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Left-handers - how do you handle your cutlery?

When I was a kid, my mother taught me to use my fork in my left hand and my knife in my right, because it would be easier for me to eat at a table with other people if I wasn't trying to do it backwards. She made a brief attempt to teach me right-handed spooning, but I was never co-ordinated enough not to spill the soup in my lap, so I use the spoon in my left hand, and was taught to keep my elbow as close to my body as I could so as not to run into everyone! If I'm picking up a knife to use by itself (eg. to spread butter or make a sandwich) I'll use my left hand, but I cut my food with my right.

Eating American-style seems particularly silly to me as a left-hander. (I'm Australian and even though I live in America I've never found any reason to change my lifelong habit.) But I wonder how American left-handers eat? Do you pick up the knife and put it down at every bite and use your fork in your right hand because that's what everyone else does? Or do you pick up the fork in your left hand and still put the knife down when you don't really need to?

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  1. This southpaw wields knife with left, fork or spoon with right. No need to juggle. Sometimes I catch a stray elbow from a rightie with poor skills, but so long as elbows are tucked, any mix and match of utensils seems OK.

    By the way, it took me a little while to master a L hand stick shift in Australia, but Turks & Caicos is L hand drive also and the cars are L side steering, go figure.

    1. I'm a right hander and I use the fork in my left hand knife in the right, but if I'm not using a knife I cannot use the fork in my left hand, same with a spoon. Weird part, if I hold 2 forks I use the left, 2 spoons,left again .

      1. I eat with the fork or spoon in my left hand. The knife is always used in my right hand, including bigger knives used in cooking. When I am cooking, I will stir or whisk with either hand but the left is for fine spatula work. My mom always said I should cut and switch but that just doesn't work for me. She did not punish me or make me switch, but insisted I "know" the proper way so that I would not be an outcast if circumstances called for me to use that method. I might be an outcast for spilling my food all over, if I tried it though.

        1. Lefty here...but I chop/cut righty...argh...but use my fork lefty. I sew righty and I throw righty but bat lefty...oh...DEAR!!! I'm all messed up...but I don't remember ANYONE forcing me to do any of this. I keep time to music with my right foot and kick a ball righty...totally off topic but just wondering about the rest of you lefties?

          4 Replies
          1. re: Val

            You sound ambidextrous. I write with my right but I do most things with my left. Try making a telescope with your hands to one of your eyes. If you're doing it to your left eye with your left hand closest to your eye you're a lefty. Right, you're a righty. I switch knife to cut with my left, fork to eat with my left. Need to be on the outside of a booth or end of a table when eating out.

            1. re: Val

              Wow! That is really curious, Val.

              This question, of course, has come up before on these boards, and I always thought I was the only one all screwy in that regard.

              Handwriting (as little as that still happens): lefty
              Cutlery: fork in right hand, knife in left hand
              Food prep: chef's knife in right hand
              All sports, including throwing AND batting: right hand

              It's interesting, to say the least. I think it's amazing that you throw with your right hand but bat with your left (and it's also nice to meet a fellow softball player).

              1. re: linguafood

                @lingua...awww...yes, coach who was also our PE teacher in h.s. used to say "watch out, Lefty Lou up to bat" when it was my turn to hit...but when I try to write with my right hand, it's a struggle and not so legible...I can DO it, but only with great effort. hee hee!

              2. re: Val

                When eating, my fork is in the left hand, knife in the right. For soup/dessert, my spoon is in my left hand. For chopping/cutting, I use my left hand. Writing/brushing my hair/tennis etc, definitely lefthanded I'd say I'm strongly lefthanded, but have learned to eat righthanded because everyone else does!

              3. This southpaw uses his right hand for the knife, the left for fork and spoon. It saves so much energy from switching back and forth the way you poor northpaws do things. I just pretend not to notice your clumsiness with your other hand. It's not your fault, you were just born that way.

                (i do hope everyone saw that my tongue was planted firmly in my cheek for that last part)

                2 Replies
                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                    for a short time while living in Seoul, I managed to use chopsticks right handed so as not to offend anyone. my friends and coworkers took pity on me and told me that at least watching me use chopsticks with my left hand wasn't painful and to give up on the right for that. What a relief.

                  2. At the table, I hold my knife in my left, fork in my right. No switching, ever. In the kitchen, however, I use knives in my right, and I carve (roasts and turkeys, for instance) with the carving fork in my left and knife in my right.

                    You didn't ask, but I'm ambidexterous with chopsticks, too.

