Handling Drippy Food with a Non-Straight-Lined Torso?
October 20, 2009 10:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm by nature a person who likes to keep myself looking neat. I'm having a logistical problem with that.

At the moment, I'm also very heavyset, meaning that, geometrically, I have a slope going from neck to waist, not a straight line. (A slope that no doubt will continue to steepen as I progress towards that personal goal, but nonetheless, a slope.)

This means that anything that possibly could drip (and even the neatest food seems to have something that can do that) is pretty much guaranteed to land on my shirt, no matter how careful I'm trying to be.

Stuffing a napkin near my neck not only looks a little inherently stupid, but it also usually doesn't provide adequate coverage.

I can't be the only person to experience this, given America's obesity rates and men's workplace formalwear, or given the presence of the bust for women.

(Parenthetically, I'm asking this because some workplaces where I'm applying for work require a shirt and tie – slightly unusual for my particular level – and given that dress shirts can be expensive, I'd like to be limiting the number of stains to as few as possible.)

Any tips?
posted by WCityMike to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Although I don't suffer from the sloping problem you mentioned, I tend to be a sloppy eater and food can drip onto my pants if I'm not careful. I just sit really close to the table and bend over an exaggerated amount to make sure I don't drip anything. This way I can usually avoid staining my shirts even when I eat noodle soup with chopsticks (a normally splashy affair).
posted by pravit at 10:47 AM on October 20, 2009

If it makes you feel better, women have this problem all the time (what with the boobs). The only real way to deal with it is leaning way forward when you eat.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:50 AM on October 20, 2009

Sit at a table and lean forward over it.
posted by fire&wings at 10:53 AM on October 20, 2009

Seems that there's no getting around being entirely focused on eating while you're eating. When you're just absorbed in the process of seeing your food, cutting it, scooping it, mopping it, chewing it, swallowing it - you will notice what is piled too high as to cause a likely spill, what is hanging in the balance from your fork and what is there in front of you that requires extra care and caution. Usually when people are multi-tasking something is missed.

Here are a few articles on the subject of mindful eating.
posted by watercarrier at 10:53 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Lean far forward, and put a napkin in your lap. This is pretty much the only way.
posted by caveat at 10:53 AM on October 20, 2009

first: be more careful of what's on your fork. Small amounts, not drippy amounts... if you're careful, it's possible to avoid 99% of drips -- if you're eating "properly", this really shouldn't happen with most foods.

right hand - hold fork
left hand - hold napkin (slightly crumpled) under fork
proceed to mouth.
posted by brainmouse at 10:57 AM on October 20, 2009

A pause between putting the food and bringing it too your mouth will probably help. Anything that's going to drip will hopefully do so before you lift it away from the plate.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 10:58 AM on October 20, 2009

Yes to leaning forward, and I'll go a step further and suggest you have an extra shirt and tie around. When you drip, change your shirt and wash the dirtied one out with cold water as soon as possible to prevent staining.
posted by moira at 10:58 AM on October 20, 2009

'putting the food on the utensil' is what I meant...
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 10:58 AM on October 20, 2009

If I know I'm going to be in an environment where I'll probably spill something on myself I try to either bring an extra shirt or wear clothes that don't stain easily/don't show stains easily. Which doesn't help with the dripping problem, but does help with the keeping neat problem.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 10:59 AM on October 20, 2009

Yes yes yes to all this. I just dripped food on my bust for the first time in a long time the other day, because I wasn't doing the things I normally do - make sure any "food vectors" don't intersect my chest or arms. A "food vector" is the shortest distance between a bite of food and the table.

If you are a guy who wears ties during the day, a lot of guys I know tuck their ties into their shirts at lunch. Then, if there's any drips on the shirt in the tie area, the tie will cover it.
posted by muddgirl at 10:59 AM on October 20, 2009

Try slowing down and take smaller bites when you eat. I was eating soup for lunch when I read your question, and found that if I filled the spoon with a smaller than usual (for me) portion, and practiced good balance, AND didn't look at the laptop while eating, I could eat without spilling anything -- even when pushed back from the table (about a foot or so). Also, stay away from spaghetti during business lunches.
posted by rtodd at 10:59 AM on October 20, 2009

Being both busty and belly-lisious, I, too have experienced the dreaded drip. The bust and the belly make it difficult to tuck in close to the table and lean in (imagine eating a meal while unable to breath), thus dripping over a plate. It can be done, it just takes a little more effort and maneuvering. As an alternative, have found that I can hold the napkin in one hand and lift it as I lift my fork, thus avoiding the "bib" effect, but catching drips as they fall. At home, I just lift the bowl/plate up--but that doesn't go over well in public.

When all those efforts fail and the inevitable happens, I rely on "Shout" wipes to clean up--they are better than the Tide stick or other spot removers as they clean well and dry quickly without leaving much of a mark.

