clean plate club

“Clean your plate!”

Sound familiar?

It was for me when growing up. Perhaps originally my folks wanted me, as a youth, to eat enough food to be healthy. Later on, when I started spooning my own portions, out came again the admonition when I slacked off: “Clean your plate!”

Some of this may have reflected my parents experiencing the Great Depression. Food was not always easy to come by. Living on a farm during that time, there was food, but perhaps not the bountiful food that they wanted. So they may have viewed what was on my plate as more valuable than a growing boy did. Not only that, but they knew what it cost, in money and labor, to put food on the table, and didn’t want to see their hard-earned labor or money go to waste.

No matter how it happened, being told to “Clean my plate” sticks still in my mind.

This has led to one of my pet peeves. When I see someone today eating in a restaurant and not cleaning their plate, it bugs me. This is especially true if that person has gone through a buffet line, with them deciding what and how much food to put on their plate. When afterward, they fail to clean their plate, well, it rankles me.

When someone fails to eat all the food that they have taken out, it appears to me like it did to my parents: it seems wasteful. You wonder if they are that wasteful at their home.

And that brings up another subject that some of you may recall.

Ever hear your parents admonish you: “You didn’t turn out the light when you left your room!” Again, it may have been an economical issue to my parents, not wanting to “waste” electricity, just as they didn’t want to see me waste my food.

So deeply imbedded in me is this tendency to switch off lights, or the television set, or computers, or other electrical gadgets, when I am leaving a room. Leaving these lights or machines on when you are not using them seems as if we are not conserving our natural resources, and that seems against nature.

Even today, it seems I go around behind people switching off lights.

Luckily, children of the future may not have to even think about switching off the lights when they leave a room. After all, today rooms can be designed so that the lights come on automatically when you enter them, and turn off when you leave. Kids may not have to hear from their parents “Switch off the lights,” as many of us have heard in the past.

(This switching off lights is so engrained in me that today’s automobiles, which have headlights that come on automatically even in daytime, make me want to switch them off when driving in the daytime. Yet safety engineers tell us having your car’s headlights on is a safety feature, even in daylight, which might help you and another driver avoid an accident. Perhaps I should not worry about leaving my auto’s headlights on in the daytime. But I still have that urge to switch them off.)

Now think back: last time you went through a buffet line, did you clean your plate?

This article originally appeared at Gwinnett Forum. Image: The clean plate club by the Memphis CVB via their flickr photo stream and used under a Creative Commons license.
Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County, http://www.gwinnettforum.com, and Georgia news, http://www.georgiaclips.com.