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Settle something for me ... is it gauche to pre-cut your steak into bite-sized pieces?


Is it?

Peter Luger sort of precuts your porterhouse for you (though not necessarily into bite-sized pieces).

But I've always been told that doing it is sort of bad form.

So, if you are at a steakhouse (Luger, Ruth's Chris, CUT, or whatever), is it bad form to pre-cut your ribeye or NY strip, or whatever cut of beef, into little bite-sized pieces and then dig away?

  1. For all except those wearing bibs in high chairs, yes.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      Or those with an AARP card?

      1. re: ipsedixit

        That overlaps with the "other" bib crowd...

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Wait a minute! I'm AARP and don't cut my food into tiny pieces then eat it. Although occassionally my husband does,,,,,,, but he is eleven months older.

          1. re: sharhamm

            A tell-tale sign of what's ahead.
            Tick. tick. Tick.

            1. re: Veggo

              Ha! No kidding. I routinely have to cut food for my 79-year old mother and 90-year old father. I thought those days were over when my daughter was old enough to fend for herself.

              My mother ordered beef rouladen the other evening and couldn't cut it. I was a little annoyed at her helplessness (she isn't as addled as she often leads others to believe). I tried to cut it while sitting down. I could not--it was that tough. I had to stand up to cut the meat. The manager noticed what I was doing, came over to check things out and agreed it was unacceptably tough. My silly mother wouldn't let them make her a new one, she insisted on chewing her way through that one (once I had done the hard work!).

              1. re: jlhinwa

                Did we have the same mother? Mine would have gone through the same brouhaha, then the next day call and complain bitterly and pathetically about the meal she needed help eating, so the manager would give her a generous comp certificate for a free meal there. And take somebody else there for dinner, after we'd paid for her meal.

                1. re: EWSflash

                  My mom usually doesn't like making a fuss so I was a bit surprised at her performance the other night. I don't know if she is paying me back for the times I embarrassed her in public when I was a kid or what?!

                  The meat really was tough and I think that asking to have it prepared again or subbed for something comparable would have been in order. But to complain and then demolish everything on her plate?!? Yikes. Add that to my list of things I don't want to do when I'm old and getting batty.

                  1. re: EWSflash

                    EWSflash - Your mother MUST be my father's sister! That is actually what she would do.

                    1. re: cleobeach

                      ...and my husband's mom's sister! My husband and I have a pact that if we ever become like that, there will be an "accident"!

        2. Removing meat from a large bone-in steak and slices it to serve is wildly different that cutting one's meat into bite-sized pieces all at once. As Veggo said above, one does this for infants. I would add the blind and infirm, if necessary.

          1 Reply
          1. re: pikawicca

            Well, ok. Devil's Advocate here for a moment.

            The examples you cite above are cutting the meat for someone else (or someone cutting the meat for you)

            Same rule applies if you cut if for yourself?

          2. Don't ya just want to know who made up those rules? When I read the heading, the answer was an automatic 'yes' in my head, but for the life of me, I can't remember when or where I learned that.

            Why should anyone else care as long as you aren't flinging food bits at them while cutting and all the rest of your table manners are appropriate (i.e., no drooling, spitting, chewing with mouth open, talking while chewing, etc.).

            1 Reply
            1. re: jlhinwa


              No. +10

              I cut 2 or 3 at a time. So sue me.

              1. Wouldn't that encourage the steak to cool down faster than you might want? My ex-boyfriend's father used to pre-cut his steak. He also used to take two knives and hack a bowl of spaghetti into bits. He liked to eat fast.

                9 Replies
                1. re: small h

                  hacking spaghetti into bits... now THAT i am definitely not a fan of

                  1. re: small h

                    I tend to cut my spaghetti to be neater. Longer strands flop around, spattering sauce. Since I am not Italian (real or pseudo) I did not adopt the practice or skill of neatly twirling long strands of spaghetti around my fork.

                    1. re: paulj

                      I've nothing against cutting spaghetti in order to make it neater to eat. But this guy wasn't trying to be neat, as evidenced by the amount of sauce and pasta bits that landed on the table during the hacking. He was just trying to save time.

                      I think a general rule is that any behavior at the table that causes your dining companions to wonder what the hell you're doing is best avoided. Exceptions for attention whores and performance artists.

                      1. re: paulj


                        One does not need to be Italian to be able to eat an Italian dish in a manner approximating what Italians do.

                        1. re: huiray

                          I suppose I should also slurp my Asian noodles :)

                          1. re: huiray

                            Easier said than done.

                            My own strategy is not to order long strands of pasta out. I will never forget the job interview when the penne dish came to the table with fettucine instead. The waiter explained after delivering the dish that there was a substitution. Didn't get that job, but don't think it had to do with my only eating the chicken and ignoring the fettucini ... after all, I was wearing a white blouse.

