For most of human history, meals have been shared. Today's place-setting conventions — the individual serving plate, the personal spoon, the pristine wine glass meant for one's lips alone — are pretty recent evolutions in finickiness. Time was, in just about every culture we scooped our meals with our fingers from common vessels (or ate our way to the center of a wheel-sized round of bread, as some African and Arab cultures still do). We'd ceremoniously pass a chalice of wine or a bowl of beer around the table (a ritual also adopted by American Indians and modern high school kids in the passing of the pipe). If you happened to be a medieval lord, you might even have wiped your fork clean — properly on the tablecloth — before handing it down to your neighbor. Of course, our ancestors also ate from the tips of their double-edged daggers and scooped calf's brains directly from the beast's cooked skull; some dead European traditions are best left where they lie. But here and there, the shared "family style" restaurant meal survives like a... More >>>