What is the proper way to dispose of chicken bones after you end with the bones in your mouth? I have a friend who drives me crazy when he takes them out of his mouth and places them (where I can see the chewed food) on the side of his plate. (This happened twice in a very nice restaurant.) –Chicken Little, New York
As are most of the questions submitted to the Pseudo-Chef, this one was a learning experience for me. See, chewed up bones don’t bother me in the least. I see them all the time at my house. Much like violence on TV, I’ve become desensitized over time. Also, I’m part Appalachian.
But, you’ve approached me for help and it’s about time I’m helpful. So, let’s get down to business. First of all, I’m a little perplexed as to how the bones end up in your friend’s mouth in the first place. I’m assuming by “very nice restaurant” you mean not KFC. Let me know if I’m way off base.
A fork and knife are a good place to start. High-end establishments often serve chicken on the bone since it leads to moister meat and a more flavorful sauce. But, usually, you cut the chicken off the bone before you fork it in. Maybe, he’s confused as to where the bones are located in a chicken? Here’s a hint: they’re usually in the middle. Poking around in the meat with a fork before cutting sometimes helps.
But, let’s just assume that the bones are ending up in his mouth by accident. What should he do to save face? For expert advice, I consulted Emily Post’s hilarious book, Etiquette. Here’s what she had to say on the matter:
“Birds are not eaten with the fingers in company! You cut off as much of the meat as you can, and leave the rest on your plate.…If food has been taken into your mouth, no matter how you hate it, you have got to swallow it. It is unforgivable to take anything out of your mouth that has been put in it, except dry bones and stones. To spit anything whatever into the corner of your napkin is too nauseating to comment on. The only way to take anything out of your mouth is between first-finger and thumb.”
Oh, the many rules I have broken, including illegal use of pinky finger. I wonder what Ms. Post would have to say about vomiting into ice buckets.
Anyway, I think the take-home message here is that if your friend wants to chew on the bones in a very nice restaurant, but is incapable of getting all the meat off cleanly, he has to swallow them. Sorry, buddy, I don’t make the rules. This ought to drive the point home quickly.
What if he refuses to swallow them? Then, you’d have no choice but to take the “can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach. Out of his chewed-up bones, craft a small-scale model of Abe Lincoln’s log cabin right there on the table. Get the server’s attention and proudly display your craftsmanship while proclaiming, “Finger-lickin’ good!” Your companion will be so horrified, he may never order chicken in your presence again. Everybody wins. Except, maybe, Emily Post.