I also wear scarves a good deal and then have the option of removing a spotted one--perhaps keep a spare tie on hand would be a good idea.

Otherwise, I just laugh and say, ah well, that's why they are so big--I keep 'em well fed!
posted by agatha_magatha at 11:01 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Adult bibs fold up to stuff in your pocket on the way to lunch, cover you at lunch, fold up to go back in your pocket on the way back from lunch, and are washable/reusable. They work about 10x better than the best full sized napkins, IME.

I'm a barbecue fan.
posted by paulsc at 11:03 AM on October 20, 2009

My son makes fun of me almost every night at dinner, and waits for me to drop food somewere on my person (usually the right boob) so he can laugh. The shortest route for food to boob is via me, at the table. I thought I was the one who taught my son how to eat, but apparently I'm the one who needs schooling, because he reminds me all of the time that I'm doing it wrong. He pierces his food with his fork, while I tend to scoop with mine. His food stays on his fork, while often mine falls off.

And so.... stabbity stab stab.

And when you're eating soup/drippy stews etc, scrape the spoon against the bowl every time.

And eat food that matches your clothes ;)
posted by iconomy at 11:07 AM on October 20, 2009

I'm a slob. I've found that drinking my coffee with a straw has saved a lot of clothes. The only prob is when I get one of those compostable straws, they just melt!
posted by mareli at 11:07 AM on October 20, 2009

In response to the leaning forward, I have to say agatha_magatha has it: when fat, the torso makes that fairly difficult to do to enough of a degree that mouth is over plate, and even does, as she suggests, additionally restrict breathing. I've certainly leaned forward in past instances, and I'm sure it helped me keep away from some stains I could've got, but, given that I'm now asking this question, it's all in all not been very effective.
posted by WCityMike at 11:09 AM on October 20, 2009

I have this same problem. I can't help with the initial drip, but I think a combo of the right fabric to repel stains and a Shout wipe or Tide pen should at least prevent the stains from ruining a nice dress shirt or tie.
posted by soelo at 11:17 AM on October 20, 2009

I'm just prone to staining my shirts. But I found a scarf made of dark colors really provides a stylish 'bib'.

I'm female, so it is a little more acceptable for me to wear a random scarf. But it's a thought. They make manly scarves.
posted by royalsong at 11:28 AM on October 20, 2009

A friend with this problem carries a Tide To Go pen with her, and it's gotten rid of more stains than I would have guessed in no time at all. I'm literally amazed by this product.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:34 AM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

A bowtie will avoid at least some of the damage (ties ain't cheap, either).
posted by TruncatedTiller at 11:50 AM on October 20, 2009

The GF seems to have a food meet shirt/pants problem, again probably due to her being a woman. I'm an OCD person so spending the rest of the day with a food stain on my shirt distresses me, so I make sure I:
  1. Lean forward over the table, if something is going to drop, it will land back in the plate
  2. If I'm using a fork, that the food is securely on the tines, no scooping
  3. If I'm using the spoon, that it is no more than three quarters full
  4. Pay attention to the food itself if it is a finger food like a burger or pizza (you can feel the sauce on a burger shift when you squish it, you can tell when a drop of grease is about to make its way out of a slice of pizza, that marinara sauce on the mozzarella stick is about to drip any second now I can see it!)
  5. Tuck my tie into my shirt if I'm wearing one (I saw someone at lunch at work throw their tie over their shoulder only to have it fall into their soup when they went to put the spoon in their mouth
  6. Quickly attack any stains with a Tide Pen should the unthinkable occur

posted by Brian Puccio at 11:50 AM on October 20, 2009

I have the same problem, though coffee is the worst. Never fails, if I've decided to tempt fate by wearing a light color, my coffee will find a way to get onto my shirt.

Knowing this, I keep a clean spare shirt/tie/pants at the office on a hanger. That is the only thing that has kept me from looking like a slob on many, many occasions.
posted by Pragmatica at 11:58 AM on October 20, 2009

When I'm eating lunch at work, I concentrate on just eating. The second I start trying to eat and do other things at my desk, food falls into my lap (or chest).

Nthing Tide pens. Awesome!
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:14 PM on October 20, 2009

Maybe you could put your food perpendicular to you, off to one of your sides, such that you would have to turn your head and lean toward that side when you eat.
posted by Theloupgarou at 12:43 PM on October 20, 2009

I often wear a dark coloured more wipeable fabric jacket or cardigan that I button up to eat. Then blot as necessary.
posted by kjs4 at 6:07 PM on October 20, 2009

Wow, this is a very interesting thread to me, mainly because I've never had this problem. That said, I am probably the slowest eater in the world (the type who is fiddling with the appetizers when everyone else is tucking into the main course), so maybe that has something to do with it?
posted by sfkiddo at 10:31 PM on October 20, 2009

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