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Struggling to use a knife and fork

I recently met a friend for dinner at a local place that specializes in steak. While we were waiting for our meals to come, I had an opportunity to casually glance over at a group of young adults, from time to time. While they all appeared to be enjoying their meal out together, each one struggled, in a variety of ways to cut into their respective pieces of cooked meat. There were as many ways of using the knife and fork as their were diners at the table, stabbing....sawing, etc. Not one person seemed to try the sheer simplicity of using their pointer fingers on each hand, instead of multiple fingers on both hands or even a fist, for a knife and fork operation.

It certainly reminded me of my own awful multiple finger fumbledly-ness when using chopsticks.( I need a personal tutor to sit beside me to show me the simple basics, too!)

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  1. Your post confuses me a little. Just for clarification, did the group seem to be from a foreign country, possibly one that may not use "modern silverware" as Americans may define it?

    (Yes, I am attempting to be as culturally sensitive as possible for a long-haired southern boy)

    4 Replies
    1. re: PotatoHouse

      They appeared to be a group of American friends out for dinner. I do understand your wanting to be culturally sensitive, tho. I try to be as well. My chopstick attempts when eating at an Asian restaurant are embarrassing. Usually I end up asking, sheepishly, for a fork.

      1. re: Kamanda1953

        I was lucky enough as a Navy kid to live in areas with heavy Asian influence so I learned to to use chopsticks around the same age as most Asian kids do.

        1. re: Kamanda1953

          The only time I ate with chopsticks comfortably was in JFK, with a delayed plane, eating eri-bento (thanks grandcentral!). Of course, the bowl was about three inches from my mouth, as I inhaled the food. The WVians thought our food, while strange, looked a lot better than anything available in the terminal

          1. re: Chowrin

            oh I'd comment, but a WV joke is just too easy. and tired. but it probably didn't only look better than anything found at JFK (Grand Central really DOES have good choices doesn't it?)

      2. maybe they'd only had burgers (or equivalent) and spoonable food all their lives and just didn't know better. sad but it happens.

        5 Replies
        1. re: hill food

          Good point! A bit sad, perhaps, that no one demonstrated any simpler way.....just in case they ever were to be served something other than finger food, sandwiches, or soup, etc.

          1. re: Kamanda1953

            A large portion of the current teens and twenties struggles to deal with chicken that has bones in it!

            1. re: sandylc

              That's sad...and both depressing and disturbing.

              1. re: sandylc

                But, if I may interject - just because one might observe a person enjoying a portion of spicy Chicken wings ( or something like that), using hands to do so, does not imply that person isn't capable of eating that same Chicken with knife and fork. It just depends on the place and time....

                1. re: RUK

                  We're talking things like roasted chicken vs. nuggets and boneless, skinless breasts, here.

          2. Sad to say, most young folks I see out and about these days appear never to have been taught how to hold either eating utensils or writing implements. The usual method seems to be some kind of three-fingered semi-fist for pens, and thumbs-forward full fists for forks and knives. The only explanations I can think of are that either the parents themselves had not been taught properly, or that these kids never had regular meals around a family table at which good table manners were taught and expected. It may well be a combination of both those things. A shame and a pity.

            13 Replies
            1. re: Will Owen

              On the writing, Will, kids don't do much. There is a trend among schools not to teach cursive anymore because it is felt there is no need for it. Keyboarding is taught in the lower grades, however. (Unless that has changed since my youngest was in school.) But gone are the exercises making slanted ovals and different strokes. I am old enough that I remember being exposed to ink and a fountain pen, and making a mess. I never understood why I needed to learn to write with a fountain pen, and I was right. I have never needed to have that skill. Kids don't need to learn to write the way we did, so they don't. They enter everything. Handwriting will be an arcane skill in 20 years, much as the practice of copperplate or calligraphy has become.

              I posted above about table manners. I think everything is in flux. By the time my grandchildren are old enough to notice, they will think my table manners exotic, and my writing incredibly strange.

              1. re: Will Owen

                Now I am really curious about the "why" behind the struggle to cut food on a plate with a knife and fork. Everyone has made such good points. I do agree that part of it is generational, certain simple life skills not being taught/valued any longer. (One of my friends is a middle school librarian and she has regaled me with stories of HOW her 6th graders come to her, uh... "holding" pens/pencils, in her after school note taking class.)

                1. re: Will Owen

                  Just curious, Will; what is the "proper" way to hold utensils?

                  1. re: mucho gordo

                    Thumb, forefinger, index finger - same way you hold a pencil or pen, only with the thumb farther back - this is for lifting a spoon or fork. For piercing or cutting the hand is rotated counterclockwise (and the left rotated clockwise) with the thumb and index finger doing the guiding. When you're preparing food and cutting with a cooking knife, leading the blade with the index finger on top gives much more control and accuracy than just wrapping your fist around the handle.

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      That's what I thought and what I was taught. I was told that it was the elegant, mannerly way to eat and showed good breeding; never mind that it is rather awkward. Now that physical limitations forces me to grip the fork in my fist, lest my shaking hand splashes the food all over, am I to be considered boorish and unmannerly?
                      I have to wonder whom, and by what authority, was the 'proper' method established?

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        Not to get too sidetracked, but I find that the pinch method for holding a cooking knife gives much more control than the index finger on top of the blade.

                        Three fingers wrapped around the handle and pinch with forefinger and thumb at base of knife. I find it less fatiguing too.

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          Hmmm... how DO I hold utensils? When you do something every day forever you don't even think about it, you just do it. Got to fetch some out of the drawer and see.

                          I am Australian and used to eating with knife and fork simultaneously. Picking up and putting down the knife all the time is strange. If I need to use a knife, I'll use both together, if it doesn't need a knife, I'll just use a fork and won't even get a knife dirty.

                          Knife for spreading - fist, because you're dipping it vertically into a jar of something.
                          Fork for scooping - tines facing up, fork held between thumb and forefinger with your forefinger curled underneath for support.
                          Knife and fork together - fork in the three fingers with your first finger extended for better control, tines down for poking food. Knife halfway in between fist and three fingers, first finger extended but other fingers on the butt of the knife so you can press downwards for cutting, and the end of the knife is pressed against your palm.
                          Spoon - like scooping fork, a fist is unwieldy unless you are trying to exert maximum force on frozen icecream!
                          Teaspoon - held between thumb and first finger with second finger underneath the blade. Hold it right down at the END of the spoon with the butt of the teaspoon resting between your thumb and finger.

                          1. re: Kajikit

                            Is the handle hidden in the palm of your hand, or exposed (as if holding a pen)?

                            Is the fork handle wide (at the end) or tapered? (in other words, does the balance affect how it is used)

                            I've also noticed that my grip changes depending on the angle. Scooping food off a plate calls for a different grip than spooning it out of a deep bowl or cup.

                            1. re: Kajikit

                              You know, I just thought of a something new for this thread. One of the objections to the way we use a knife and fork in the States is that we "clatter" around putting the knife down and switching hands with the fork. This begs the question: Is it polite to eat all of your meat at once, then put down your knife to eat the rest of the offerings on your plate? I was raised that this was a somewhat childish thing to do and somewhat frowned upon. So, if one doesn't put down their knife in order to avoid this terrible "clatter" (I like to think I can put my knife down mostly noiselessly), this person must be doing one of two things: Eating their entire piece of meat before moving on to their side dishes, or stacking the side dishes up the back of their fork on top of their bite of meat. Both of these things were taught to me as impolite and somewhat crude and childish.