                    1. Interesting responses. Knife in left, fork in right. If no knife, then fork or spoon in left. Always sit on corner of table with left open so will not bump into companion. Here in Paris there are tables in restaurants so small that everyone has to cut their food together. l really have to be careful in those places. Major ambidextrous things l do are when playing baseball in high school and leagues afterwards, l batted as a switch-hitter , and performed surgery with my right as most surgical instruments are made for righty and was trained that way.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                        I was beginning to think I was a backwards lefty until I read your post. I eat European style but with knife in left hand & fork in right. I cannot cut meat with my right hand - it just feels to awkward.

                      2. I'm a lefty & eat the same as Kajikit - fork in left hand, knife in right, no switching. If I butter bread, I use my left hand.

                        Now, what's really important as a lefty is seating - my preference is to sit with my left hand towards the aisle, so I have more room & don't bump into the righties.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Snorkelvik

                          I'm sufficiently ambidexterous that I don't pay that much attention to seating. If I'm sitting next to a lefty, I can eat lefty as necessary. I write righty, tho, because my mom decided I needed to be right-handed (Asian superstition, doncha know...). My dad, who is also Asian but more importantly is also a lefty, allowed me to do other stuff left-handed, like sports stuff. Consequently, I kick, bat, and throw lefty (not all the same sport!), but I shoot firearms righty (right eye dominant), and play golf righty (didn't have any left-handed clubs when I learned to play). I can't swing a hammer with either hand accurately, tho...go figure.

                          1. re: ricepad

                            I'm also more or less ambidexterous, so I eat with either hand. Often I'll eat with different hands while dining out, depending upon where the food is on the plate. Am I comitting a social faux paux?

                        2. I grew up in a predominantly left handed house hold, so it was only recenlty that I really thought about the standard fork on the left table setting. I've always handled the fork with my left and knife in the right as needed. Always look for an end seat at the table, and typically keep my elbow well tucked in company.

                          I also play guitar "right handed," which seems more sensible to me as the more dextrous left hand frets notes with picking which is more rote is done with the right. Just more indication that right handed folks aren't always very sensible.

                          I've also been at least as comfortable shooting rifles right handed, but greatly prefer shooting pistols lefty.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: laststandchili

                            Wow - this lefty is with you 100% on the guitar use & wisdom. But there's an opposing view that says your "voice" comes out in how you pick the string, so your dominant hand should do it.

                            There was a similar thread a few months ago - only then did I realize that I use a kitchen knife in my left hand and a table knife in my right hand!

                            1. re: WNYamateur

                              A kitchen knife is a much more dangerous implement than a table knife. I'd NEVER attempt to use a sharp knife in my right hand unless I had a fork in the other to hold the food down. Otherwise I'd be fishing it off the floor, and probably lose a finger.

                              I am NOT ambidextrous. If a task requires both left and right hands at once, I've learned to do it the conventional right-handed way because you're using two hands anyway. I mouse with my right hand (which seems good to me because my left is free for occasional typing!). I hold a knife and fork conventionally, and I don't turn my musical instruments around/upside down. But I can NOT write with my right hand to save my life, and right-handed scissors are a disaster. And I am not athletic at all, but I played sports left-handed as a kid.

                              1. re: Kajikit

                                back in the days when computers were newfangled gadgets four of us shared one at work. i learned to mouse right handed also because of that and can't imagine why right handed people don't mouse with their left. Oh yeah, i forgot.. they don't use their left hand for anything.

                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                  lol, this right hander uses chopsticks, acetylene torches, and a bunch of other stuff with the left hand. So sharing a computer with my left-handed co-worker was never a problem, after a few moments I could use his wacom tablet as easily as I could use my own.

                          2. I am left handed and handle my cutlery in a sort of ambidextrous European style. Basically, I don't switch hands with the fork after cutting, and I pick up the knife and fork with either hand, more or less at random. Cutting, say, a steak from either side feels more or less equally 'right' to me.

                            1. As with most others I use fork in left, knife in right. Kitchen knife is usually in the right as well, especially if I am using the left to hold the food. Holding items like an onion requires more dexterity. At a table with close seating I try to get the corner.

                              I use scissors in the right. In fact it is hard to use left handed sewing shears.

                              1. Fork left, knife right at table; kitchen knives leftie; open jars rightie. Ironing ambi (pass back & forth); hammer ambi; saw leftie; kick soccer ball leftie...

