If there is one dining concept that seems to have taken many cities by storm in recent years, it’s food sharing. It works for some situations: bar snacks and tapas should rightly be shared in their natural habitat while standing or perched at the bar with a few (or many) beers. But for a full meal at a restaurant, sharing your plate has its drawbacks.
Take an example from Soho, London’s current food-sharing hotspot. I recently visited a French restaurant in the neighbourhood. As I took my seat the waitress arrived and posed that much over-asked question, “Have you been here before?” I answered in the negative but had already anticipated her response: “So, all our dishes are to share. We recommend between four to six dishes per person.”
It’s a simple enough idea but this development in our eating habits is a deeper reflection of a generation with an increasingly short attention span. We’ve now become so comfortable with limitless options that even making the choice about what to eat has grown into a task too difficult to imagine. Yet by embracing that choice, we’re also giving up the right – albeit unconsciously – to demand good food. Faced with five or six plates in front of you, you care less when one of them might be bad as long as you’re able to try something that is good.
The presentation of a French meal and then an Italian one, for example, should be entirely different experiences from one another. Each time you’re committing to a dish that selection in turn took commitment from the chef to prepare and if it turns out to be unsatisfying you can therefore feel more entitled to complain. That kind of commitment on all sides means that hopefully said chef feels obliged to put in the extra bit of effort that goes into preparing a great meal.
Although sharing is fun I think I’m ready to commit to one dish again. But if you’re really feeling unfaithful you can always fool around with that tempting old mistress: the appetiser.
Gaia Lutz is a researcher for Monocle 24.