                              Now, before the attacks come, I didn't say that this is my current opinion, I said that this is what was taught to me as being mannerly. I do feel that this has been a pretty one-sided conversation with an underecurrent of: "Crude Americans, sophisticated Europeans". I would like to offer that perhaps neither method is more sophisticated than the other and that both methods have long histories as well as good points and bad ones.

                              1. re: sandylc

                                I was taught that the switching hands and putting the knife down and picking it back up all through the meal is rude because of the clattering of the utensils against the plate (no matter how quietly you do it, it's not soundless). When you have a whole table full of people, it can get loud. It was all a part of eating quietly so our conversation wouldn't have to be too loud, either. The solution was not to do something like eat all of your meat at one time, but to eat using the Continental style. The knife has a use for more than meat, though, because it can be used as a "pusher" to get food onto your fork.

                                In my experience, knowing how to hold and use your utensils delicately without making a lot of noise and mess is just one indicator that other table manners are known. (Not mutually exclusive, just an indicator that may or may not be accurate.)

                                1. re: velochic

                                  How does one take a drink of water while eating one's meat? Dear lord, I'd choke to death! I believe it's barbarian to try to chew all of your meat without taking the time to drink a bit of water. Unless you have a third arm, you must put *something* down, right? Do YOU make "clattering" when YOU do?
                                  BTW, all the talk of this "clattering" ( and zig-zagging) is ridiculous. Folks everywhere can pick up utensils and put them down without excessive noise. To think that American style is louder is laughable. And if there is a bit of noise when utensil meets plate, how does this offend one's sensiblitilies?
                                  Tis' much ado about nothing, if you ask me. A red herring, if you will.

                        2. re: Will Owen

                          I have not yet recovered from reading a while-ago CH post about a young person preferring to eat salad with the fingers so each bit of lettuce, tomato, celery, or whatever could be hand-dipped into the salad dressing. And this was in restaurants.

                          1. re: Querencia

                            Q: I guess you never read Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar" a top editor or something at her job ate his that way with such aplomb and confidence it seemed natural.

                        3. I don't know that I have noticed younger people struggling too much with knives and forks. I do notice more younger people using the continental method of holding the fork in one hand and the knife in the other as they eat. However I have noticed people grasping their spoons or forks in their fists, rather than in the typical accepted way. Just a few days ago I noticed a grown man forking up salad this way. I always wonder if these people (usually men) eat this way among business associates. A while back I noticed a guy eating this way, but holding his plate or bowl in the crook of his elbow as if he needed to safeguard his food. I'm sure there is a backstory there.

                          36 Replies
                          1. re: sueatmo

                            ok 1: Sue ya antiquated freak! (kidding) personally I don't care about handwriting, but I sorta feel we can't eat with an OCR tablet and stylus.

                            2. I had a co-worker originally from Eastern Europe whose parents were in the diplomatic core and you'd think he would be a bit more fluid but just could. not. get. the hang of either method (American vs. European). it was painful watching him eat precarious bits balanced on a ham-handed upside down fork, it just made me nervous.

                            3. I would love to learn the back story of the plate in arm technique - on face value that's some serious hoarding issue.

                            4. I'm not commenting about what's 'proper' it just looks so awkward and difficult to hold the utensil that way.

                            1. re: hill food

                              "Sue ya antiquated freak!" That is probably an accurate description. :-)

                              While I'm remembering crazy things I've seen people do in restaurants, there is this: a guy in a food line took the fork, knife and spoon and placed them in his shirt pocket before paying for his chosen viands. Can't imagine the thought process there.

                              OK, so how does an Eastern European eat food with fork and knife? Surely there is an accepted method which would be understood by anyone who was eating with him or her. Why would he feel the need to switch methods?

                              On the writing issue, left handed people often "hook" their hands around to write from the top of the letters, so to speak. Perhaps some people are offended by this, but really it is a known phenomenon.

                              And does anyone use a stylus anymore? I've noticed my kids don't.

                              1. re: sueatmo

                                the EE guy used the clenched-in-fist hold, clumsy and not considered smooth in any culture.

                                I always do the cutlery in shirt or jacket pocket thing, keeps your hands free and you don't to balance them on your plate, sliding into the food. that's my thought process.

                                lefties do that so the ink doesn't smear as the hand trails the writing.

                            2. re: sueatmo

                              Sorry Sue, but this "typical accepted way" of holding utensils smacks of pure elitism. What, exactly, is wrong with grasping the fork with the fist for better control and leverage?

                              1. re: mucho gordo

                                I think that etiquette is definitely not elitism. Etiquette means I understand physical limitations and make people comfortable in my presence. Elitism means, refusing to been seen with a person, a group and feeling superior. Huge difference. Etiquette provides guidelines to build social connections, elitism is to build a wall to prevent social connections.

                                I think this thread is about etiquette.

                                1. re: Quine

                                  Elitism is an attitude. Etiquette is a set of rules, written or not, that define accepted behavior or the norms of a society, group or class. Often those rules are used to distinguish one social class from another. The word itself comes the French, meaning 'tag or label'.

                                  Yes, I accept the argument that part of good/nice/polite etiquette (as opposed to elitist etiquette) is recognizing that some people do not have the motor control to use the fork in the 'typical accepted way', but it expects everyone else to follow the rules. If they don't follow the rules they are considered to be poorly trained, uncouth, clumsy. To call them 'lower class' isn't polite, but I think the attitude is still there. You worry about such people not fitting in with business associates - that's a social class.

                                  1. re: Quine

                                    If, as you say, etiquette means understanding physical limitations, etc., then why is it considered unmannerly to grasp fork with fist? What does how one holds the fork have to do with etiquette? Who determined what is "correct"?

                                    1. re: mucho gordo

                                      Grasping the fork with a fist is child-like and crude. I know that's harsh, but there it is...

                                      1. re: monavano

                                        It is not harsh, the use of "tripod grip" is actually a child development sign. I was afraid people would try to make this a flame war.

                                        1. re: Quine

                                          Exactly. Motor skills develop, so should etiquette.

                                        2. re: monavano

                                          Do you agree with that narrow-minded, elitist view? If so, please don't invite me to dinner.

                                          1. re: mucho gordo

                                            I'm not sure what you mean. Do I agree with it? I wrote it. I'd be embarrassed to be seen in a restaurant with someone forking food with a fist. It's infantile and unrefined.
                                            Again, harsh, but there it is.
                                            About dinner, no problemo!

                                            1. re: monavano

                                              I know you wrote it but, it came across as a generalization not a personal viewpoint.
                                              What if I have a neuromuscular condition that requires I hold the fork in a fist for control? If I don't talk with a mouthful and chew quietly, can I sit at the table with you?
                                              Along the same lines, if I hold a wine glass without my 'pinky' finger extended and curled, I am unrefined, inelegant and uncouth.

                                              1. re: mucho gordo

                                                Pinky out! I tick off my brother in law when I hold a glass of white wine by the glass and not the stem. So many issues.

