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The European way with a knife and fork


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#1 Bageless

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 02:31 PM

I've lived in Europe for 12 years and hold my knife and fork like they do here, always keeping fork in left hand. On a recent visit to the US the woman opposite me at a big dinner party kept staring at me, her eyes tracking my left hand as it brought the fork to my mouth. She looked kind of alarmed. Is eating that way considered rude there? I had a lot of contact with Europeans while growing up in America so don't remember thinking anything of it. My 2 kids eat that way too of course, and will be going to summer camp in the States for the first time this year. Will other campers think they're weird?

#2 elyse

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 02:34 PM

Everyone's weird compared to someone else. They'll eat how they feel comfortable. Or, I hope they will.

#3 Fat Guy

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 02:34 PM

European-style is considered appropriate in America by most etiquette authorities, and seems to be eclipsing the American style. As for your kids, appropriate behavior is always considered weird in summer camps.

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#4 maggiethecat

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 02:38 PM

Is eating that way considered rude there?

Your kids will be just fine. I grew up in Canada, fork firmly in left hand. I retrained my Amereican husband in very little time, and my American daughter has always eaten this way.

We've been call weird for many other things, but never for our table manners.

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#5 nerissa

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 03:05 PM

I just had a revelation that some people might think my table manners are wierd.

#6 mise en place

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 03:14 PM

I think American style is, if not wierd, quite inelegant, what with swapping the knife and fork back and forth between hands. Afterall, the fork is on the left. Even worse is holding the fork like a baseball bat with the tines pointing down while cutting. I've adopted a semi-European version of holding utensils. I hold the fork in my right and the knife in my left.

#7 Jim Dixon

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 03:21 PM

I hold the fork in my right and the knife in my left.


I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous.

I've recently been using a two-handed approach with desserts. Big spoon in right hand, wielded much like a knife, and fork in left. I use either to get the sweet stuff in my mouth depending on which seems more appropriate for any given bite.

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#8 mjc

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 03:51 PM

I tend to eat "european style". I think I started some time in grade school after my mom said something. Anyway, every year at thanksgiving I usually sit next to the same cousin, and every year he says to me, "are you left handed?" and I say no. So, maybe you're kids will be given a hard time, but its probably not too big a deal. Just thell them that they know better.
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#9 KNorthrup

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 04:09 PM

My mother taught me to keep my fork in my right hand and cut with the left even though it feels awkward. Most people I know do the switch back and forth thing. Then again, my mother is Canadian. And she had to admit several years back that I was actually born lefthanded and she kept moving things to my right hand 'because it just looked wrong' until the switch was permanent. By the time my brother came along, the pediatrician had persuaded her that that was really a bad idea and he turned out ambidextrous.

There's either a historical anecdote or urban legend, not sure which but probably the latter, that American spies in Nazi Germany were warned time and again to use the European method when eating their steaks in the cabarets or they would instantly give themselves away and be arrested and shot and no many how many times this was told to them, most of them would forget and switch hands and be arrested and shot.

#10 SobaAddict70

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 04:21 PM

I'm a southpaw, so I don't exactly have much of a choice. :blink:

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#11 fifi

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 04:36 PM

Since I started traveling more in Europe, I have adopted the European style because it just makes more sense. All of that swapping just seems silly. But... old habits die hard. I am in my schizophrenic phase right now. I catch myself doing the swap.

Tell your kids to say something like... "Oh, We were taught the European way." Said with an appropriate air of superiority and worldliness of course. :biggrin:
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#12 bloviatrix

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 09:02 PM

I'm a southpaw, so I don't exactly have much of a choice. :blink:

Soba

Same here. It never occurred to me that I ate "funny."
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#13 newguy

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 09:05 PM

I'm right handed and keep the fork in my left for some reason.

Tell your kids to eat with their hands in camp...

#14 bilrus

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 09:22 PM

Tell your kids to say something like... "Oh, We were taught the European way." Said with an appropriate air of superiority and worldliness of course.  :biggrin:

I don't know about that advice. That seems like giving another kid an excuse to beat your kids up.

You know - the ones in the family car with the bumper sticker that says "My kid could beat up your honor student".
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#15 Bux

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 09:30 PM

I eat with my fork in my left hand and my knife in my right hand. So does my wife, although I'm not sure she always did or started to after we traveled in Europe. At any rate we brought our daughter up to eat that way. I was not aware of any problems she had at camp or any other time. However, she did marry a Frenchman.