                            When I worked in Taiwain, I spent months before eating everthing with chopsticks, even oatmeal. To this day I still am an oaf with chopstics.

                            When I moved back to the US, I took my Guatemalan stepdaughters to a dim sum joint and promtly managed to shoot something across the dining room with my chopsticks.

                            You can try, but there are some things hard to master for some people

                          2. re: paulj

                            I'm with paulj on this one. Twirling full-length spaghetti covered with red sauce is for me a cross between a weed whacker and a lawn sprinkler in my hands. That, or I end up with a clump on my fork the size of a jai-alai ball.

                            1. re: Veggo

                              Wow- how fast are you twirling it around?? I'm picturing somethng like an eggbeater (can't help it, makes me laugh)

                        2. ultra tacky and not etiquette.

                          32 Replies
                          1. re: smartie

                            Once again, WHY? Just because SOMEBODY at SOMETIME decided so?

                            1. re: PotatoHouse

                              Nobody says you have to do it that way. Some people will judge you based upon that, some will not. For that matter, if you order a steak in a restaurant in a major US city, you are free to just pick the whole thing up and chew on it, followed by a swig of wine right from the bottle. It's all up to each of us to decide where we draw the line.

                              1. re: escondido123

                                I have to ask Miss Manners and hope she decides to address this issue.

                              2. re: PotatoHouse

                                if it wasn't ok the OP would not have to ask

                                1. re: PotatoHouse

                                  Just like how someone at sometime decided it was uncouth to pick up one's steak with one's hands and start chewing it.

                                  1. re: PotatoHouse

                                    > Once again, WHY? Just because SOMEBODY at SOMETIME decided so?

                                    That's true of literally all rules of etiquette.

                                    1. re: MrBook

                                      Question authority. Power to the people.

                                      Someone decided at some time to stop ripping apart food with hands and use utensils ... whetier it is knives forks, spoons, chopsticks or whatever.

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        After a bitter battle with the lobbyists for the association of paper napkin manufacturers, who advocated a very "hands on" approach...

                                      2. re: MrBook

                                        The point of good manners, or in this case good table manners, is that our actions are unobtrusive.

                                        Slicing the steak into small bits before eating it would certainly arouse attention and thus wouldn't be considered good manners.

                                        1. re: Roland Parker

                                          Okay, I have to ask: WHY should it arouse attention?

                                          Note: My question is not why MIGHT it arouse attention, but why SHOULD it? Again... how someone cuts up their food really affects no one else except the person consuming it (because it's likely to get cold faster). They are not flinging the food around the table; they are not banging the utensils on the plate, creating noise; they are not interrupting the manner in which anyone else is eating their own food, in any way. They are, on the contrary, simply using their knife and fork for the purpose they were designed for which is.... to cut up the food on their plate! What the heck is "obtrusive" about that? Now, if the person were to pick up an entire t-bone in both hands and start gnawing on it like Calvin the Caveman, okay, THAT would be obtrusive for sure, but that's NOT what they are doing.

                                          In short: Why. Should. Anyone. Else. Care?

                                          IMHO, if the way I choose to quietly cut up my own plate of food bothers someone else at that table, or somehow lowers me in their estimation, then that's their "issue", not mine. Frankly, I think that person needs to get a life and stop judging others on the basis of something so ridiculously petty.

                                          1. re: skyline

                                            And if that person had control of your job? Would that make a difference? We are all judged by other people for all sorts of reasons--how we look, how we talk, how we dress and yes, how we eat. Whether you think that makes sense or not really doesn't matter, because some people still will. The question just becomes, for all of us, whether it is worth it to do or not do certain things that other people view in a bad light.

                                            1. re: skyline

                                              Read Karl S's excellent, articulate entries below. You can fight the "Why. Should...?" fight all you want. Karl S. addresses the way it is - like it or not.

                                              1. re: Jammin Joy

                                                Okay, I'll quote Karl S.

                                                "One is supposed to harmonize one's own eating with cultural norms so that there is no temptation given to other diners to notice how others are eating. In most large cultures, mastering of norms regarding dining manners is a mark of adulthood and considered an important responsibility of the family, so much so that failure to master the norms without reason (disability) is considered a poor reflection on one's parents. ... The fact that the norms are somewhat arbitrary is of no matter in the terms of this reality. One is free to ignore the norms. One is not free to credibly expect one's ignoring of the norms to go unmarked. That's all."

                                                So, skyline, if you want to live here on planet earth, take Karl S's explanation to heart. Amongst homo sapiens that's just the way society and culture work. It doesn't operate according to what "should" be, but what "is".