                                              2. re: monavano

                                                Well this post sure hit a nerve. I have been with someone who had ALS, and had to have her food fed to her. She was sensitive about it, but I think it was good for her to be out of the house with her friends. I almost felt as if we all erected a force field around her. I was not embarrassed. Were we noticed? I think we were. Who cares. If you are eating with a friend who hasn't been taught table manners, or who has a physical difficulty, you overlook or choose not to care about the other stuff, because she is your friend. Because you chose to eat with her. Because you are a human being who extends understanding to another human being. Now, I do agree that decent table manners help your image, and as Miss Manners has said, they are "a gift you give yourself." But how about extending a little grace to others?

                                                1. re: sueatmo

                                                  Ugh.... as a Physical Therapist, I get it. But bad manners are bad manners. How did you not get that? Please, read my former posts....

                                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                                    My mother had Parkinson's and eating could get quite crazy with her. The fact that she had difficulty does not give other people a free pass on eating without any consideration of the people around them. No one ever gave more than a passing glance at my mom because she was old and disabled, but I expect more consideration of those, who has someone else has pointed out, can text with absolutely no problem--my mom couldn't even use a regular phone!

                                              3. re: monavano

                                                People will understand fist-gripping if the gripper is three years old or elderly and arthritic but given that he is a functioning adult in his active years he will be judged as...not quite the right fellow for the promotion. Is this elitist, Gordo? Perhaps, but it's a social reality and a workplace reality. If the boss invites you to lunch and you handle yourself at the table like a young child, he/she will take note of this. Again (vd your posts) if you have a neuromuscular condition, people will understand. Otherwise, show off at your peril.

                                                1. re: Querencia

                                                  I thought bosses evaluated staff by their ipad and social networking skills, not their fork and knife skills! :) Though I suppose that depends on the business.

                                                  However in the context of this thread, none of us is doing an employee evaluation of the dinners at the next table. In all likelihood we don't even have evaluate whether to invite them to our next soiree, or worry whether they might break our Royal Doulton with hand-painted periwinkles.

                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                    Would table manners stop a promotion for an otherwise stellar employee?

                                                    No.

                                                    Would that employee quietly be sent to etiquette school to improve boorish table manners?

                                                    Yes. Happens all the time -- I know a couple of guys who were sent to etiquette coaches, and a few more folks who hired etiquette coaches for their employees.

                                                    It's called being an adult with some measure of grace and social bearing, and it's not elitism -- proper manners are free. (being taught manners because your parents/guardians didn't get the job done, not so much)

                                                    If someone is physically unable to handle their silverware, that's an entirely different issue -- but I think we can all agree that those folks are a statistical minority as compared to the folks who either were never taught or just don't give a rat's red rump. If you're texting during dinner, you lose any free pass for physical impairment.

                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                      "Would table manners stop a promotion for an otherwise stellar employee?

                                                      No."

                                                      While I do agree, more places are adding etiquette seminars and such, many still look at what is already in place. My last job, was with a large telecommunications company, all customer contact was over the phone ( anyone who has ever spoken to a customer service rep, already knows the value of spoken etiquette there) but many of the positions in Marketing, training, and vendor relationships required working directly with people, as well travel to sites around the world.. Social skills mattered. People who did not handle themselves well at company events somehow did not manage to move into those departments.

                                                      1. re: Quine

                                                        Absopositivelutely, Quine -- I have a dear friend who makes her living in intercultural training -- she's told me nightmarish stories of mergers and acquisitions made nearly intolerable by cultural misfires.

                                                        And yes, table manners across cultures is part of what she teaches.

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          Wow, I would love to hear her stories and see her work. Sounds like a dream job to me.

                                                          1. re: Quine

                                                            she's likened a lot of it to being the playground attendant at an elementary school!

                                                    2. re: paulj

                                                      "Mrs. Bucket, I'm sorry." Elizabeth

                                                    3. re: Querencia

                                                      +1. DH got his MBA and had formal instruction in eating etc. It gets noticed and reflects on the individual. The judgements though harsh (like me!) are a reality.

                                                  2. re: mucho gordo

                                                    It's sort of two separate issues at hand here. I don't personally care how my dining companions hold their fork, and I don't think etiquette is some big factor here. But if I saw someone holding a fork that way, I would assume they don't have great fine motor control.

                                                    Likewise, if I went golfing with someone and saw that they hold the club deep in their fists like it was a baseball bat, I wouldn't call it a moral failing on their part. But I would assume they're probably not too good at golf.

                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                      I would not default to poor motor skills, I'd assume it was habit. Poor motor control of that magnitude would manifest in other ways as well. Cerebral Palsy? Sure, I understand. RA, sure, I get it. But in the face of no corroborating evidence, I'd just feel badly for the fister.
                                                      Hell's Bells, when I fractured my dominant right wrist some years ago, you better believe I ate with my left hand properly. It didn't come naturally, but it didn't take me long to master it.

                                                2. re: mucho gordo

                                                  So if most people eat in a typical accepted way, and someone else doesn't, and others notice the difference, their noticing is elitism? I disagree. Noticing is not judging.

                                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                                    Noticing isn't, but thinking 'what are these kids being taught?' might be.

                                                  2. re: mucho gordo

                                                    if your physical situation requires you to hold it that way - you get a bus pass and it's cool. for people without a neuro-muscular condition, holding them that way reduces control and leverage. when it comes to usage of cutlery the terms correct, proper and etiquette are immaterial IMHO ("did you see at brunch? Monica used her asparagus tongs to retrieve the pickled okra from her bloody mary!"), it's more about expediency, efficiency and awkwardness. now if one chews with mouth open and loudly belches while digging a finger in one ear, well that's a whole 'nother barrel of monkeys.

                                                    1. re: mucho gordo

                                                      "for better control and leverage..."

                                                      The fist method feels more clumsy to me.

                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                        well, yeah but you, I presume, are fully abled, mucho needs to employ that method for control - and in that case it's POK by me.

                                                        1. re: hill food

                                                          If a person is disabled, then THAT'S a whole 'nother thing! Clearly others can't expect someone who is disabled to strictly follow social rules that they aren't able to manage.

                                                    2. re: sueatmo

                                                      What do you mean by 'in their fists'? Just that the handle is hidden in the palm, or that they are not controlling the utensil with their thumb and forefinger tips? How about finding an image on the web 'the typical accepted way', and of one or more ways that are not accepted?

                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        http://tjsullivan.com/t-j-s-10-table-...

                                                        http://fabulousfete.files.wordpress.c...

                                                        http://www.amillionlives.net/wp-conte...

                                                        http://www.professionalimagedress.com...

                                                        (used google search - images for " table etiquette " and " table utensil etiquette "

                                                        Edited to add space before each link per paulj's suggestion.

                                                    3. We had a 10 year old for a year 5 years ago (he is now 15 and I'm his guardian but that's another story) and I would take he and his friends out for lunch. The two brothers would hold their knives and forks in their fists and couldn't really cut their meat. I had asked their Dad (single Father) whether I could correct their manners on occasion so I taught them how to hold their knives and forks, etc. The Dad just never noticed, I guess not sure as it would have been rude to say WTF???

