Jenn Bouma can't recall the first time she noticed it.
In fact, what Bouma remembers noticing was that it happened every time. An Illinois native, Bouma was brought to Minnesota by "a dude and a Toyota Tercel" in the mid-2000s.
Before starting her current job with Dero Bike Racks, Bouma cycled through a few gigs as an office administrator for different downtown Minneapolis businesses, most recently for a "large dental insurance company."
At each place, the same phenomenon occurred. Someone would bring in doughnuts, or muffins, or some homemade confection for the office to share. They'd all try some. Some had seconds. And then the weirdest thing would happen.
Whichever employees still wanted some of the shared snack would start cutting it into smaller and smaller pieces. No one could stand to take the very last bite.
Inevitably, Bouma would find herself coming back to the pastry box at the end of the night, throwing away some pitiful remainder. Just last week, the very day City Pages wrote about a Reddit thread poking fun at this peculiarly Minnesotan phenomenon, Bouma got up from her desk and walked to the break room just to check out the scene.
"There it was," Bouma says.
A while back, as she sought to recover from this Minnesota culture shock, Bouma started posting photos of the tiny offerings her co-workers couldn't stand to finish off. Instantly, she learned she was not alone.
"I posted a couple pictures, like, 'What is this?'" Bouma says. "And people started calling it the 'Minnesota last bite.' A lot of us had noticed it as transplants. It's a legit phenomenon."
Indeed. Bouma and an expanding group of Facebook associates have continued to document these unfinished foodstuffs. Bouma and her friend Natalia Mendez are now curators of an ongoing anthropological study: "Cursed Last Bites of Minnesota," launched in August, already has dozens of members and leagues of submissions illustrating the statewide issue.
Bouma, for her part, says she loves her adopted state, but for the life of her doesn't understand what's wrong with us.
"I'm a Midwestern born-and-bred girl, so, you know, 'waste not want not,'" Bouma says. "I do get a little irritated by it. I'm a big eater, and I don't understand leaving just one little morsel behind."
She balances her instinctual annoyance with humor. If the "last bites" Facebook page has a mission statement, it is: "This is quaint as fuck, isn't it?"
In conversations with Minnesota natives, some have guessed that the hesitancy to take the last bite comes from a sense of Lutheran do-gooder-ism.
"Like, people aren’t even doing it on a conscious level," Bouma says. "They just want not to be the one that takes the last piece, because someone might be hungrier than me, someone who needs this."
If that person exists, he has yet to wander into Bouma's office at just the right moment to receive a quarter-doughnut's worth of charity.
Bouma rejects the more cynical conjecture, that people know whoever takes the last bite is on the hook for throwing something away and cleaning up. She's lived here long enough to think there's something more saintly at work. Silly? Sure. Saintly all the same.
"I've made Minnesota my home," Bouma says. "I guess not being from here, I can appreciate how awesome it is. I like to believe it’s because people are more interested in making sure people are taken care of."
(All photos courtesy "Cursed Last Bites of Minnesota" Facebook group. All passive aggressive behavior courtesy the good people of Minnesota.)