At a restaurant in France, gingershelley had an experience that would be unthinkable in the United States. The dinner “started as it always does, with the lovely house course terrine of pâté and bread brought out to us to enjoy while we decided on our meal,” says gingershelley.

“The terrine had about half its contents in it,” and gingershelley says that it looked like it had been served to another table previously. “We ate about half of what was there, and I would think it would move on to another diner’s table following us,” gingershelley says. “This is SO not possible to do in the United States, and I think it is a shame. … I am hoping to open a resto in the next couple of years, and this is exactly the sort of thing I would love to offer.”

What’s behind this style of eating? “I suspect it is simply tradition and as such, people enjoy the link to the past,” says PhilD. “The dishes that are shared in this way tend to be served in the dish they are made in like the terrine of pâté where you simply help yourself to either a large or small portion. Other common shared dishes include baskets of charcuterie where you hack off a piece of sausage, or a cheese board [is] left at your table for you to help yourself. In many ways it is no different to the Italian anti-pasti tables or, and these are now rare, the French hors d’oeuvre tables. Here you help yourself from shared plates.”

And American dining customs may equally flummox other cultures. “My Australian friends were shocked on their first visit to the U.S. to see doggie bags,” says RandyB. “They said it would be illegal in Australia for health reasons. Turns out they were wrong, although many Ozzies and Australian restaurants insist it is the law, not just custom.”

Discuss: Death of shared cheese at Sardi’s in NY; why can’t US serve shared terrine’s, Amuse Bouche items like the French?

Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this post misstated gingershelley’s views on shared terrines.

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