                                                      1. I think it's a combination:

                                                        -- more and more 'finger food' from a young age that doesn't need utensils at all
                                                        -- more and more meals eaten by themselves because mom and dad are still at work
                                                        -- the move toward plastic utensils-- if any utensils at all -- at school

                                                        It's a shame...good table manners are one of those things that are notice by their absence far more than their presence.

                                                        We always taught our kiddo table manners, but we were stunned at how much better they became after we moved to Europe where school meals are served on actual plates with real silverware.

                                                        14 Replies
                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          I think these are excellent points.

                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                            I had not thought about about the type of utensils that students are offered to use at schools these days, thanks, sunshine. In my local public schools, the elementary students have but one choice to eat their lunch, the all-purpose(??) spork....

                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                              I haven't noticed young adults struggling any more with forks and table knives than anyone else does. This isn't some lost art. It's basic fine motor control.

                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                hmm, reminds me of being in Paris and eating steak with Parisian friends. The silverware was so heavy that I had a hard time with it, despite being accustomed to the continental way of eating and being brought up in a family that would often (though not consistently) enforce proper table etiquette.

                                                                1. re: fara

                                                                  I had a post deleted from this thread about the weight of cutlery - I shall restate the main point (though maybe heavy cutlery is a sensitive subject? Are forks sensitive about their weight?).
                                                                  I was raised in a British/American household in the UK. We had 2 sets of cutlery - an American set and an English set. My brother grew up eating 'Euro' using the British cutlery - I preferred the American cutlery and way of eating. The English forks were completely out of balance when eating in a US style.
                                                                  Why I emulated my mother I have no idea - she sat next to me at the table so I could not have been watching her eating to copy her.

                                                                  1. re: Peg

                                                                    Interesting observations. Though we travel to the UK several times a year, and over the last few decades, I had never noticed any difference in the weight of the cutlery, but might just have missed it. I will take strong notice next week, as we are back. We will be dining at several London eateries, and one is a UK-influenced restaurant, so maybe they will use different cutlery - just did not notice that, on two previous visits.

                                                                    Thanks for your perspective, and it gives me something to think about.

                                                                    Hunt

                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                      UK cutlery has got lighter in the intervening, um, several years - especialy at the cheaper end when it can even appear to be hollow.
                                                                      As I don't eat meat I rarely use a knife these days (so I eat with the fork in my right hand and my left hand in my lap) - so the cutlery difference may be a thing of the past.

                                                                      1. re: Peg

                                                                        Thank you.

                                                                        I can only comment on the "commercial/restaurant" cutlery in the UK, and then only for the last 18 - 20 years. For me, I have not noticed any real difference (oh, there could be 0.25oz here, or 0.3 oz there), but have never really paid much attention.

                                                                        Next week, however, I WILL take notice. We are booked at one Gordon Ramsay, one Alain Ducasse, and three other UK (I think all are Mayfair, or close) restaurants. The weight will be something that I explore, thanks to this thread.

                                                                        Appreciated,

                                                                        Hunt

                                                                2. re: sunshine842

                                                                  You might have something there - you can NOT cut and poke with a plastic knife and fork correctly and hope to achieve anything except to break them. The tines and blade just aren't strong enough. All you can really do with plastic utensils (except the really expensive ones, which they DON'T give you in an institutional setting) is to scoop and push, and you can do that perfectly well in a fist. That's why the spork was so popular for a time. Somebody who uses plastic a lot might not even know that there IS a difference.

                                                                  1. re: Kajikit

                                                                    'Early 19th century
                                                                    The use of forks has become popular in the United States. They are sometimes called "split spoons."'
                                                                    http://www.cuisinenet.com/glossary/ut...

                                                                    According to this
                                                                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spork
                                                                    sporks date back to the 19thc, well be the use of plastics.

                                                                    Some of the finest sporks come from Japan
                                                                    http://www.snowpeak.com/tableware/cut...
                                                                    made from titanium, and marketed to backpackers.
                                                                    I'm partial to this Swedish version
                                                                    http://www.rei.com/product/784705/lig...

                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                      I like the style of the titanium but think the spork design childish. Now I do own and like to use a Knork. My mother discovered this when she was having wrist issues. Nice piece to have, and it is very effective.

                                                                      http://www.knork.net/

                                                                      1. re: Quine

                                                                        So what IS is? The site provides no information at all, just a bunch of pictures and a 'buy this' link. It looks like a fancy cake fork sized for eating your main course? If so, it has the age-old problem of being totally useless to a left-hander because the 'knife' part is on the wrong side.

                                                                        1. re: Kajikit

                                                                          "A knork (pronounced /ˈnɔrk/) is a hybrid form of cutlery which combines the cutting capability of a knife and the spearing capability of a fork into a single utensil. The word knork is a portmanteau of knife and fork. Typically, one or both of the outer edges of a fork-like utensil are sharpened to allow the user to cut their food.
                                                                          An advantage of the knork is that it can be used easily by people who have only one arm; Roald Dahl reports in Boy how his father invented a knork precursor as a result of losing his arm. Indeed a knork may also be known as a Nelson fork, after Horatio Nelson who used this type of cutlery after losing his right arm in 1797.[1]
                                                                          One page in the 9th chapter of the Codex Seraphinianus shows a knork-like utensil.[2] Several patents have been issued for designs of knorks, such as #RE9687 issued to Arthur W. Cox in 1881,[3] #1294031 issued to Henry J. Bigelow in 1919,[4] and #2185942 issued to Charles Frank in 1940.[5]

                                                                          It allow a one handed or q person with an injury to a hand, use the fork to both cut and eat with one fork. Well balanced and solid.

                                                                3. Here is an interesting article

                                                                  http://artofmanliness.com/2010/03/26/...

                                                                  I think what you noticed will be increasing. Young folks with be fast and mightily skilled in thumb texting on a phone or tablet and all fist and shovel at the table.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Quine

                                                                    Quine, you raise the most interesting point in this thread: these kids who text non-stop show great manual and digital dexterity, so if they can't or won't handle a knife and fork properly, something else is going on. Reminds me of 40 years ago when the argument was made that women couldn't be surgeons because they lacked the manual dexterity, then somebody pointed out that crocheting, knitting, and tatting all require plenty of that and that women were working on factory production lines wiring the insides of telephones.

                                                                    1. re: Querencia

                                                                      *ah,,,,,,* Understood!

                                                                      Yes.

                                                                      OMG haven't heard a tatting reference in years! Wanna also mention lace-making?

                                                                      1. re: Querencia

                                                                        "something else is going on"....... Probably that no one ever demonstrated the correct method, but even if they WERE shown how to use utensils, it takes practice. They weren't keyboard speed-demons at first, either. I am extremely fast with a crochet hook, and can make a granny-square without once looking at the yarn, but that's after years of working in yarn. Everything non-autonomic takes practice.

                                                                    2. I had two 20 something men for Xmas dinner which was prime rib. They both cut up all their meat into cubes before they started eating.

                                                                      22 Replies
                                                                      1. re: escondido123

                                                                        I have a 10 year old nephew, and my sister still cuts his meat for him in the kitchen before bringing the plate to the table. At restaurants she will take his plate away, cut up the meat, and give it back. Nephew is starting to get annoyed and feel self conscious about it, but sis just doesn't trust him with a knife. He has pretty good table manners otherwise, but I do worry that he isn't going to learn how to handle real cutlery or the manners of cutting meat as you go.

