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The European way with a knife and fork


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I, too, have memories of fork to elbow child abuse. :laugh:

Sporks? What the f#%& is a runcible spoon?

From The Owl and the Pussycat

...So they sailed away

for a year and a day

to the land where the bong tree grows.

And there in the wood

a piggy wig stood

with a ring in the end of his nose.

His nose, his nose, his nose.

With a ring in the end of his nose.

"Dear pig, are you willing

to sell for a shilling

your ring?"

Said the piggy,

"I will."

So they took it away

and were married the next day

by the turkey who lives on the hill.

They dined on mince

and slices of quince

that they ate with a runcible spoon.

etc.

(I can recite this stupid poem and do it often and at high volume in public places to annoy my children.)

It's one of those serrated spoons you eat grapefruit halves with.

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First, I will state that I have read only the initial post/question; none of the responses. So maybe someone said this already:

Your children will be considered weird if they know how to eat properly AT ALL. If they know how to eat with a fork and knife, and drink from a real glass, not just holding a sandwich and a sucking through a straw. They will be considered weird if they eat all sorts of foods, not just whatever is advertised on the Saturday morning cartoons. They will be considered weird if they show any evidence of discipline, especially self-discipline.

Of course, they would not be considered weird by any of the children I know, because they too have been brought up properly. But I fear that they, and yours, are the tiniest minority of children in this country.

Oh dear, why am I so bitter this morning? :blink:

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The "American" way makes no sense.

Table manners are supposed to make sense?

Indeed, all manners are supposed to make sense of some sort. Most had some practical origin and it's enlightening when you find ettiquette experts who actually suggest a change in ettiquette so good manners actually make sense again.

It is of course almost always possible to find a socio-cultural-historical explanation for a given example of etiquette. That doesn't mean it makes sense from any sort of utility perspective beyond assuring predictability (a benefit that dosen't much depend on the content of a rule). In addition, there's a world of difference between table manners and social etiquette. Social etiquette tends to, or should tend to, serve the needs of society by assuring pleasant social interchange. Rudeness in that context is bad because it hurts people's feelings and sometimes worse. Table manners -- if by table manners we mean mechanical things like how clear plates, pour stuff, hold the fork and knife, etc. -- are for the most part status-indicators and little more. Yes, placing the cutlery a certain way to indicate you're done eating makes sense. But it doesn't really matter what that convention is: you could just as easily say the cutlery should be placed in a cup or whatever.

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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This whole thread is making me feel like a Neanderthal.  I do the switch.

To clarify, I see absolutely, positively nothing wrong with Americans utilizing American dining etiquette. The fork-switching method is totally correct. The European method is simply more convenient from a time-and-motion perspective and seems to be on the rise even in the most formal American circles. So I think it's legitimate for a well-mannered American, at this time, to choose either. (Although, some experts say, not both: "Both American and European styles are proper. The style you choose often reflects your environment. What is incorrect is alternating between styles during a meal. Stay consistent." -Bobbi Marten)

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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It is of course almost always possible to find a socio-cultural-historical explanation for a given example of etiquette. That doesn't mean it makes sense from any sort of utility perspective beyond assuring predictability (a benefit that dosen't much depend on the content of a rule). In addition, there's a world of difference between table manners and social etiquette. Social etiquette tends to, or should tend to, serve the needs of society by assuring pleasant social interchange. Rudeness in that context is bad because it hurts people's feelings and sometimes worse. Table manners -- if by table manners we mean mechanical things like how clear plates, pour stuff, hold the fork and knife, etc. -- are for the most part status-indicators and little more. Yes, placing the cutlery a certain way to indicate you're done eating makes sense. But it doesn't really matter what that convention is: you could just as easily say the cutlery should be placed in a cup or whatever.

Steven, I think you should give up going to law seminars for awhile.

Could this be translated as - It's okay to do anything within certain bounds and others should not make a big deal out of it? :smile:

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It's not rude to put your elbows on the table. At least I don't find it rude if you do. If you find my rude to put my elbows on the table, well that's just rude of you. :laugh:

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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It's not rude to put your elbows on the table.

Exactly. It is, however, improper from an etiquette perspective. The two are not the same.

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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The Companion Jabir (God be pleased with him) said:

“I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saying: ‘Do not eat with your left hand, because Satan eats and drinks with his left hand.’” (Reported by Muslim.)

I learned this little tidbit the last time I had dinner with my sister and her family.

I'm a fork switch-over person. My husband is right handed but, has always held his fork in his left hand.

Crystal

We like the mooooon........Coz it is close to us...........

