July 21, 2015
Hands Off My Plate!
By Wini Moranville

In a recent article in The Washington Post, journalist Roberto A. Ferdman decried the rapidly growing practice of servers clearing plates the minute they perceive you're finished--whether or not others at your table are still eating.


When did everyone forget that this is in bad form?


Positioning the fork and knife to make an "X" like this signifies that you have not finished your meal.

As Ferdman put it, clearing plates before everyone is finished "leaves the table with a mess of subtle but important signals. Those who are still eating are made to feel as though they are holding others up; those who are not are made to feel as though they have rushed the meal."


On my Facebook page, when I asked Des Moines diners about this issue, the majority agreed that they find the practice annoying. Ask local servers why they do it, however, and they'll say it's because some diners are vocal about wanting their plates cleared the second they're finished, even going so far as to stacking them and pushing them away.


Positioning the knife and fork across your plate like this signifies that you have finished your meal.

Who are these people? And why do servers capitulate to the most ill-mannered among us? Just because a few miscreants push away finished plates does that mean we all want our plates cleared the second we put down our fork.


I have a solution: Bring back the old-school signals present in etiquette books of days gone by. If you don't want your plate cleared, position the fork and knife in "X" fashion from the 6:00 position on the plate. If you do want your plate cleared, position your knife and fork parallel across the plate, from the 4:00 position (see photos).


Once upon a time, every server knew what this meant, and every diner understood that it was polite to keep his or her plate until everyone had finished. It's time to educate a new generation.


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Animals like this wirehaired fox terrier named Ditto are in desperate need of a home.  
The Animal Rescue League of Iowa Needs Your Help

The Animal Rescue League of Iowa is over capacity and asking for help from the community to adopt or foster the record number of homeless animals--more than 1,300--that are currently in its care.


"While we have had a record number of adoptions and great success with reuniting lost pets with their owners this summer ... we continue to receive dozens of animals every single day," says Tom Colvin, ARL's executive directer. "We are doing everything we can to keep up with that number of animals and (get) them into homes as fast as we can, but we really need the public's help."


If you are considering surrendering a pet, the ARL has set up programs and services to help you keep the pet, including free spay and neutering services, free cat and dog behavior counseling, and adoption assistance. To learn more about these programs, visit    


If you are unable to adopt a pet at this time, the ARL is also taking applications for the foster program for individuals who can take an animal into their home for a short time. Contact or visit to learn more. 

fyi: Mark Your Calendar 
  • Join the Des Moines Community Playhouse for the 2014-15 Dionysos Awards July 26 at 5:30 p.m. The event celebrates the contributions of more than 1,700 individuals who give 77,000 hours annually as actors and backstage and front-of-house volunteers. Guests can expect a cocktail hour before an awards presentation at 6:30 p.m. To RSVP, contact Lee Ann Bakros at 974-5358 or by email at
  • The first annual Hinterland Music Festival will feature two days of music July 31-Aug. 1 in Water Works Park. In addition to music, the festival will include cycling events, on-site sculpture and art installations, craft vendors and more. Click here for more information about the festival and to purchase tickets, which cost $75 for a two-day pass and $45 for one-day admission to either Friday evening or Saturday afternoon.
  • The finale concert and patron party for Metro Art Alliance's Jazz in July will start at 5 p.m. on Aug. 1 at Blue Moon Dueling Piano Bar and Restaurant (5485 Mills Civic Parkway, West Des Moines). A free outdoor concert will feature music from the Valley High School Jazz Combo, the Betsy Hickok Group and the Tighten Up. Tickets to the patron party cost $20 and include appetizers and one complimentary drink ticket; RSVP in advance to or 280-3222.
  • Teens Against Human Trafficking (TAHT), a nonprofit organization created and led by teens to raise awareness about human trafficking, will hold a fundraising benefit at West End Architectural Salvage (22 S.W. 9th St.) July 23 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tickets cost $35 and can be bought here. Interested in learning more about TAHT? Read our story in dsm's July/August issue here.
P.S. Grocery Shopping Just Got Easier 

Have you heard about the online shopping option at select Hy-Vee stores in the metro? So far we've gotten good feedback on the service that allows customers to shop online and have their groceries delivered straight to their door or ready for pickup at a reserved time. The service costs $4.95 for delivery and $2.95 for pickup, and orders over $100 are free of delivery or pickup charge. Want to learn more? Click here to see if your nearest location offers the service and click here to see a short video on how to get started.     

Belle Du Chene is senior editor of dsm magazine.

Wini Moranville, author of "The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day," is a food, wine and travel writer who covers the dining scene for dsm magazine. Follow her at All Things Food DSM - Wini Moranville and catch her food segment on Fridays at 6:40 a.m. on KCWI-23's "Great Day" morning show.

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