This and other questions preoccupy us on holidays as we lurch from the granola and fruit section (healthy and wholesome) to the full fry area with whopping great pieces of black pudding (unhealthy and tasty).
Face it, the highlight of your hotel stay - apart from after-hours drinking in the residents’ lounge - is the veritable feast on offer in the morning.
I don’t know about you, but for me, there is something totally decadent about following bacon and sausages with a mini pastry or three, washed down with fresh orange juice and endless cups of coffee.
Throw in scrambled eggs, croissants, an assortment of jams and fresh fruit, and I’m in heaven.
Show me someone who’ll just choose a slice of toast and a cup of tea for breakfast in a hotel and I’ll show you someone who is on a strict and joyless diet.
That said, whenever I’ve been in hospital, plain old tea, toast and marmalade at 8am is the nicest meal of the day. That says more about hospital food than anything else, but the simplicity of that breakfast is truly comforting when you’re feeling a bit delicate.
But back to ethics. Is it OK to sneak a few bits of fruit and a bun from the buffet to have later that morning?
Heck, given that you’re paying top dollar for a hotel stay this summer, surely you can justify swiping a bit of food that you couldn’t possibly digest at breakfast time?
Because you were doing the dog on it and your eyes were bigger than your stomach, you couldn’t get the full value from the buffet, so the obvious thing to do is to stockpile.
RTÉ’s Sarah McInerney said on the radio last week that she hobbles a few scones and croissants from breakfast buffets, wraps them in a napkin and puts them in her bag for later on.
She was making her disclosure prior to an item on breakfast buffet etiquette.
According to a new survey on the burning topic, there are five distinct personality types when it comes to the morning meal.
Some 20% are ‘stackers’, balancing impressive towers of food to save on trips to the buffet.
There’s also the ‘nester’, comprising a fifth of those questioned. They think about others and will make sure to bring back a selection of food for the whole table.
I would have thought ‘nesters’ would be extremely rare at a buffet, given that it presents itself as appealing to the selfish. That’s most of us, who would trample over a crawling baby to reach the tray of crepes smothered in berries and cream - one of my favourite breakfast buffet treats. Or the plate of kippers. Whatever.
The point is that when it comes to the buffet, the guiding principle is self-interest and a mentality of guzzling all you can eat.
According to the survey, 30% are ‘smugglers’. Now we’re talking.
These folk are thinking ahead to afternoon treats so they’ll sneak food for later with pastries and fruit being the top choices.
Has this got something to do with a folk memory of never having quite enough? A fear of going hungry?
When Oliver Twist asked for ‘more’, holding out his gruel bowl, he was trying to store up his food intake to get over the inevitable lean period that would follow.
Today, some particularly cute hoors bring Ziploc bags to the buffet in which to place their pickings. A step too far, perhaps?
There is also a category called ‘builders’. In the survey, 22% fell into that group. These careful consumers take extra time to construct the exact meal they want.
Whatever type you are, the aim is to get good value for your hard-earned sheckles.
If it’s enough to feed yourself and another person, then it’s tantamount to stealing. You’re depriving the hotel of the potential business of another person. But if the buffet is part of the accommodation deal, then you’ve paid for it.
You could argue that it’s entirely your own affair how much you eat. A case of carte blanche.
Just don’t take out the Ziploc bag. It will look mean and calculated.
Instead, place a few satsumas and muffins into your bag after breakfast without feeling the need to do a runner.
In other hotel advice, avoid raiding the mini-bar in your bedroom. You’ll pay dearly for it - in every sense.