These six words could change how you think about food

"Are you still working on that?"

Words have power – especially when they’re used so frequently we don’t even seem to notice them.

Lately I’ve noticed one question that’s asked by nearly all waiters. It’s just six words, but they speak volumes about how we, as a society, think about food. It’s a phrase so common you probably haven’t even given it a moment’s thought. But it’s also so common that it’s probably also affected your perception of food, whether or not you realize it.

Ready? Here it is:

“Are you still working on that?”

Now that you’re aware of this phrase, I bet you’ll be amazed at how often you’ll hear it. Seriously, I hear it every time I’m at a restaurant. And here’s the reason it drives me crazy: It should not be work to eat your food!

Of course in America, “work” has a tremendously negative connotation. Eating should not be laborious. Food should be savored, enjoyed, relished, honored. Eating should be a wonderful, joyous experience!

So the next time a waiter says those six little words to you, here are six you can say back to them. If you’re not finished eating yet, try this: “I’m still enjoying my meal, thanks” (with the emphasis on “enjoying” of course). Or, if you are done, you can cheerfully proclaim, with a big smile: “It wasn’t any work at all!”

Maybe, just maybe, if enough of us bring this to people’s attention, we can get rid of this awful phrase, and make a small dent in how we as a society view our food.  So please share this post, mention it to your friends, and help spread this paradigm shift. Because words matter.

Photo: “Afterwords” © 2012 by Waleed Alzuhair, used under Creative Commons License.

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19 Responses to These six words could change how you think about food

  1. christina September 17, 2014 at 5:19 am #

    And here I thought the phrase might be “Do you want fries with that?”

  2. Rachele September 10, 2014 at 11:56 pm #

    I feel like these words have even more meaning. we are taught as children to “clean our plates” and as adults I feel sometimes that is brought into our eating habits that even tho we are full, we try to finish. Hence the word “work”. I try to avoid this, as it just makes me feel too full and sometimes ill. If I eat just till I am full, I find I am much happier and healthier too! (plus I get to take the leftovers for my next meal!)

  3. Sarah September 8, 2014 at 8:09 pm #

    I agree… I also hate that when a waiter asks that. I don’t mind being asked if I’m finished, but it’s kind of an annoying phrase.

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