The French don’t really have the same reverence for leftovers that Americans do, which may be a throwback to the time before people had reliable refrigeration – which still doesn’t explain why nowadays, when they do, some people still keep leftovers like beef stew and roast chicken in the cupboard overnight rather than in the refrigerator. But is mostly because when you dine in France, you’re supposed to eat everything on your plate. Although the food in France can be rich – richer than what even us overstuffed Americans are used to (I always find it curious that Americans come to France and by day #3, they can’t eat another bite) – it’s considered somewhat impolite to leave food on your plate. Even a ½ teaspoon of sauce isn’t left behind; it’s carefully mopped up and consumed with a crusty end of bread. And by the end of each course, your plate is expected to be wiped clean.
The concept of le doggy bag draws snickers in France, partially for the aforementioned reason. An article in Le Monde, which mentions this American pratique courant is titled: I Feel Ashamed to Ask for a Doggy Bag. Curiously, the practice of bringing home leftover wine is considered a-ok. But another reason is because it’s a bit inelegant to traipse across a dining room after a meal toting a bag of food through the dining room, on your way out.
Some restaurants in America will discreetly hold your bag at the host’s podium so you can grab it as you leave, which I know because my normally well-mannered mother was a constant source of rolling eyes to my relatives in Los Angeles when we’d come to visit, because whenever they took us to a nice place for dinner, nearly half the meal came home with her.
(But probably in weight-conscious Los Angeles, it’s now encouraged. In fact, I once read one of those articles about how to dine out and lose weight, which advised, “As soon as your meal arrives, ask for a take-out container and put half of it in there so you don’t eat it.” I tell you, the day someone tries that in Paris, please invite me to come watch for the waiter’s reaction.)