                                We lefties are a fantastically flexible tribe!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: elenacampana

                                  LOL, this thread is fascinating...! I write lefty....fork lefty, knife righty and all my chopping is done righty...opening jars righty...I iron lefty...sheesh! We ARE a crazy mixed up bunch! I really think my right side is stronger...but I am terrible at writing with my right hand. OKAY, new one: how about chewing??? I definitely favor my LEFT side on chewing...LOL!

                                2. I always use a fork with my left hand, but will use a knife with either hand. I prefer spreading and carving meat with the knife in my left hand, but cutting steak I prefer to hold the knife in my right. In groups, I try to sit on the end or by my hubby who doesn't care if we bump elbows.

                                  ETA I don't think I can spread butter or frosting with my right hand. Hmmm. Off to make a cake.

                                  1. I hold my knife with my left hand and my fork in my right. If it's something that doesn't require cutting, I just use a fork or spoon in my left.

                                    When I'm in the privacy of my own home and alone, I cut up pieces of whatever needs cutting, then put the knife down and eat with my fork in my left hand until I need to stop and cut some more. I don't ever do that with anybody watching anymore, because once I was having dinner with my parents and some other people, and one of them - a very sophisticated and discerning woman who might be reading this as she's probably a Chowhound - said "I'm sorry, but that is the most uncouth thing I've ever seen. I know I'm a guest and should be polite, but I've absolutely just lost my appetite, I can't eat anymore" and she wasn't able to finish her meal. Some people have told me that her reaction was over the top and rude, but it's scarred me and I'm too self conscious to eat like that in case I offend anybody again. She was one of the first people I ever met who I would describe as a "foodie" (she was very knowledgeable and passionate and experienced) and it kind of frightened me into thinking that everybody who was into food would be like that and judge me as inferior to them.

                                    I've since learned that this is a reasonably common way to eat with cutlery in America. (I'm not American and have never been there or had an opportunity to observe diverse Americans eating.) This woman was older and British, so maybe it was a cultural thing for her, American = crass. I don't know. But it was upsetting at the time, as I was quite young and shy and having someone tell me to my face that my table manners had ruined their appetite was pretty much a nightmare come to life.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: raisingirl

                                      Wow, that WAS rude. You can cut up your food in front of me any time.

                                      Oh, and I'm a leftie, but switch knife-to-left, fork-to-right. Not that there's any good reason for it, but I probably determined when I was younger that it was "correct" because I wear my watch on my right wrist. You all that keep your fork in the left hand have the right idea - way more efficient.

                                      1. re: raisingirl

                                        Rude, and bordering on crazy. Don't be self-conscious about it - if something that slight set her off, she was almost certainly just waiting for an excuse to pop off.

                                        1. re: raisingirl

                                          I think if I had been in your place, I would have apologized profusely, then put the utensils down and proceeded to eat with my hands. Then, with a mouth crammed FULL of food, I would have said, "Since you're done, I guess I'll finish yours, too," and reached for the remainder of her meal.

                                          1. re: raisingirl

                                            My distinctly NOT crass American Southern mother always told us that criticizing the manners of one's dining companions was the worst offense of all. Classy is classy regardless of age or culture. (And I would have been tempted to eat peas with my knife in front of that lady just to watch her recoil in horror!)

                                          2. Interesting responses. I'm pretty sure I do things the same way a right hander does--just with my left hand. Fork right, knife left. Chopping, most stirring or flipping, etc... done with left. The only time it's ever even come up in the world of food and eating is when squeezed in a tight group and bumps are exchanged--then it's just an "oops, sorry, left hander here".
                                            It's only ever been a problem in figure skating years ago, where rotation and general flow was opposite for me, causing more than just a few little elbow bumps. Hehe...

                                            1. I'm left handed and I eat the same way. Fork left, knife right if I'm using both at the same time otherwise I use knives with my left. Spoon with my left only. I never really thought about it. My mom is left handed also so I'm not sure where or why I learned it this way.

                                              1. Lefty here. At the dinner table, I hold my fork/spoon in my left hand and cut with my right. In the kitchen, I hold knives with my left hand, including for carving -- carving fork in right hand, carving knife in left hand. Not sure how all of this came about! For the record, I throw and kick right hand/footed, and conduct music with either hand.

                                                1. Hmmm, so as the day wore on, I thought about this a bit more. I rarely actively think about being left handed, and I see that so many of you eat fork left and knife right.
                                                  I gave my grandfather a call (my fellow lefty and he raised me for my first 6 years), and he and I do things the same. Fork right, knife left. And we both have no ambi tendencies at all. I see so many lefties here doing things the opposite way, and I'm wondering "how the heck?". If I tried to use chopsticks in my right hand, god help the person that's on cleanup duty!!

