The One of Shame

The One of Shame (La de la Vergüenza)

As promised [*coughJANNAcough*], here’s my post about the Spanish etiquette that had to do with the last bite of food (I love this).

In Spain, when you’re in a group setting and all are sharing from communal plates (think tapas-style), you must never ever EVER take the last piece. Not unless you’ve harassed everyone else around you (ask each person like five times) to take it instead.  It’s not that it’s considered rude or improper if you do eat it, it just gives the impression that you’re greedy and inconsiderate of others if you take it for yourself without asking everyone else first.

This dining practice and phenomenon is so common and widespread that it has earned a name for itself: La de la Vergüenza (English translation: the One of Shame). “The One of Shame” refers to that last piece of bread, or the last fruit, or last olive, or whatever, that nobody dares to take because they don’t want to be THAT GUY.

“Oh yeah, remember that guy who took the last chorrizo without even asking if I wanted it? What a jerk.” <— What caused the creation of La de la Vergüenza.

On a side note: I find this hilarious, and kind of at odds with the rest of their culture. Spaniards are very blunt, honest people. They just say what’s on their minds and they don’t care what you think or how it makes you feel. If they think you’ve lost too much weight, they’ll let you know. If they think you’re not funny, they’ll let you know. If they think you smell strange, they’ll let you know. If they think that shirt you bought makes you look fat, they’ll let you know. I don’t think the term “white lie” exists here. But then, suddenly, at the table they all become so considerate! Even if someone really wants that last piece, he or she will refuse to take it.

I think this exists, but to a far lesser extent, in the U.S. as well. I know a lot of people pause before grabbing the last piece, ask once if anyone else wants it (but everyone else will say no because it’s obvious the one asking wants it), then eat it. But here’s the big difference: in Spain, nobody even tries reaching for it. That piece goes on, completely neglected, for the duration of the meal.

However, Spaniards don’t just let the food go to waste. After it’s been sitting there, all alone and uneaten and it’s time to go, it’s acceptable to take La de la Vergüenza for yourself.

But be warned: Everyone will make a mental note that you did take it.

So just play it safe: NEVER eat La de la Vergüenza.

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