                                                                        1. re: mpjmph

                                                                          What does your sister think her son will do with the knife? Harm himself? Others?

                                                                          I really believe that kids need to *practice* to become proficient, whether sports, knife skills, laundry, other household chores, or driving. Otherwise you end up with young adults who are totally clueless regarding relatively simple life skills. My almost-10 year old uses a chefs knife, with supervision, when he is assisting with dinner prep.

                                                                          1. re: tcamp

                                                                            I recently was sitting at a table with a teenage boy who stabbed his piece of meat with his fork, lifted it to his mouth, chewed on it for awhile and put it back down. In this delightful manner, he ate his steak.

                                                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                                                There are so many people out there who wonder why they don't ever get a second date.

                                                                              2. re: tcamp

                                                                                I agree with allowing a kid to lean how to use a steak knife or chef's knife. Where better to learn than in mom's kitchen?

                                                                                1. re: tcamp

                                                                                  Yes, she thinks he is going to hurt himself, make a mess, or both. There are a lot of other issues as well... He also does not/cannot drink out of a proper glass without a straw. I keep a mental list of things to do differently when I have kids.

                                                                                  1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                    Good! My beautiful DIL has my grandchild, aged 3, stand with her in the kitchen and "pare" vegetables with a sort of dullish knife. She did this because she had no peace when he was loose in the house, and now he enjoys "helping." She gets him to taste things that way too. And he hasn't hurt himself.

                                                                                    You will be a good chowish mom.

                                                                                      1. re: lemons

                                                                                        Well, I'm blessed with most excellent DILs.

                                                                                    1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                      Sad. Sis needs an intervention.

                                                                                    2. re: tcamp

                                                                                      One food that I clearly remember my mom cutting up SO completely for me, before the age of 7, or so, was spaghetti. I guess she was afraid I'd slop it all over myself....LOL. Luckily, as my finger dexterity improved, I finally learned to twirl a few strands together(no helper spoon) and get them up tp my mouth! ( My own dear dad, tho, continued to cut up his entire plate of spaghetti with a knife and fork, before he began to eat.)

                                                                                      I am still a proud fork twirler, 50 years later...( now, if I only had the same confident dexterity with chopsticks.)

                                                                                      1. re: Kamanda1953

                                                                                        Mine cut up the spaghetti, too, with unexpected consequences. When I was three, she was decorating the Xmas tree, priding herself on how well-behaved I was, sitting on the floor and not getting underfoot. Turns out I had gotten my blunt-nosed scissors and carefully cut all the tinsel icicles into 3" lengths. When she noticed in horror, I proudly proclaimed, "Spaghetti!".

                                                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                                                          Love this story!!!!! Thanks for sharing a huge smile.

                                                                                    3. re: mpjmph

                                                                                      I have a 17 year old granddaughter with CP who has difficulty with both writing and manipulating a knife and fork. With a lot of training, she has just learned to cut her own steak at the table but must stand up to do the actual cutting. What an achievement!!

                                                                                      1. re: arnieb

                                                                                        That is wonderful! Independence is everthing. Way to go girl!

                                                                                          1. re: donovt

                                                                                            You bet! I'm really not a prig, but sometimes I have to just let it out!

                                                                                        1. re: arnieb

                                                                                          Congratulations to her! It's a big achievement for her.

                                                                                        2. re: mpjmph

                                                                                          Ten-year-old needs to speak up and tell mom that she doesn't need to do that for him any more, thank you very much... (or if he won't, then you need to on his behalf.) There's being motherly, and then there's over-the-top over-protective. She 'doesn't trust him with a knife'? What's he going to do? The worst thing I can think of it that he'll play the drums on the table as generations of bored children have before him... Unless he has some kind of physical disability there is no need whatsoever for his mom to be cutting up his food for him at that age. He needs to do it himself or he'll never learn how. (And if he DOES have some kind of physical impairment, he still needs to try - if you never try, you'll never learn. She's not going to be there to look after him forever.)

                                                                                      2. We have a lot of sleepovers at our house. I'm continually shocked at the poor table manners of my son's friends. Not all of them, but many. They don't know how to hold a knife and fork, chew with their mouth closed, not pick up ( or throw) dinner with their fingers, take off without being excused, or use anything but the "shovel method".

                                                                                        As a little treat, we used to take the kids to breakfast on the way home the next morning. It got embarrassing though. I'd be mortified that people would think these 11 year olds running around the restaurant were mine.

                                                                                        The parents seem so nice and normal. How could they not be teaching basic skills? We're not prudes by any stretch of the imagination. But really, how hard is it to teach kids to keep their bottom in the chair, the food in their mouth, and not to waive their knife like a sword?

                                                                                        Unfortunately, I can totally see the scenario the OP describes.

                                                                                        1. I've never seen such poor utensil-handling as I've seen by chef judges on TV. Tom Collichio comes to mind.
                                                                                          My husband has what I like to call his "comfort grip" on his fork when he's eating something really yum. But, he'd never use that grip out of the house or with company. One time I noticed his brother did the same thing. Kinda funny.

                                                                                          1. Maybe they are just used to their mommies and daddies cutting their steak for them?

                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: chefannacooks

                                                                                              I was having dinner at a steakhouse with a boyfriend when he turned and asked me to cut his steak for him. He was 24. His mother had been doing it all his life.

                                                                                              1. re: sealion

                                                                                                Wow! Talk about smothering with love. How can a parent handicap a child like that?

                                                                                                1. re: monavano

                                                                                                  No kidding monavano! Sealion just curious, how long did that relationship last? That would be a giant red flag for me. :>)

                                                                                                  1. re: Island

                                                                                                    UGE, that "huge" minus the "H".
                                                                                                    Talk about learned helplessness!
                                                                                                    (I'm sure he's a really nice fellow... totally not his fault he was infantilized)

                                                                                                    1. re: Island

                                                                                                      yeahhh....that's a "run, don't walk" alert if I ever saw one.

                                                                                                  2. re: sealion

                                                                                                    My husband cut up his daughter's food for her till she was 17 years old & I put a stop to it. I may not be allowed to teach her manners, but I won't allow that.....

                                                                                                2. Do those young adults need to watch this 1951 Manners film?

                                                                                                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NELOE...

                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                    Oh yes! I remember watching many of these types of "mental hygiene/social engineering" films in elementary school, into jr. High. They were quite um...... "popular" in public schools from around 1950-1970. As quaint, odd and dated as they may appear today, there is still a nugget or two of useful truth there, perhaps? Thanks for the "old school" memories, Paul.

                                                                                                    1. re: Kamanda1953

                                                                                                      Almost a lost art form. I recall those as well, I was usually sneaking a book to read under the desk.

                                                                                                    2. re: paulj

                                                                                                      Forget the etiquette tips! Where can I get those matching reindeer sweaters for my husband and me?

                                                                                                      1. re: dmjordan

                                                                                                        I "feel" ya....Quine and dmj {grin!} those lovely reindeer sweaters are just SOOO(retro)" fashion forward" flashback fetching. Btw, YT has many more of those old school films.

