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Mussels - What Is The Proper Eating Etiquette?

After reading the thread about double-dipping, it reminded me of how I get a bit flumoxed when I eat mussels (which I am new to-relatively speaking), which is usually with my DH who is equally as clueless.
I use the little fork, if given, and discard the shells into another bowl. So far, I'm good, but I've got a few questions for you CH'ers.
Do you eat them out of the serving bowl one at a time or do you transfer a couple to an app. plate? I've only been given plates, not little bowls, for sharing.
How do you avoid losing all the lovely liquor and sauce if you do transfer? (this one is really important!)
Does the mussel bowl become a communal (not double) dipping bowl with for the (hopefully) good bread?
Does anyone use the mussel shell as a utensil for eating?

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  1. I eat them out of the serving bowl, and sometimes use a shell as a spoon to drink the broth. And yes, the mussel bowl is communal. Don't have a problem with double-dipping if it's family, figure we all have the same germs. <g> But wouldn't dd if sharing with friends.

    4 Replies
    1. re: pasuga

      I wonder is it OK to dip a spoon and drink the broth as you eat? I have done this with family, but don't know if it's proper otherwise. Sometimes the broth is just too good!

      1. re: pasuga

        Is it rude or improper to remove all the mussels from the shells all at once? That way you have a delicious soup that is easy to eat an one can enjoy the broth with each spionful.

        1. If being shared, I always transfer to a small bowl. I do not like to eat one at a time, so usually, I will remove the mussels from the shells and place the discards in another communal bowl or butter dish is something is not provided. I'll spoon more broth or sauce into the bowl and forge ahead. If all the mussels have been taken from the serving bowl, I will dip directly into the bowl with the bread......but I will tear the bread first into bite size pieces.....with family, I would not hesitate to double dip.

          Does anyone use the mussel shell as a utensil for eating?

          My nephew does this, He takes a mussel, removes the top half of the shell and uses the sharp edge to slice the *muscle* from the lower half......a neat little trick.

          7 Replies
          1. re: fourunder

            I was a little apprehensive about this at firs,t but I use a whole mussel that has both halves still attached as a "pincher" to pull the meat out of the other mussels. Not sure if Emily Post would approve but it definitely works!

            1. re: Susan627

              I've gotten shell shards all over from using the shell in either way mentioned above, so now I stick to the little fork.

              1. re: Susan627

                I was told several times in Belgium that this is the correct way to eat mussels. I actually prefer to use a little fork, but I think your way is fine, too.

                1. re: Glencora

                  Indeed, using the shells as pincers is the correct way, at least as my dd was instructed at the age of 3, in Brussels. She is a mussels lover and orders them every chance that they are fresh. We were living in Europe when she started this love affair with this food, and first tried them in a mussels restaurant in Brussels. There was a fine gentleman at this restaurant (perhaps the owner, probably the manager) that had a blast teaching her how to eat them and watching her enjoy them. If there is actually enough to share (rare for us... we usually order our own), the broth is communal and there is no need to transfer to a plate or bowl, as with each bite you want a little of the broth and I like them piping hot. No worry about double-dipping if you are doing it properly.

                  1. re: gardencook

                    All the Belgian rrestaurants I've eaten in, in Flanders, have presented mussels in a serving bowl , with serving spoon (even if only one diner is eating them). You also get your own bowl to eat them from, together with fork and spoon.

              2. re: fourunder

                I never share mussels with anyone... solves the problem... use bread to soak up broth!

                1. re: betsydiver

                  That's my mom-in-law's strategy! She does use the little fork, plows through a mighty bowl full of mussels like Sherman through Georgia, and ends up with a big pile of shells and a dry bowl. And if anyone else wants a mussel he can order his own. That also makes her a pretty cheap date since the moules are typically an appetizer and she makes them her meal.

              3. If you are served one for your personal use, ask the server for a bowl. There you can place some mussels to eat, retain the wonderful broth and have only your dip into all gone goodness. And shoudl there be any juice left in the communal bowl, being fast will allow you to scoop some into your own bowl.

                I am lucky in that, most folks I dine with really don't "do" mussels, so that whole bowl is mine!
                Yes, I use a half shell to scoop,

                1. 1. Ask for your own bowl.
                  2. Ladle or spoon a couple or several mussels into own bowl, then pour some soup into own bowl.
                  3. Dip bread into soup in your own bowl.
                  4. I use the shell to scoop tidbits of food, e.g., rice.

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: nooyawka

                      will have to start asking for a bowl. It makes perfect sense, but I always get a plate which makes me scratch my head.

                    2. I've never really been to a place where there is a "communal" bowl, usually each gets its own bowl of mussels.


                      I eat them from the shell, and if some of them are loose, then they stay in the broth and I get to them at the end when I slurp all the juice from the bowl (no spoon needed!!! )

                      all is needed is a large amount of bread and butter!! and a good glass of Muscadet (or light beer)

                      1. Apply the same rules as fondue.

                        Do you people double dip your fondue bread? I would hope not. Why is double-dipping for mussels, family or not, any more acceptable than double-dipping chips? Do you drink milk out of the carton and put it back in the fridge ... or worse ... just leave it on the counter?

