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One of my best friends is a notoriously slow eater. Although she's always great company at dinner parties, she takes a forkful every five minutes if I'm lucky.

Most of the time she's still working on her appetizer 20 minutes after I'm ready to serve the main course. Even worse, she gets completely uppity if I start to clear other people's plates before she's done. What should I do?

You should probably start by chillaxing a little. It's a dinner party, friend-o, not a production line. And because you're probably wondering, no, there's no way to tell your pal to hurry up and eat without looking like a boor. What you can do when planning your meal is to consider how slowly she eats and adjust your timing accordingly.

And here's at least a little relief: While I expect that traditionalists will froth and rage at this – Three! Two! One! Go! – I don't have a problem with you clearing your other guests' plates if all but one of them have sat empty for more than 20 minutes. Just as your friend has a right to eat at whatever speed she wishes, everybody else should also be able to relax after finishing without staring for hours at the detritus of their meal.

Chris Nuttall-Smith is a food writer and restaurant columnist. Have an entertaining dilemma? E-mail