                                                                                                    3. Well, some might have been attempting the Euro method, and the others the US (American) method.

                                                                                                      Each has its supporters.

                                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                                      49 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                        Is the Euro method an affectation? Or just changing times? And do the fist method folks not have any observational skills? Should I start a manners business for teens/twenties, and if so, would I teach them Euro, U.S., or both styles? (Or fist, heehee.)

                                                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                          The Euro method is how people actually eat in Europe. It's becoming more common in the US because the world is becoming a smaller place -- Americans traveling to Europe and vice versa. It's absolutely not an affectation.

                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                            I switch back and forth depending on what (and with whom) I'm eating.

                                                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                                                              Me too. Steak-yes. Peas- noooooooo!

                                                                                                              1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                I eat my peas with honey,
                                                                                                                I've done it all my life.
                                                                                                                It makes them taste quite funny,
                                                                                                                But it keeps them on my knife.

                                                                                                                (ancient and anonymous...with a full tip of the hat to FoodFuser)

                                                                                                              2. re: hill food

                                                                                                                That is very close to how my wife does it. I, far less often, but am rather set in my ways. When no one is looking, I admit that I do practice.

                                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                                              3. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                So, does this mean that some Europeans are now using the American method?

                                                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                    I have not observed such, but that does not mean that it is not happening. One cannot be everywhere at once. However, somehow I doubt it.

                                                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                      I don't see why they would. I've always found it a bit juvenile to cut up all your food before you're going to eat it.

                                                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                        I would not classify that as "American" so much as uncouth. Table manners in the US say that food should be cut as it is eaten, just piece by piece, and bread should be buttered bit by bit rather than the whole slice.

                                                                                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                          I can't speak for sandy, but I understood the American method to mean switching the fork from left to right after cutting each bite. Cutting everything up before eating is bad form/juvenile in the US just as it is in Europe.

                                                                                                                          1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                                                            Ah. What about the hand in the lap thing? That seems to be fairly prevalent?

                                                                                                                            FWIW, I'm an ambidextrous European who holds the fork in the right hand and cuts with the left. The only switching I generally need to do is at the beginning of the meal, since tables are set with the fork on the left and the knife on the right.

                                                                                                                            Unless I'm prepping. Chef's knife is in the right hand. Who knows why....

                                                                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                              I suppose if you're only using one hand, then you have to do something with the other. Lap seems as good a place as any.

                                                                                                                              FWIW, my partner is left-handed in all usual activities but eats with fork in left and knife in right.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                I'm right-handed (and -footed) in most physical activities, such as sports - racquet sports, ball sports.... it's just all mixed up. With which I am a-ok.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                  My Italian teacher has said that putting ones hand in ones lap at the table is very rude in Italy, and that mothers chastise their children for doing so, telling them to put their hands up on the table!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                    At one time in much of Europe, having one's hands visible was a sign that the person was not a threat. A hand out of sight could well hold a dagger, or later a pistol.

                                                                                                                                    Luckily, we do not have to concern ourselves with that possible issue, at least not often.

                                                                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                                                            2. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                              Having your mother cut up your food is juvenile ;-)

                                                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                Cutting up all of your food before you eat it is considered to be rude in the United States.

                                                                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                  How is this rude? Really, I had no idea. I don't get the offense or perceived slight. I mean, you're just cutting it up, right? I could see if you shoveled it in after, but just getting the cutting out of the way?
                                                                                                                                  Thanks.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                    I don't know if rude is the right word, but it isn't proper dinner etiquette. It's one of the things my mother emphasized at the dinner table, and it's on the Emily Post Institute top 10 table manners list.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                      Maybe it's rude because it eliminates most of that classy zig zag. :)

                                                                                                                                      But notice how posters label it - rude, uncouth, juvenile. Those are very loaded descriptors.

                                                                                                                                      I generally cut my food bite by bite, but then I also eat in the lefthanded Euro style. But I have a good friend that does cut his meat (and pancakes) first. I didn't pay much attention to this habit until I saw it discussed on these forums, and still don't consider this person to be rude or uncouth. At most I am mildly curious as to why some eat this way, and others condemn it.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                        Thanks for the responses. My mom cut her meat all at once and I must have at some point stopped doing this because I would take note of it when DH and I would eat with her, especially in my home (I used to serve plated food with cuts of protein ie: steak, lamb).
                                                                                                                                        I think as a kid I used to cut all at once, but truly cannot remember! Anyway, I cut one to two bites at a time now.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                          PaulJ,

                                                                                                                                          The one exception that I make, regarding cutting food, prior to ingesting it, IS pancakes, and that is with a purpose - I want both the syrup and the butter to reach other "cakes," besides just the top. Still, and in my case, the cutting is limited, but does happen.

                                                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                                                        2. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                          Just taught that way. How many points of etiquette are completely arbitrary?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                            Many rule of etiquette are just that, and a little latitude goes a long way ;-) To think that cutting more than one piece of meat at a time would mean anything real-- would supersede the beauty that is sharing food is really not seeing what's important in life.
                                                                                                                                            Put that on the top 10 list.... of life!

                                                                                                                                2. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                  The Euro method is not an affectation for we Europeans.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                    "The Euro method is not an affectation for we Europeans"

                                                                                                                                    Of course not! I certainly didn't mean to imply that, and I apologize if it came off that way. I'm only commenting on the switch that is occurring in the U.S. regarding knife-and-fork eating style.

                                                                                                                                    The type of usage that was taught as correct and mannerly in the U.S. when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s is being discarded in favor of the method used in Europe. One is not better than the other; it is just interesting to note the change and wonder about what's inspiring it. Someone commented in a different thread along the lines of the Euro method being more worldly somehow - ? Perhaps if Americans were switching from eating with our hands to learning to hold forks, this would certainly be true, but I fail to see how either method can be viewed as socially superior.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                      "I'm only commenting on the switch that is occurring in the U.S. regarding knife-and-fork eating style."
                                                                                                                                      --------
                                                                                                                                      So - are you saying that it IS an affectation for "Americans" (I presume you mean people in the USA) to use the Euro style? I might murmur here that in the modern era there are lots of folks here in the USA who grew up with the Euro method; or who were not 'native-born folks who grew up with Harriet and Ozzie'; or who came from other places where the Euro style of handling fork and knife was the norm.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                        No, I ASKED if it was. I was exploring this phenom that is interesting to me. It is a change that I have observed. BTW, I agree with your differentiation between the USA and "America". I only used the term "Americans" because it seems to be the generally understood and accepted term for United States folks; it seems less than accurate to me as well.

                                                                                                                                        Of COURSE there are those living in the United States who grew up elsewhere, as there ALWAYS have been. Of COURSE they will usually use the table manners that they grew up with. I am merely commenting upon my observation that many born-in-the-'ol-USA-twenty-somethings have adapted a "European" style of using their knives and forks. Just to be clear, these are middle-class, parents-USA-born individuals.

