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How to Eat a Dinner Roll

Long ago, in my life Before Children, 2003 B.C. , I sat at a fine dining restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky for a dinner sales call.  Over the course of ten years, I’d been a marketing assistant, then marketing executive and worked my way up to V.P. of Regional Sales and Operations for a Healthcare IT startup company on the verge on big things.  I lived in Boston, Massachusetts a long-way from growing up in Austin, Texas, in a packed Mexican household, with family that had a lot of love but not a lot of money.

I sat across the dinner table from my longtime mentor.  We awaited our clients, a large account I’d been working hard at closing.  We were starved after a same-day flight and our server brought us the bread basket to ease the wait.

I took a warm, perfect golden dinner roll out of the basket, poked my index finger straight into its center, fished out that pocket of pillowy, baked interior and popped it into my mouth.   I’m sure my eyelids fluttered and my lips curled into a smile that signaled my silent, buttery satisfaction.

My mentor looked at me, like a Philadephia mainline etiquette instructor and said, “Maria, I’ve been out to dinner with you before and wanted to let you know, that’s not how you eat a dinner roll.”

Excuse me? What?” I said.

“That’s not how you eat a dinner roll.  I mean, that’s not the proper way to eat a dinner roll.”  He responded.

“There’s a proper way to eat a dinner roll?”  Me, eyebrow, raised.

“Yes. You can cut it with a fork to butter half, or more gracefully pull off a small section at a time.  But, YOU eat a dinner roll the way a little kid eats a dinner roll.”

With a mix of embarrassment and defiance, I shot back “Who says there’s a proper way to eat a dinner roll? Martha Stewart?  Well, I don’t know her. I grew up eating tortillas not dinner rolls.  That’s just how I get to the best part, man.”

Then, dialing it back, displaying my prodded open roll earnestly, I said, “Don’t you think what’s on the inside is so much better than what’s on the outside? Why do I have to eat the outside if that’s not what I want?”

“Maybe you have a point.” he nodded, smiling.

With some soft sass I said, “When our clients get here, I hope they can handle how I eat my dinner roll.   I promise, I’ll try not to lose this deal eating my dinner roll.”

Then, graciously, he picked up a dinner roll and poked his finger right through the warm middle.

He said, “You know, Maria, I think maybe you close your deals because of the way you eat your dinner rolls.”

And that’s sort of been my approach to life.   Just poke straight through the heart of the hard, crusty parts. Right to what lies at the center.  Right to the good stuff.


For those still intrigued by the proper way to eat bread, here goes:
Set your piece of bread on the bread plate as well (obvious, but bears mentioning). Now here is the tricky part for some people. Tear off a bite-size piece of bread. Hold the piece with your fingers (not in the palm of your hand and not on the plate), use your knife to butter it, and eat it.
from Manner Matters: Bread and Butter Basics | Serious Eats

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