If you are a crossword enthusiast, you might have come across the clue “Request at the end of a meal, maybe” in the New York Times crossword puzzle. The answer to this clue is DOGGYBAG, which is a term for a container that a restaurant provides to a customer who wants to take home the leftovers of their meal.
But why is this a common request at the end of a meal, and how should you handle it as a customer or a restaurant staff? In this article, we will explore the origin, etiquette, and benefits of asking for a doggy bag.
The origin of the doggy bag
The term “doggy bag” dates back to the 1940s, when some restaurants in the United States started to offer paper bags to their customers who wanted to take home the bones of their steak for their dogs. The practice became more popular in the 1970s, when the environmental movement and the economic recession encouraged people to reduce food waste and save money.
However, the term “doggy bag” is not universally accepted, as some people find it misleading or embarrassing. In some countries, such as France, Italy, and Japan, asking for a doggy bag is considered rude or uncultured, as it implies that the customer did not enjoy the meal or that the restaurant served too much food. Therefore, some alternative terms have been proposed, such as “takeaway bag”, “leftover bag”, or “food bag”.
The etiquette of the doggy bag
If you are a customer who wants to ask for a doggy bag, you should follow some basic etiquette rules to avoid offending the restaurant or the staff. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Ask politely and discreetly. You can say something like “Could I please have a container for the rest of my meal?” or “May I take this home with me?”. Avoid using the term “doggy bag” unless you are sure that the restaurant is familiar with it and does not mind it.
- Do not ask for a doggy bag if you only have a small amount of food left, such as a few bites or a piece of bread. This might seem greedy or wasteful, and it might not be worth the trouble of packing and storing the food.
- Do not ask for a doggy bag if you are dining at a fine-dining restaurant, a buffet, or a banquet. These types of restaurants usually have strict rules about food safety and quality, and they might not allow you to take home any food. Moreover, asking for a doggy bag at a fancy or formal occasion might be seen as inappropriate or tacky.
- Do not ask for a doggy bag for someone else’s food, unless they offer it to you or you have their permission. This might be considered rude or intrusive, and it might make the other person feel uncomfortable or pressured.
- Do not ask for a doggy bag for food that is not suitable for reheating or storing, such as seafood, salad, or soup. These foods might spoil quickly or lose their flavor and texture, and they might pose a health risk if not handled properly.
The benefits of the doggy bag
Asking for a doggy bag can have several benefits, both for you and for the environment. Here are some of them:
- You can save money and time. By taking home the leftovers of your meal, you can have another meal or snack later, without spending more money or cooking more food.
- You can reduce food waste and greenhouse gas emissions. By taking home the leftovers of your meal, you can prevent them from ending up in the landfill, where they would decompose and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. According to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans throw away about 40% of their food, which amounts to $165 billion and 33 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.
- You can enjoy the food again. By taking home the leftovers of your meal, you can savor the taste and quality of the food again, especially if it was from a restaurant that you like or that serves a cuisine that you enjoy.
Requesting a doggy bag at the end of a meal is a common practice in some countries, such as the United States, where it is seen as a way to save money, reduce food waste, and enjoy the food again. However, in some other countries, such as France, Italy, and Japan, asking for a doggy bag is frowned upon, as it is considered rude or uncultured. Therefore, if you want to ask for a doggy bag, you should be aware of the origin, etiquette, and benefits of this request, and follow some basic tips to avoid offending the restaurant or the staff.