be wondering why exactly the upper left area of the plate is the place to put discards. Why not, say, the bottom right? Well, that section of the plate has a purpose of its own.

A matter of etiquette

While food discards belong in the upper left area of the plate, the lower right area is reserved for sauces. The sauce can come served to you in a number of different ways. It could be smeared, dolloped, or drizzled over the food. However, if it is coming to you as a side, say in a fancy little crock, then the correct place to put that sauce is in the bottom right of the plate. 

How a plate of food is presented has been in constant transformation since the days of the Roman Empire, with fine dining etiquette as we know it coming out of the Renaissance. So exactly how the upper left and bottom right came to be reserved for scraps and sauce is not exactly known. The placement may have come as a result of the fact that food is served to the diner from the left, and removed from the table from the right.

Regardless of origin, the fact remains that discards on the upper left and sauce on the lower right are etiquette rules. So, if you find yourself at a fancy restaurant where knowledge of rules is expected, you now have a leg up on where to put your discarded food and your sauce. 

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