The odd thing is that I am a lefty, at least most of the time. I write with my left hand and I think that's what establishes one as a lefty. I play ball as a righty in any sport that matters -- baseball, tennis, etc. I have greater dexterity using my left hand, but greater strength with my right hand and thus sometimes I do things as a righty and other times as a lefty. Although I claim greater dexterity with my left hand, I am comfortable using a mouse with either hand and have switched back on forth when I've had wrist problems.

Back at the dining table, I've always traced the use of my left hand to hold a fork to my lefthandedness, but I have not been able to figure out why right handed people keep changing hands to cut the meat. No one ever gave me a hard time about the way I ate at camp, although I didn't know it was the european way at the time. I just thought it was the left handed way.
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#16 Fat Guy

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 10:05 PM

Even worse is holding the fork like a baseball bat with the tines pointing down while cutting.

I'm not following this description. Aren't the tines supposed to be pointed down? I thought only Middle European types ate with tines pointed up.

I've adopted a semi-European version of holding utensils. I hold the fork in my right and the knife in my left.


That would be considered correct nowhere! :laugh: :raz:

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#17 Mark Sommelier

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 10:26 PM

I went to school in Catholic Austria for a year. It is a sin to put your hand in your lap after you switch your fork over to the other hand. In Europe, hands are always on the table. The "American" way makes no sense. I work in a restaurant. I observe some incredibly bad table manners routinely.
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#18 Fat Guy

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 10:31 PM

The "American" way makes no sense.

Table manners are supposed to make sense?

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#19 jackal10

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 11:21 PM

On a related topic, do you lay the table with the fork tines/spoon bowl up or down?
If you lay with the tines or bowl up, do you have cutlery with the hallmark ( I assume it is, of course, solid silver) on the top surface?

Personally I think it vulgar to show the hallmark, but some advocate it.

#20 sandra

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 12:35 AM

Eating with both utensils in hand is also a South American custom - I was befuddled the first day I went to school in US and had lunch in the cafeteria - what was all this changing over about? And lunch monitors telling me to get my forearms off the table. Just inefficient I say, all that transferring of cutlery - also I have always wondered, what exactly are they doing with their hand on their lap while they are usingthe fork??


and jackal... stainless or silver, bowls of utensils always facing up, the family initials on the silver pieces are engraved on the front of the cutlery, not the back!
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#21 Chef Fowke

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 12:45 AM

The nicety about European cutlery etiquette is the placement of the cutlery between bites. The knife and fork placed to the left means you are finished with the plate/course. A fork and knife on either side of the plate mean you are going to continue eating after a short interlude into conversation, etc.
These visual signs make etiquette much easier for the server and other guest to recognize where the individual is at in the dining experience.
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#22 Chef Fowke

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 12:50 AM

also I have always wondered, what exactly are they doing with their hand on their lap while they are usingthe fork??

The French keep their hands above table; the British keep their hands on their laps. Ask a 100 Frenchmen what they think the Brit is doing below the table and you will be told the same thing every time! Those horny Brits...
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#23 Adam Balic

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 01:27 AM

I had not idea that Americans held there knife and fork in a different way! So how do you set you tables? And here I was thinking that settting a table with the desert spoon at 12 O'clock was vulgar.

What happens when you go to a higher end resturant? Surely, no all that fork and knife juggling?

#24 oraklet

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 01:52 AM

The knife and fork placed to the left means you are finished with the plate/course.

no, no, no!

to the right!!!
christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

#25 oraklet

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 01:56 AM

And here I was thinking that settting a table with the desert spoon at 12 O'clock was vulgar.

:blink: :wacko:
christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

#26 oraklet

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 02:02 AM

And here I was thinking that settting a table with the desert spoon at 12 O'clock was vulgar.

:blink: :wacko:
christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

#27 Chef Fowke

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 02:07 AM

The knife and fork placed to the left means you are finished with the plate/course.

no, no, no!

to the right!!!


Ooops, you are right...Its that British blood screwing me up (hairy palms and all!).

Edited by Chef Fowke, 27 June 2003 - 02:08 AM.

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#28 Varmint

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 02:12 AM

Y'all use utensils????
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#29 vengroff

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 02:22 AM

I'm also a lefty. The fork never leaves my left hand. On the ball field I throw left but bat right.
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#30 gsquared

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 03:27 AM

Is the habit of mixing food on the fork somehow tied into this? Down here we use the "European" style, but most people mix bits of the various food on the plate on the fork. I seem to remember that the fork swapping style goes with forking a piece at a time.
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