                                                                                                                                        I am not criticizing, judging....etc. I am just curiously observing. I am not interested in a fight, huiray, really!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                          Ah. Glad that got cleared up! :-)

                                                                                                                                          As to your clarified question, perhaps one possible underlying factor might indeed be greater globalization, as another poster posited earlier, and young folks observing that it was more common in much of the rest of the world to eat in the Euro style - but as for the exact reason as to why they do so, perhaps someone will have to do a study and specifically ask them why they do so.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                            Interesting thought about globilisation. I wonder if it works both ways with it affecting young people here in Europe in this respect. I'm thinking of the significant growth of American (and American style) fast food places and similar American style casual eateries. That coupled with the influence of American programmes on TV, etc. I can see how it might be seen as being "cool" to imitate American style - American cultural imperialism is certainly a growing reality.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                              I taught in a French high school for a year, and I can unequivocally say that I never saw a single French teenager at the school (student body over 1,000) eat in any manner other than "Euro style" -- and the school serves lunch on heavy china plates with real silverware.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                I'll bet it was real, good food too. And, I'll bet no one EVER cried out "FOOD FIGHT!"

                                                                                                                                            2. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                              I do not think that we need to get too deeply into what the USA is, or who the people are, but I understand that part of the comment. Maybe for our "brothers and sisters" (there I go getting PC again), from elsewhere will cut us some slack, as I believe that you are talking about residents (and maybe for multiple generations) of the USA.

                                                                                                                                              As I am blessed with the hindsight of advanced age, I can recall many USA residents, who adopted various Euro-style aspects (affectations?) in their lives. There is much to be admired with Euro-culture, and by that, I also mean the UK too. [Dang, it gets tough to include all that you wish, and exclude all that you do not wish, but we just try.]

                                                                                                                                              For the USA "younger set," I adore that they would wish to adopt a Euro-style, when dining, whether they were taught, or picked it up elsewhere. If ONLY they would adopt some other, very worthwhile aspects of dining, either from Europe/UK, or even from the USA.

                                                                                                                                              What you describe, I do not observe, and we do dine around, quite a bit. I do see it on various TV programs, but not out in "real life."

                                                                                                                                              For the cited folk, maybe they too, are watching Food Network, etc.? Maybe they will also notice that no one is wearing a baseball cap, when dining?

                                                                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                                                                            3. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                              It could well be. I think that in my wife's case, it probably is, but then she dines with Euro clients, and at a high level, so I understand why she might not want to stand out. Being her "Yank" husband, I can slide by, with the US method, and few will take notice. Heck, I'm from Mississippi, so most are probably happy that I am not barefooted for the meal...

                                                                                                                                              For me, I am more concerned that I get MY food into MY mouth, and not onto Lady X's gown. That is why I go with, what I know, no disrespect intended.

                                                                                                                                              While I remember "Ozzie & Harriet," I cannot recall ever seeing the program. Same for "Ozzy & Sharon," though they might well eat Euro-style?

                                                                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                                                                          2. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                            Though I do not know (and cannot find) when the US "switch" came about, I also agree that the Euro-style is what it is, and goes back a long way. Why things changed in the US, or even when, I cannot say.

                                                                                                                                            As there are at least two threads on the merits of each method, I will not belabor a point, that has been hashed, rehashed, and then beaten to death.

                                                                                                                                            It is, what it is.

                                                                                                                                            Hunt

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                              I taught myself to eat Euro style because at business dinners in the UK and Europe, I got tired of the questions (with customers with whom I had a comfortable relationship) how I can eat like that -- and the furtive stares from customers and those at other tables when I was with customers who weren't comfortable enough to ask.

                                                                                                                                              I was frequently the only American in a large group, and I frankly just got tired of feeling like the sideshow -- even when no one said anything...I knew they noticed.

                                                                                                                                              So I learned the Euro method and never looked back -- oddly enough, not a single American has ever noticed or made a comment...the only impact it has is when making the decisions for seating positions, I usually sit on the end, as I now "eat left" (fork in the left hand) even though I'm right-handed.

                                                                                                                                              Now that I live in Europe, it's a no-brainer.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                I know it's just a cultural thing, but I dislike the appearance of the Euro method, and defend the American one as the more correct by pointing out that if God had meant the fork to be used convex side up, he would not have created silversmiths who put the decorative work on the concave side ;>D. Using the fork Euro style seems to also involve a certain neck-craning and jaw-jutting that I find unattractive.
                                                                                                                                                It delivers food to the front of the mouth, whereas American style deposits the food farther back on the tongue. Euro eaters seem to chew at the front of their mouths, which I also find offputting.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                  I can truly say I have never observed any of that in any restaurant or home anywhere in western Europe.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                    Dito. Neck-craning and jaw-jutting?

                                                                                                                                                    Please.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                    Huh? Not sure who you're eating with... Impaling your food on the tines of the fork and lifting it to your mouth isn't a particularly arduous procedure. And Europeans sometimes eat with the fork the other way too - if you're eating something that does not require the use of a knife you don't need to hold one, and the fork flips over for scooping duty. I could easily argue the reverse - the cut one bite, put the knife down, pick up the fork in that hand' American method just serves to make eating take twice as long! Holding a knife and fork in each hand is far more efficient.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                                      Is it important to eat faster? Just wondering.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                        But I heard that Europeans were famous for having leisurely (and tasty) meals while USAmericans were famous for gulping their food down and running off? ;-)

                                                                                                                                                        p.s. Suppose we couch it in this way:
                                                                                                                                                        "Efficiency" is not synonymous with "speed". "Efficiency" can be utilized for "speed", but the execution of an efficient state can be modulated for either speed or not. In contrast, "inefficiency" tends to lead to slowness, the touted result of dining American style. It might be thought curious, this exaltation of inefficiency by some.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                          when oh when will NASA sell the distribution rights to astronaut tube food? when? my only wonderment regarded when it's a scoopable food and the fork is tines down it's just awkward and liable to land in the lap or as a dog floor-treat. good dog.

                                                                                                                                                  3. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                    I am not sure if similar prompts my wife, but in Europe and the UK, she quickly adopts the Euro-style, and does not seem to miss a beat.

                                                                                                                                                    In my case, it gives Lady ____ to my right, something to talk to me about... [Grin]

                                                                                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                                                                              2. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                I do not know.

                                                                                                                                                It could be either, and it might be different for each person. Though we are both US, my wife does adopt the Euro-fashion, when we're in the UK/Europe. I do not. I even catch her doing so, when not off the Continent. Her choice.

                                                                                                                                                I do observe that on many "cooking shows," the judges, even if US, go for the Euro-style. Affectation? I'd guess not, and that they adopt it for expediency, especially when tasting several versions of a dish.

                                                                                                                                                There are at least two, long (to very, very long) threads on Euro vs US, when it comes to utensils. Many differing views in each.

                                                                                                                                                As for starting a "manners class," YES, and definitely! So much has been lost, and just in the last decade, or two.

                                                                                                                                                When my wife received an appointment from her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, the first thing that I did was to hire a "protocol coach," just as we would be "front and center" in a slightly different culture. I though I had a good handle on things, even state dinners, but learned a great deal. One of the best culinary decisions of my life, and I heard no one refer to the "daft Yank," during that dinner. Guess that I "skated" on that one... [Grin]

                                                                                                                                                Were I doing the class, I would definitely teach both styles. My protocol instructor did. Now, she worked long and hard with me on chopsticks, and I never got the refined method. I use my own adaptation, but can pick up a single grain of rice (with good chopsticks), where many of my friends, who have much better style cannot. Still, if I was seated next to a person of Asian extraction, they would likely have some interesting stories to tell their friends and family about the "daft Yank," but at least I could pick up a single grain of rice, and easily get it into my mouth, without incident (international, or otherwise).