                        Just because people do this doesn't make it proper etiquette.

                        First of all, if sharing mussels tell the server you will be doing that so they can give you the plates needed. if not ask. Either the kitchen should divide the order into multiple bowls or provide a dish to put the mussels you will be eating plus a bowl for shell discards.

                        You are given a fork for a reason. Use it.

                        If God meant you to use the mussel shell, he wouldn't have inspired someone to create the seafood fork.

                        My own preferred method of fonduing ... and this would be applied if I had to share mussel broth ... is to dip the bread with the a separate fork. Use your dinner fork to slide the bread onto your plate, then to eat it . Some people feel it is acceptable to eat diretly from the fondue fork as long as your mouthal area doesn't touch the fork.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: rworange

                          "If God meant you to use the mussel shell, he wouldn't have inspired someone to create the seafood fork."

                          That argument is wrong in SO many ways!


                          1. re: Quine

                            Exactly ... but I don't see seafood fork in that link

                        2. In Europe it's pretty rare to see someone NOT using an empty shell, pincer-style, to extract more mussels.

                          They bring you a fork, but not many people use them.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: sunshine842

                            I've used this method but remember thinking "am I trying to be too cool for school?!" I wasn't that handy with it, but then again, I'm asking so I can be a bit more elegant/less awkward eating mussels.
                            As to the double dipping, I never do that outside of my DH and generally tear the bread into bite-sized pieces anyway. What I have learned is to ask for another bowl, because small plates are just not going to do the trick, and that's what I've usually been given.
                            I need to speak up and get all the accoutrement!

                            1. re: monavano

                              there's NOTHING elegant about eating steamed mussels served in the shell..the juice runs down your hands, drips down your chin...it' sort of designed for messy enjoyment.

                              You also don't usually have a community/table pot of mussels at any restaurant I know of, either -- they bring each diner their own pot of mussels...then you don't have to stab anybody with the fork to get them to leave you enough broth to dunk your bread into.... ;)

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                I don't know what your definition of *Community/Table Pot* means.....but there are many restaurants , both chain and independents, that offer mussels (as well as clams) in pots and large serving bowls......with a minimum of two dozen for wild mussels, or up to four dozen for the smaller Prince Edward Island cultivated mussels....most diners usually share these as appetizers....seen commonly in Latin and Italian Restaurants.....as well as a menu item in Belgian and French Bistros served with french fries...while the latter may or may not be served in a pot, they are most often shared.

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  I should have clarified that most times, DH and I split an order of mussels as an app, and I can't remember ever getting the order split for us, thus my quandary.

                                  1. re: monavano

                                    No, in France and Belgium it's a main plate, not an appetizer, thus each diner is served his/her own pot of mussels. (I've traveled a good percentage of France and Belgium and eaten a lot of mussels in both.)

                                    If they're served as an appetizer, they're usually on a plate as they're prepared differently.

                          2. I've never seen a communal bowl of mussels. The actual fun is eating the mussels then using an entire loaf of bread to consume the juice.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: beevod

                              I've never seen a communal bowl of mussels...

                              Here you go....Italian and Belgian



                              1. re: fourunder

                                Nobody said it doesn't exist...but it's definitely the exception and not the rule.

                            2. I've only ever been served mussels in one of two ways.

                              First (and most common) as individual portions in a bowl (occasionally a plate).

                              Second, in a serving bowl with spoon or ladle so you can transfer them to your own bowl.

                              Normal cutlery for mussels is a fork and spoon.

                              1. for my own personal etiquette, it depends on my surroundings
                                My husband and I have gotten a "full pot" of mussels at Monk's in Philadelphia and I'm more than happy to use one half shell as a utensil to scrape the mussel loose and then the dip the half shell with the loose mussel back into the pot for some broth and eat the meat and broth directly from the shell, toss the empties into the discard bowl provided... and ask for more bread because they just NEVER seem to give you enough bread to soak up that broth!
                                We share out of the pot and we double dip all we want, because we're married and what the hell, why not?

                                If we're in a nicer restaurant, and sharing, we will ask for separate bowls, serve a few from the main bowl onto our own, use a utensil to eat the mussel and dip only into our own bowls and either place empty shells into a discard bowl or off to the side of our own plate

                                Really it's way more fun to eat mussels at a bar like Monk's!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: cgarner

                                  Thank you cgarner & I couldn't agree more. In etiquette, common sense often prevails!

                                  1. re: cgarner

                                    Just came across this thread, and as I was reading it I began to think I was the only
                                    person who used the "straight from the shell" method! Don't know where I picked it up,
                                    but I'm sure someone showed it to me. Thanks for sharing it, cgarner.