I'm not sure if this varies from culture to culture, but the general rule at the dinner table seems to be "finish your food". Your parents encouraged (or strictly enforced) it from an early age so it's likely been ingrained into your eating habits like a tumor. As a result, you've probably had numerous meals where you forcibly shoved food down your throat just to clear your plate. The main reason behind this form of parenting is obvious: wasting food is inconsiderate to those who are less fortunate. This is a perfectly acceptable cause, but being who I am, I couldn't help but question it a bit.
First, I want to address the issue of who the blame goes to in the case of wasted food. Traditionally, parents will chastise a child for leaving an unfinished plate. There might obviously be some disciplinary reasons behind it, but more often than not, the child is merely unable to eat beyond his/her capacity. So what is the child guilty of? Perhaps the parents should reconsider their portioning. It is ridiculous that we as a society buy excessive amounts of food, only to realize that we do not need all of it. By the end of the week, it is suddenly the child's fault for not over-indulging.
That is really all it comes down to. Parents are not teaching a valuable lesson; they are merely teaching children to overeat. A person should not have to feel sick instead of full. This is a sign of overeating, and it is incredibly dangerous and unhealthy.
Let's bring restaurants into the picture. If you've ever been to an American restaurant, you'll know that their portions are enormous. I often have trouble finishing my plate. Now, is that my fault? I certainly chose the dish, but is it within my power to choose the exact portion of that particular dish? If I had the right to tell the chef how to do his job, I would. Unfortunately, that's idiotic. I simply choose not to overeat.
I will subsequently hear the ever-so-common "that's a waste of money". Thank you for your opinion, but it's my money. I decide whether or not it's been wasted. My goal was to alleviate my hunger, not finish a plate of food. If I accomplish my goal, I consider my money well-spent no matter how much food is left. After I leave, it's the restaurant's problem. But do they care? Why should they? I've already given them the full price of the food. They should have been well-prepared to let go of whatever food is sent out.
Now, you're likely thinking: "You can say these things because you live well and have lots of food!" Yes, this is true, but what is with society's insistence that we feel guilty for living well? Is it morally unjust to not be starving and miserable? If I lived in poverty, I would viciously devour a full plate of food without some goon telling me to. But that is not our worry, is it? Our worry is over-indulgence, and we need to address this issue sensibly.
I choose not to feel morally obligated to eat because I accept the reality that we do not care. The people reminding you about the starving children in Africa are the same people who do nothing about it on a daily basis. Let's face it: a starving child does not care that you are finishing your plate. If anything, they would hate you for stuffing your fat face in chicken pasta. If we really cared, we would be sending aid and building schools every day instead of judgmentally telling each other that wasting food is wrong. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I admit that I don't care, and I won't chastise anyone else for it. Think about this the next time you ready your pitch fork and point accusingly.