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The Companion Jabir (God be pleased with him) said:

“I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saying: ‘Do not eat with your left hand, because Satan eats and drinks with his left hand.’” (Reported by Muslim.)

I'm afraid the reason Muslims won't eat with their left hand is far more prosaic. :hmmm:

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I've had waiters try to take my plate while I had fork in hand, and food on the tines.

Now that is astonishingly rude. And rather stupid of them. More than once??

I have twice experienced elderly Italian men (a waiter when it happened to me, a tourist at the next table when it happened to my dining companion) come over, forcibly remove fork from hand and demonstrate proper way of twirling spaghetti onto spoon. That, however, did not seem rude.

Edited by KNorthrup (log)
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Absolutely no excuse. and when they try to take HWOE's plate while I'm still eating (I'm also v-e-r-y s--l--o--w), I give the little look and finger-waggle to stop them. If that doesn't work, I have no compunction about telling them to stop. But actually that's a whole different issue -- one of the lack of proper training for FOH staff. Don't get me started. :angry::angry::laugh:

Where did I read that it's proper etiquette when a guest drinks his fingerbowl, the host must drink his also?

But yes, the host is supposed to make the guests comfortable, even if it means following their lead in eating the banana WITH the peel still on, or drinking from the fingerbowl. It is not for the host to judge and play the schoolmarm; the host should do everything to be gracious. A very Eastern philosophy. Wish we exercised it more in the West instead of being so judgmental and holier-than-thou (quite unwarrantedly).

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Absolutely no excuse.  and when they try to take HWOE's plate while I'm still eating (I'm also v-e-r-y  s--l--o--w), I give the little look and finger-waggle to stop them.  If that doesn't work, I have no compunction about telling them to stop.  But actually that's a whole different issue -- one of the lack of proper training for FOH staff.  Don't get me started.  :angry:  :angry:              :laugh:

I was going to bring this up, but didn't have the energy to get into a thing about it. :biggrin:

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I have twice experienced elderly Italian men (a waiter when it happened to me, a tourist at the next table when it happened to my dining companion) come over, forcibly remove fork from hand and demonstrate proper way of twirling spaghetti onto spoon.  That, however, did not seem rude.

This is especially interesting as I have never known a single Italian Italian to use this technique. Indeed, my mother tells a story of the exact opposite thing happening to her when she was living in Italy during the early 50s (i.e., one of the locals telling her that she should not be using a spoon).

--

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I have twice experienced elderly Italian men (a waiter when it happened to me, a tourist at the next table when it happened to my dining companion) come over, forcibly remove fork from hand and demonstrate proper way of twirling spaghetti onto spoon.  That, however, did not seem rude.

This is especially interesting as I have never known a single Italian Italian to use this technique. Indeed, my mother tells a story of the exact opposite thing happening to her when she was living in Italy during the early 50s (i.e., one of the locals telling her that she should not be using a spoon).

No they don't use the spoon.

They don't cook very well either, but that's the myth. :hmmm:

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I never saw them actually doing it themselves, no. But the first time -- when I was the target -- it was in a restaurant in Italy. It's maybe less painful to watch clumsy Americans/Canadians eating their pasta adequately with a spoon than incompetently with a fork.

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Painful is watching Austrians and Germans eating spaghetti with a knife and fork. :laugh:

Sipping from the finger bowl and eating the banana with the peel (yes we wash our bananas before we offer them to guests, just in case) to make a guest feel at home is, of course, a disservice to the guest, who's denised the opportunity to learn and almost ensured of embarrassing himself again. It's a shame our sense of etiquette isn't more helpful to others, but when was the last time any of us went up to a stranger and told him his fly was unzipped rather than let him go to that job interview, or meeting with his future mother-in-law that way.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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when was the last time any of us went up to a stranger and told him his fly was unzipped rather than let him go to that job interview, or meeting with his future mother-in-law that way.

I do that ALL the time. Only if it really IS unzipped. I also tell women when their skirt is tucked into their pantyhose or have lipstick on their teeth, or when anyone has something on their face or in their hair. Shirts buttoned unevenly too. Everyone has been very thankful to date.

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Just one more comment. I am a switcher. My mother was a stickler for "good table manners" and I have not recovered. But there is a logical reason for a nation or community of people to share the same method of eating: when eating at a crowded table. If the person next to you is eating with a different hand...you bump elbows, arms, etc. Have none of you ever encountered that at a banquet or elsewhere? My dad is left-handed but eats with his right hand. And in Europe, right-handers eat with their left hands. It makes sense to me that there should be conformity from a comfort standpoint. So I guess I am against the move to European table manners.

Lobster.

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