                                                1. re: Jammin Joy

                                                  I will add something further about the implied WHY of otherwise arbitrary norms of dining. While it is true that the rules of manners can be used as a pretext for the socially confident to to judge the socially unconfident, formlessness in manners has an even more vicious effect - it puts the bulk of people, who tend to be socially unconfident, in a position of wondering if they are giving cause for others to be offended. This latter dynamic is actually quite widespread (viz myriad threads on this board over the past decade or more). Agreed-upon norms of manners, while arbitrary, are designed to protect the socially unconfident from unnecessary worry about whether they've given just cause for another to be offended. American manners, having whittled down the more formidable encrustations of manners over the years, run the risk of "if we no longer care about arbitrary rule X, why the hell should we care about arbitrary rule Y?" As I noted earlier, the fewer the rules, the more likely the surviving rules are going to bite harder. Cuz it in the nature of social beings for that to be so.

                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                    Love it. Very funny and clever

                                                  2. re: Jammin Joy

                                                    On the other hand, if we all just conform to cultural norms, they will never change no matter how obsolete and arbitrary they are. Up until the mid 1900s, it was the cultural norm that men should wear hats outdoors. Now, people make such decisions for themselves based on what they feel is practical and convenient. I think that's progress. I hope we will make similar progress on this silly meat-cutting issue. I mean, if you are bothered by how some nonconformist at your table cuts his meat, you have a problem, not him. It's not like he's sneezing in your food.

                                                    1. re: nocharge

                                                      I don't think people were saying in general that it "bothered them" but rather they might take note of the fact. And if they happened to be that person's boss, they might think twice about sending that person off to a business dinner with clients which could affect their potential for advancement in the company. But everyone is certainly free to eat however they want; sometimes it can have consequences that's all.

                                                2. re: skyline

                                                  >>> IMHO, if the way I choose to quietly cut up my own plate of food bothers someone else at that table, or somehow lowers me in their estimation, then that's their "issue",

                                                  As to the first part of you sentence, as stated the golden rule of etiquette is about making others comfortable. So if you know the rules and don't care if you bother someone ... well.

                                                  As to lowered estimation, why go out of your way to make anyone think less of you.

                                                  Here's what happens to me when I see someone break a rule such as this. The first thought is "whoa, this person lacks some education". And then I move on, but there is that little mental tick against them stored in the back of my mind

                                                  I may like, even love that person. I'll weigh what they say on subjects based on merit. However, there will be those times when they say or do something and then I chalk that up to the fact they lack some education.

                                                  If I don't know you, what you say is going to be evaluated as someone who isn't totally educatated. At first, I might take you less seriously.

                                                  And if someone doesn't care ... tick, tick, tick

                                                  LIsten, I know some rules. I probably don't know a lot. I don't read etiquete books like love letters. However, if I find I've been doing something that breaks the rules that I didn't know about, I correct it in the future.

                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                    Anecdote - a few years ago I had a business client who later became a personal friend. Altho' she had a number of fine qualities, she also had a number of exceedingly irritating habits that indicated a general self-centered cluelessness. One example was an insistence on calling me at midnight since she was a "night" person, in spite of the fact that she knew I started my day at 6AM.
                                                    Also, annoying, and even alarming, were her toilet and table manners which consisted of not washing her hands when using restaurant restrooms then pawing through the breadbasket, picking up, inspecting, then rejecting multiple items. Once she had selected something, she tore it in half and returned the uneaten portion to the basket. She double-dipped, she ate off of serving plates instead of transferring the food to her own plate and generally conducted herself like a disease vector. I realized that we came from different backgrounds and tried to be tolerant, but eventually suppressing my poorly disguised revulsion when dining out with her just became too much.
                                                    I ended the relationship, because this woman was just so completely oblivious to her own actions and to everyone around her. Yes, I guess you could say that my lack of tolerance was my "issue". but it had consequences for her. And so it will for others who flout or ignore the prevailing cultural norms of the societies in which they live.
                                                    Why not, unless you're a completely self-absorbed narcissist, observe a few simple aesthetic guidelines and make life easier for yourself and more pleasant for everyone else?

                                                    1. re: Jammin Joy

                                                      I'd say she violated more than just "aesthetic guidelines." (And I certainly wouldn't eat out of that bread basket.)

                                                      1. re: gaffk

                                                        Right. This is absolutely not a valid analogy. Almost everyone who's said that cutting up to start is harmless has pointed out that it's not dangerous or disgusting. The same can't be said of contaminating shared food with fecal bacteria.

                                                    2. re: rworange

                                                      But don't we all (as individuals and as a society) have a sort of "sliding scale" of how unacceptable something may be -- in other words, how MUCH discomfort we may be inflicting on others if we do, or fail to do, a specific thing?

                                                      In other words most etiquette rules do more or less fall into categories of "How egregious an offense is this?" And I do maintain that someone cutting their food up all at once is a less egregious offense (whether performed as a result of ignorance or not) than someone who is actively interfering with the way other people at the table are eating or talking, or who is pointedly ignoring the others at the table in favor of texting or carrying on a phone conversation.