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: alliegator

                                                    I use my right hand for chopsticks. I will never figure it out.

                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                      *interesting*...can't imagine using chopsticks with my right hand successfully...have always used them lefty...which is how I write (lefty) and also how I eat with a fork (lefty). ***Crikey...was thinking about this just a minute ago WIPING UP a spill in the kitchen...I use my right hand to clean (counters, windows, wash dishes) argh!!!! it makes NO sense!

                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                        I can barely use chopsticks with my left hand. God help us if I try with my right. I'm a lefty whose right hand is there for balance and leverage .

                                                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                          I would NEVER attempt right-handed chopsticking. I can barely manage with the left. I've always preferred holding my fork in my left hand because it's more stable and I'm less likely to make a mess. When you're cutting, you're holding the food down with the fork so it's not as likely to go anyplace you don't want it to. When I hurt my left wrist I had to eat with my right hand for a few months and it never got easy.

                                                    2. My partner is left handed but always eats right-handed (i.e fork in left, knife in right) - unless it's soup or dessert, whne the spoon is held in the left.

                                                      1. I seem to be the odd person out here. When cutting something, I hold the fork in my right hand and the knife in my left, then put the knife on my plate and move the fork to my left hand to pick up the food. I don't see why people make such a big deal about switching hands and seem to be so proud that they don't do it. It's what comes most naturally to me. Incidentally, I'm not exclusively left-handed. I throw a ball with my right hand and hold a pair of scissors in that hand as well.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                          no pride here at all...LOL...I too cut righty with scissors...brush teeth righty...OMG...just amazing to think of all the things I do righty but I'm somewhat crippled trying to write with my right hand! This is a fascinating thread!

                                                          1. re: Val

                                                            Scissors are very handed, both in the shape of the finger holes, and mating of the edges. When used with the correct hand the edges are forced together and cut cleanly. The wrong hand actually spreads the edges a part. Fine quality ones are more 'handed' than cheap ones.

                                                            Since most scissors are made for the right hand, I've gotten used to using that hand. I once bought a good quality pair of left handed sewing scissors on clearance, but haven't used them much because they don't feel right. My left hand isn't used to using scissors, and the scissors don't cut well when I use my right.

                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                              I'm a lefty/mixed gal and have no problem using righty scissors with my right hand. They/I cut just fine.

                                                        2. There is strong evidence that left handed people are more ambidextrous (skillful or "right handed on both sides" as opposed to other definitions, like the French word gauche, that equate left-handed with clumsiness) than right handed, as they (left handed types, we, including me) live in a predominately right handed world, with right handed tools and right handed attitudes. Since left handers have had to adapt, we are more likely to use either the left or right hand for tools that are decidedly made for right handers. Here's to us.

                                                          "Hand orientation is developed in fetuses, most commonly determined by observing which hand is predominantly held close to the mouth." - Wikipedia.

                                                          "In 2007, researchers discovered that specific alleles of at least one of three single-nucleotide polymorphisms upstream of the already known LRRTM1 gene were linked to left-handedness." - More Wiki.

                                                          I'm the only left handed person in my family, going back some generations. In the 50's the nuns at parochial school tried to force me use my right hand to print, but I resisted. I'm glad that attitude is not fostered on kids anymore. No shame in being left handed.

                                                          I use knife in left hand, fork in right, European style, no passing utensils back and forth to cut, unlike what my mother taught me; I push my peas onto the back of the fork. Mostly I eat with my left hand, if the food warrants. The closest hand grabs the drink, left or right pours the wine, left hand uses chopsticks; I throw right handed, bowl left, own left handed scissors and right handed knifes, my left eye is better than my right, my right hand uses the mouse. My right hand is the workhorse heavy, my left is for finesse.

                                                          Some of my cats are left pawed, no kidding. I make them sit at the them at the corner of the table so they don't bump elbows.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                            That's a very informative and, may I add, funny post. I find it fascinating that you throw right handed, but bowl left handed. We lefties be messed up, eh?

                                                            (Thankfully, I was never forced to write with my right hand. It would likely be just as illegible as my left handed writing.)

                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                              Messed up, yup, but brilliantly so.;)

                                                          2. Fork or spoon in left hand and knife in the right. I do not switch hands after cutting. When eating with people other than family (where we all know who's who and where to sit), I remind them that I'm left handed and we adjust the seating accordingly.