We spend a lot of time arguing about food. I’m sure you’ve gotten in a heated debate with friends before about questions like is a hot dog a sandwich? Does pineapple belong on pizza? Cereal or milk first? (For the record, my answers to each are: yes, indifferent, cereal first) While there’s been a ton of discussion about food itself, I don’t think we’ve talked enough about how we eat food. This leads me to an equally, if not more, contentious topic: when you eat, do you save the best for last? Or do you eat the best first?
In case you can’t tell from the title, I am a staunch supporter of saving the best for last. However, I did not realize that this was a controversial opinion until I was asked by a friend why near the end of my meal, I still had so much of what we both thought was the tastiest component of the dish left. My explanation of my philosophy left them aghast -- they simply could not understand why you leave the most delicious for the end. So, I’m going to explain the process of how I eat, state my case for saving the best for last, and dispel a few popular arguments against it.
Just to preemptively answer some common questions like, “How do you know what you’ve chosen is even the best if you don’t eat it until the end?”, I will give a quick overview of what I do once my plate is in front of me. It’s quite simple:
Taste every component of the dish to determine what I think is the best.
Eat the dish and its components in a conventional fashion at the beginning. But as we start winding down...
Ration the best food accordingly. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t take another bite of it after step 2, but rather that I make sure to leave myself a good portion of it for the end.
Finish up the rest of the plate in the general of least to most enjoyable.
Finally, end it off with those final few bites of the most delicious component… the perfect way to end the meal off!
Stating my case
Obviously, the most prominent benefit of saving the best for last is that you end the plate on the best possible note. The last bite is going to be your last impression of the dish -- why not make it one that’s satisfying and memorable? To me, it’d be a shame to finish off a great dish with what you liked least. By saving the best for last, you can have a final bite worth savoring and experience its glorious aftertaste, even after your table clears.
Saving the best for last is all about anticipation. Yes, you can have a perfectly enjoyable meal if you eat the best first, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room to go higher. I think my method strikes the perfect balance; in the first half of the dish, I give myself the freedom to eat it however I want, and in the second half, that’s when the anticipation starts to build. As you eat the components that you don’t like as much, you make the bites you do take of your favorite component more valuable. When you finally arrive at that last, spectacular bite that you’ve been saving yourself for, it’ll taste so much better thanks to the power of delayed gratification.
The popular counter-arguments
Unfortunately, every great idea has its detractors. In my discussions with my friends, a couple of common arguments against saving the best for last have emerged, and they may be the same ones you’re thinking right now. But here’s why these arguments are wrong.
1. When you save the best for last, the best gets cold
Which is why you pace yourself and eat some of the best at the beginning! This way, you get to experience the food at its peak, while reserving a few bites to savor at the end. Furthermore, what would you rather eat cold: something you like, or something you hate? If you leave the worst for the end, it won’t taste any better at the end of the meal. Why end the meal with something that you not only dislike, but tastes even worse now that it's cold, when you can end it with something you think tastes good despite being cold?
2. By the time you get to the best, you’ll be too full
Ever heard of the dessert stomach? The same principle applies here. If it’s something you really like, you’ll always have room for it, even if you think you’re full. For me, those last heavenly bites fuel me through finishing the rest of the meal -- I won't be satisfied until they're within reach. Trust me, if it's really the best, you'll never be able to resist it, because it's worth it to you.
At the end of the day, who am I to tell you how to enjoy your food? If you're happy, that's fine. But I think by saving the best for last, you can make a great meal even more exciting and fulfilling. Saving the best for last makes eating an adventure. You get to explore (trying out different components of the dish until you find what's your favorite). You experience epic lows (the hardship of resisting that perfect component you've discovered), but you also experience epic highs (finally getting to eat the best at the end). It's a whole journey! So the next time you sit down with a delicious meal, I ask you to see the method behind my madness, and try my philosophy of saving the best for last just once. Whether you like it or not, I promise it will be exciting.