In the Meadows of Dan, there is a cabin where our families converge every few years. Before the mothers arrive, the cousins come a day early to air out the rooms and take stock of the groceries.
The families must be fed after the long drive. One summer, dinner consisted of turkey burgers, red quinoa, and pan seared sweet potato chips. The children ate chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. The last portion of quinoa was offered to me and I was asked to finish what remained. I felt full immediately when I saw the last bite. It is as if a cultural genetic code was embedded in me to not eat it. My husband observed the same behavior with my brother. My brother explained that he thought it had something to do with being polite and allowing the guest to have the last bite. If the guest refused the last bite, we would wrap the morsel in a baggie and place it in the refrigerator. Sometimes the last bite was never consumed.
My husband jested that perhaps it is an Asian tradition to preserve the final portion for dead ancestors. Others with memories of poverty, felt every bite should be eaten and not go to waste - a universal concept not constrained to Asian traditions. I was out with girlfriends for dinner the other night and they thought the “last bite” concept was a ridiculous notion. Yet when we were down to our final bites in our shared dishes, there it remained untouched again - more nuggets of neglect. The ladies claimed they were full and we decided we did not want to look like little piggies indulging as if starving, how un-lady like.
I watched our cat eat the other day and even he left a bit of his cat food for the squirrels and birds. I imagine the behavior really is in our genetic code and as primitive hunters we left a final portion for the animals that travelled or followed us as a negotiation and understanding that if we left the final bite, they would have a reason to not consider us the last bite as we slept in the night. In exchange for our lives, the animals could have a consistent bit of left overs the next day if they travelled with us in harmony.
That is why we leave a little bit, to maintain the peace and daisy chain the harmony for the next day and the next meal. So we later domesticate ourselves and those same animals that travelled with us.
There is no law against saving a bite for later, but there is something about eating everything available in the moment the dish is cooked. A satisfaction can be had when the portions are perfect, the guests are full, and the dishes are easy. There is also no rule against leaving the last bite for spirits in the universe. I do conclude that the hesitance is a reality that exists and there is no shame in that. Perhaps we over think the concept and we just feed on insecurities rather than the final bit of a meal. There are no predators to feed anymore, but trust me - when you share that meal again and the last morsel is staring at you all, there will still be that momentary feeling where even you will question what to do. Never fear, we can find comfort that this was perhaps the first sign of when we became civilized. If nobody is looking, you have permission to pop it in your mouth. I won’t tell.