                                                                                                                                                Go for that class! First lesson - baseball caps, whether forward, or backward, are NOT allowed, when dining...

                                                                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                  Can I fudge the rules just a bit and tell them that baseball caps are strictly allowed only at baseball games? :)

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                    On a more serious note, I have contemplated such classes for a long time! When my son's friends have come around over the years I have quietly been sad for one or the other of them because they are smart and sweet and have a lot to contribute, but might be closed out of great things someday because they have dirty fingernails or scruffy shoes or chew with their mouth open.

                                                                                                                                                    Aren't manners about showing respect for self and others? And, per Miss Manners, mostly about making others feel comfortable; something I need to remind myself in trying situations.

                                                                                                                                              3. About the history of knives and forks:

                                                                                                                                                http://researcharchive.calacademy.org...
                                                                                                                                                http://researcharchive.calacademy.org...

                                                                                                                                                I had gathered from other sources that Americans adopted the 'zig zag' method from Britain before independence, and that the Euro method (now switch of knife and fork) was a later streamlining. This source argues instead that the American switch was something that developed in the colonies and early USA due to a delayed adoption of forks, especially the modern 4 tine version.

                                                                                                                                                Earlier dinners used their own sharp tipped knife to spear the food. The adoption of forks in Europe gave rise to a socially safer blunt tip knife.

                                                                                                                                                [In the early 18th c]" Because Americans had very few forks and no longer had sharp-tipped knives, they had to use spoons in lieu of forks. They would use the spoon to steady food as they cut and then switch the spoon to the opposite hand in order to scoop up food to eat. This distinctly American style of eating continued even after forks became commonplace in the United States."

                                                                                                                                                It also sounds as though during a transitional period it was ok to put food in your mouth with a rounded tip knife. Now doing that with the knife would be bad manners (except for the classic pea and honey case).

                                                                                                                                                another reference
                                                                                                                                                http://www.cuisinenet.com/glossary/ut...

                                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                  interesting as one side of my family came to the (now) US in the 17thc, and were quite clear about the right-hand fork method, the others arrived in the late 19th and continued the left-hand fork way.

                                                                                                                                                  my dad was excused from the "proper" because he had been to Europe during his military service. HA! yeah, right.

                                                                                                                                                  In any case either method can be accomplished with style and grace. just don't hold it like a shovel.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                    I usually hold a fork in the hidden handle style. And allowing for differences in handle diameter, I hold a hand trowel in the same way. It differs from 'fist' only in that my thumb and forefinger pinch the handle. I think I already mentioned that it's basically the same grip that I use for a kitchen knife.

                                                                                                                                                    I suppose another variable is whether you normally put the food on the front (bowl) side of the fork, or on the back. I rarely use the back.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                      someone needs to commission a video record, that's all I can say. non-judgmental. just documenting what is practiced. could be interesting.

                                                                                                                                                2. Having been taught the European style of always keeping the knife in my right hand and fork in my left ( although I have observed a British variation on this /pointing the fork downwards which would have earned me a reprimand as a child), eating like this along a group of hand switching Americans causes you to eat way too fast. In the early years in the USA both husband and myself always had to slow ourselves down when eating in company of American style eaters so as not to appear rude. European style handling of knife and fork is simply faster.
                                                                                                                                                  Not making a comment about better or worse here, just observing a true difference.

                                                                                                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: RUK

                                                                                                                                                    Well, I've used the European style of eating all my life (sure, I've switched to American style at times too) but when dining with native USAmericans who do the "switching" thing I usually have been the last to finish, without any conscious effort on my part to slow down...and I'm pretty sure I would usually use the method I am most comfortable with (European style) when I eat out at restaurants with such folks. Just sayin'. :-)

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: RUK

                                                                                                                                                      Actually, I find just the opposite. I find that the US/American method to be the slower of the two, and much more conducive to conversations, after mouthfuls.

                                                                                                                                                      As a matter-of-fact, many claim that the Euro-method is far more efficient, as the cutlery never leaves one's hands, and one can "shovel in" much more food, in a more efficient manner. "Speed eating" has never been high on my list, but obviously it is, on others'.

                                                                                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                        I think RUK is saying that in her experience the European way of eating makes one eat much faster.

                                                                                                                                                        For myself, I have never found the European way to be *necessarily* faster, and I think the frequently-heard accusation that folks eating using the European style shovel their food in to be a bit of a canard. I can't imagine that you, in your experience, would think this accusation universally true for those who dine in the European manner. There is no requirement that one continues to eat, even if one holds utensils constantly in the same hands; nor that one cannot put them down when dining European style (just place them on the plate in the usual/approved manner); nor that conversation necessarily stops or is deficient when dining in the European style. For that matter, even if one were to eat quickly while dining using the (more efficient) European style, that is NOT the same as "shoveling food in".

                                                                                                                                                        As I mentioned above, I normally use the European style yet find myself being the last to finish oftentimes when dining with folks who use the American zig-zag method.

                                                                                                                                                        Eh, as you say, the subject has been beaten to death elsewhere. To each his own.
                                                                                                                                                        :-)

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                          Thank you. I had obviously mis-read things there.

                                                                                                                                                          In my personal observations, the US version both takes more time, and with the switching of utensils, allows more natural breaks in the dining. I use, and appreciate those breaks, but that is just me.

                                                                                                                                                          Much appreciated, and my bad,

                                                                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                            Your contributions are valued. There are clearly advantages and disadvantages to both methods, as well as a wide range of manners and expertise and attitudes within/without each.

                                                                                                                                                            Doesn't it all boil down to attitudes and how we treat one another?

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                            re huiray and (perhaps Bill Hunt)
                                                                                                                                                            Well, that "dead horse" doesn't need to be beaten since it seemed to have been dead on arrival!
                                                                                                                                                            However - perhaps I should have phrased it with a touch more precision:
                                                                                                                                                            Given the identical conditions (to say eat a Steak), which include speed of chewing, amount of talking in-between said chewing, definitely the amount of food consumed, speed in handling utensils etc etc, I would think the European method of not switching utensils is simply faster/more efficient than the American method of cutting, then placing the knife aside, and switching fork from left to right hand. I am not giving special consideration to friendliness of table conversation, amount of ambidexterity....
                                                                                                                                                            Did I leave anything out?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: RUK

                                                                                                                                                              Nope. You covered all bases. Thanks.

                                                                                                                                                              Remember I did say the European style IS more efficient - and can be used to eat faster. What I attempted to explain was that a diner who uses the European style of eating does not HAVE to eat faster, nor be compelled to do so. I used myself as an example of a person who normally uses the European style but often still finishes my food behind fellow diners who use the American method. All without even consciously slowing down, it just happens naturally because I personally take my time, am conversing with them, put my utensils down on the plate and linger with my wine glass, etc. It all depends on the person.

                                                                                                                                                              p.s. Here's one "beaten-to-death" thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/332264

                                                                                                                                                              :-)

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                Oh my!! I hadn't seen that thread or I most certainly would not have posted!!
                                                                                                                                                                .......as I am walking away, somewhat dazed.....