While having lunch in a restaurant today, I realized that
Indeed, I was having lunch with 8 co-workers, 8 normally constituted adults, 8 people with 2 functioning arms, and we were served 9 glasses of water with 9 plastics straws. Coming from a country where eating has been elevated to an art, such ungracious habit could only raise my curiosity.Indeed, in France I have not been given a drinking straw in a restaurant since I turned 10 and have been able to drink out of a glass without spilling on myself. Why, in America, are we always given a straw with every drink? Does American exceptionalism include not being able to drink like a normal person? As such a statement would be a little premature, I decided to analyze the reasons behind the America obsession with straws.
There are very few explanations for this phenomenon. One of the reasons advanced for the use of straws is that it avoids tooth decay while drinking soda, as the soda will spend less time in contact with your teeth (note to self: to improve teeth hygene start using a straw instead of reducing soda consumption). However, I also read the contrary. And if this is true, it does not explain why you are given a straw with a glass of water. A second reason advanced is you are never sure if your glass has been well cleaned, so it is more sanitary to use a straw (the United States is, of course, known to have the worse dishwashers in the world). But the liquid will still be in contact with the glass, making it a potential sanitary hazard anyway, so this seems more than useless. And last but not least, in America you put so much ice in your drinks that it's too cold to drink without a straw. Putting less ice, thus not needing a straw, does not seem to be an appropriate response to this problem. In conclusion, I have not been able to find one good explanation for general use of drinking straws in America.
However, there seems to be a growing consensus that we should stop using straws for every drink we have. Indeed, an estimate of 500 millions plastics straws are used every day in America. The environmental cost for this habit is difficult to estimate but keep in mind that most of theses billions of straws all come with a plastic/paper wrap and are not largely recycled. Only giving straws on demand would very easily reduce such waste, an effort being iniated around the country, from Miami to Vermont.
I have been able to reach only two conclusions. To stop using drinking straws would not only be a very easy and efficient way for restaurants all around the country to save money, but it would also be a small step towards a more sustainable world. Above all, it would help so many adults who are given drinking straws without asking to look like a child who is too lazy to bother lifting the glass to his mouth. I agree that French people can be a bit pretentious with their eating maners (who needs 4 different glasses, 3 forks, and 3 knives?) but honestly, how ridiculous would I look if I was drinking wine with a straw?