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The European way with a knife and fork


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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.

Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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I raised my American kids in Singapore and they've adopted the left-hand fork and right-hand large spoon style, and no one made fun of them at camp. For myself, I do the upside down fork with my left, and knife with my right---it just makes sense for me. Frankly, any efficient way to get food in your gullet should be acceptable, as long as it's not injurious to other diners at your table. :raz:

In everything satiety closely follows the greatest pleasures. -- Cicero

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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.

I was going to say that, but didn't want to get those looks again.

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I actually change the way I eat depending on what I'm eating. Sometimes I cut a piece at a time and utensils stay where they are. Sometimes I cut a few pieces at a time and I switch until the next cutting session. If I'm eating lasagne or something that doesn't require cutting, fork's in the right. Salad? Forget about it. Right always, period.

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The hands above the table comes from the French court where intrigues used to be carried out by passing notes under the table. It's not hard to see why the Catholics have a similar rule.

The back of the fork laid uppermost comes from France as well. The family crest was on the back of the silver.

When you have finished the course, put your untensils side by side on the plate. The plate should be retrieved from your right so angle them around to just above where the waiter's thumb will be; around five o'clock position.

When our oil rig went to the states it was priceless to see the good old boys gawping at our superhuman dexterity.

Children basically copy their parents at the table, they do not have to be taught.

One can also tell someone's class by the way they hold their knife. :wink:

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One can also tell someone's class by the way they hold their knife.  :wink:

And their fork as well...

Apparently same holds true for chopsticks.

Anyone know the reason for "elbows off the table"???

www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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Remember those wonderful scenes in Das Boot where that idealistic young Nazi dude who had been raised in Mexico would eat properly amid all these submariners sticking their faces into their plates and shoveling food into their mouths?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Just for another point of reference... I grew up in Boston, have lived or spent significant time in Texas, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Arizona, and now live in NYC. I have never switched my fork from my left to my right hand and furthermore can't think of anyone I know who does. No one ever gave me any crap about it when I was a kid and no one has ever commented on it now that I am an adult.

Camp is, of course, supposed to be a character-building experience. So, if you want to guarantee that your kids will be teased in summer camp, you can't really count on the knife and fork thing to do the trick. I suggest getting a permanent marker and writing your children's names on the waistbands of their underwear (it helps if the underwear is from Sears). That really did the trick for me back in the 70s anyway. :cool:

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Is there a single eGulleter who (assume formal/fine-dining situations only) does the fork-switching thing?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Remember those wonderful scenes in Das Boot where that idealistic young Nazi dude who had been raised in Mexico would eat properly amid all these submariners sticking their faces into their plates and shoveling food into their mouths?

That was a brilliant scene. I also liked the bit where the captain eats a fig for the first time in his life after weeks of scraping the mould of the U-boat food.

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I read some years ago in a British newspaper an explanation for the American habit of switching the fork to the right hand after cutting. In Europe up till about the 17th century people ate with 2 knives, cutting with the right hand while spearing bringing to the mouth with the left. Then someone started producing knives with a couple tines on the end to better hold onto the food. This gradually evolved into the fork. In the American colonies, there were no molds to make forks, but the colonists wanted to follow the new fashion of not using 2 knives, so they used the spoon to hold down the food. Thus they were forced to switch the spoon to the other hand to lift the food. By the time forks were available the habit was entrenched and Americans continued to switch over.

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I have never switched my fork from my left to my right hand and furthermore can't think of anyone I know who does. 

Then, Mr. Kinsey, it's only because you haven't noticed. We've eaten together countless times, and I always do the switch. :wub:

Living in Portugal, I really tried to train myself to keep the fork in my left hand after cutting, but it felt so unnatural that I always ended up switching back.

A Portuguese friend told me that when he was small, his mother was talking about table manners once, and said, with great derision, "if you want to eat the AMERICAN way, you do this...." and did the switch thing. Gonçalo said, "Of course I was enchanted!" and did it that way all the time (especially around his mother, to annoy her). And he still tends to eat that way as an adult.

Edited by Eric_Malson (log)

My restaurant blog: Mahlzeit!

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I have always kept my fork in my left hand and knife in my right. I am left handed. No one in my family does the switch over thing. In fact, I rarely see people doing that, and every time I do it seems very odd. I also keep my forearms/elbows on the table at all times. For demographic purposes in this little exercise, I am from NYC, born and raised.

-Eric

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Is there a single eGulleter who (assume formal/fine-dining situations only) does the fork-switching thing?

I just said I did.

You hadn't specified formal/fine-dining. There are plenty of people (most people?) who would eat however-works-best at home or in a diner but who would revert to a programmed pattern in a more formal environment.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Is there a single eGulleter who (assume formal/fine-dining situations only) does the fork-switching thing?

sometimes. a quite a few people i know do as well. i don't think this is an odd thing in the NYC area. i mean, it's odd that people do it, but it's not odd to come across.

i'm trying to break myself of the "habit", not because i'm afraid some might think i'm gauche, but rather because it's inefficient and often awkward. i simply have more control with my right hand for fork and knife maneuvers.

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This whole thread is making me feel like a Neanderthal. I do the switch. It's true that you eat the way your parents do - and I've never given it a moment's thought until now. I've never been taught how to place your knife and fork when you're done eating versus when you're not, etc. Basically, in my own little world, I've never been embarrassed - but there have been a few times I've been out to eat with the "city mice" (me being the country mouse) and I've often felt like there was a whole set of rules I didn't know and therefore, couldn't observe. I eat neatly and quietly, I'm always careful to be considerate of fellow diners, and I watch them out of the corner of my eye to see if they're doing anything I ought to be doing, but that doesn't seem to be enough in those situations. I'm always sure I'm missing some crucial thing that will brand me as a poor, uneducated redneck. Of course, it doesn't help that I'm quite meek anyway - it's in my nature to always assume I am the one doing things wrongly.

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I have never switched my fork from my left to my right hand and furthermore can't think of anyone I know who does. 

Then, Mr. Kinsey, it's only because you haven't noticed. We've eaten together countless times, and I always do the switch. :wub:

See... that must be why it always takes you two times longer to finish than everyone else at the table! You're eating inefficiently. :angry:

On the other hand, given that you can put away an alarming amount of food and still remain slender, maybe there's something to this hand-switching thing. :hmmm:

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