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Jul 9, 2009 10:22 AM

Am I a Slob?

In yesterday's Ask Amy column, a reader writing about European vs. American styles of handling a knife and fork stated "Particularly nasty are European eaters who smear mixed food on the backs of their forks."

I lived in Europe as a boy and quickly took to the European style of holding cutlery. I have always been very mindful of etiquette and my manners at the table. However, I have always pushed my peas on top of my mashed potatoes on the back of my fork. It has never occurred to me that this would be considered gross. Is this really a faux pas?

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  1. Not at all! I haven't lived in Europe, but have travelled there and I too took to the European style of eating. And, if I didn't put my peas on my mashed potatoes on the back of the fork... how would I eat them? Without the potatoes, they would just roll right off.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mollygirl

      A ditty from my childhood, taught by my father from Brooklyn:


      BTW> Please keep in mind that the shape of the traditional European knife blade was wider than the American and the end often rounded. It was traditional to push food onto the wide surface of theknife and bring it to the mouth.

      This dates to a time when many could not afford flatware services, but all had knives (for hunting, protection, etc.) The food was pushed ont the knife with a hunk of bread.

    2. Try reading How My Parents Learned to Eat By Ina R. Friedman. That's where I learned how to make and eat "birds in a nest".

      3 Replies
        1. re: viperlush

          see, if we were civilized like those in asia we would realize that nothing should be served that is too big to put in your mouth unless it can delicately be broken apart with your chopsitcks, and chopsticks can easily pick up peas, corn nibblets, and certainly potatoes with gravy. Knives, forks, spoons, these are cooking utensils and have no place on a table (ok, maybe a spoon for soup.)

        2. I eat the American way and dab my forkfull of mashed potatoes into veggies like peas and corn. I do not think it is sloppy.


          I think if you are mashing and smashing food with your fork into the plate and scooping it - that would be poor table manners.

          I guess also if that fork full of smashed bits started growing so large that you had to open wide to accommodate it... That might be frowned on.

          Plus peas are rolly. They have to be tamed.

          1. Doesn't anybody eat peas without mashed potatoes besides me? It's not that difficult, really!

            4 Replies
            1. re: BiscuitBoy

              IMO peas just don't taste right unless you got them mixed in with your mashed potatoes and gravy! Add some nibbletts and I'm in comfort food heaven.

              1. re: mollygirl

                Peas and corn, yes! Not being a mashed potato fan, I guess I've learned to adapt. This thread reminds me of the Sienfeld candy bar knife and fork episode

                1. re: BiscuitBoy

                  I love just peas. I never mixed with my mashed and certainly not gravy, Yuck for me. But love baby peas just about anyway made fresh.

                2. Wouldn't it work better with the front side of the fork?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: CrazyOne

                    No front side of the fork if you eat the European style with a knife and fork. My father used to tell us kids a story of how everyone could always tell the Americans by their needs to switch hands (with the forks) or turn the fork to have the tines bent up (aka front side of the fork) before bringing the food to their mouths.