                                                      I just don't happen to think that I am obligated to consider the EC ("etiquette correctness") of EVERY SINGLE LITTLE THING thing that I do, out of fear that it might offend someone else's sensibilities or lower myself a notch or two or three in that person's internal checklist of "how Skyline measures up". There is a line, so to speak, between etiquette rules that I consider sensible and reasonable (and most do fall into that category, and I do always abide by those no matter where I am) and the rules that are in my opinion "nit-picky". IMHO the manner in which someone chooses to cut up a food falls into the nit-picky category.

                                                      Case in point: I was raised to always send a handwritten thank-you note to ANYONE who either gives me a gift, has me as a guest in their home or at a restaurant, or goes out of their way to do something nice for me. NO exceptions. And I have done that all my life and probably will to my dying day. Yes even in these days of email and text messages, LOL. And you know what? Judging from the fact that in ALL my 60-plus years on this earth, I can count on the fingers of ONE HAND the number of people who follow that same etiquette rule (and two of them were my mother and grandmother!) I am clearly in the minority. However, none of my other friends, relatives, and acquaintances are or have been people who I consider uneducated or uncaring or disrespectful in any way, nor do I think one whit less of them because they don't send thank you notes. That is simply a rule that for me falls into the "essential" category BUT for them falls into the "nitpicky" category -- and I UNDERSTAND that fact and can RELATE to it. Maybe I am more tolerant than the norm, who knows. Or maybe life has simply taught me, over the years (because when I was in my teens through my early 50s, I did indeed think my fate hung on how other people might perceive me) that life is too short to sweat the small stuff. :-)

                                                      1. re: skyline

                                                        So you say. But others say different. And there we leave it.

                                                        1. re: skyline

                                                          Expressing appreciation is ALWAYS essential, not nitpicky in the least. Kudos to you, skyline, for maintaining a very high standard in this truly important category, which takes a great deal more time and effort than simply managing your plate.

                                                          1. re: skyline

                                                            But when someone does take the time to send a written thank you, doesn't it up that person in your eyes? People like Princess Dianne always get noted for doing so.

                                                            Isn't it better to have a positive impact than negative, no matter how small?

                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                              "But when someone does take the time to send a written thank you, doesn't it up that person in your eyes? "
                                                              Hm, I'm not sure if I would put my reaction in terms of raising them in my estimation. I'll try to explain, with a pair of different scenarios:

                                                              #1: I give Mary a gift in person, for her b-day or a holiday or whatever; she says "Thank you so much, Skyline, I love it!" . A few days later I get a note in the mail (or perhaps nowdays an email, LOL) saying "I just wanted to thank you again for the box of chocolates, I've eaten almost half of them already and don't feel in the least guilty about it either! You're a great friend." I will think that it was nice of her to go to the additional effort to send the card or the email even though she had already thanked me at the time I gave the gift. Or took her out to lunch for her b-day if that's what I did instead (same scenario, with her saying thank you at that time). She went 'beyond the call of duty' in terms of what's considered average behavior when it comes to thanking me. I wouldn't make any serious changes in my estimation of her character as a result though.

                                                              #2: I give Mary a gift (or take her out to lunch) and she says Thank You at the time, sincerely and I can tell she means it. She does not send a card or an email afterward. But I do not think any less of her for not doing so, nor do I assume that she doesn't think I'm worth the extra effort of sending a followup thank you, nor that she is uneducated (ignorant of the etiquette rule that says she should send one even though she thanked me at the time) or was somehow "not raised properly". There's no negative impact made by her on my estimation of her as a result of her not sending a physical (or electronic) thank you as well.

                                                              #3: Now if I sent Mary a gift package, or a restaurant gift certificate, in the mail but don't get a phone call, email, or mailed thank you afterward, that would put me in a quandary because I don't know which of the following situations apply:
                                                              (a) it went astray and she never received it
                                                              (b) she did got but hates it, or thinks I am the world's worst cheapskate for not spending more on her gift, and can't think of a single nice thing to say about it
                                                              (c) she got it and liked it, but something is going on in her life that distracted her from callling, emailing, or writing and afterward she totally forgot she hadn't done it. Hey, it happens.
                                                              (d) nobody ever taught her that gifts should never be taken for granted and/or the giver not promptly thanked no matter who they are
                                                              (e) she just doesn't care enough about me to care whether I am thanked or not

                                                              This last scenario in turn would create an etiquette question for ME: Do I contact her and ask "did my gift arrive" , thus making her uncomfortable and embarasssed if anything OTHER than reason (a) applies -- thus breaking the rule about not making another person uncomfortable? (well, let's face it, if it was actually (e), she deserves to be embarassed, LOL!) On the other hand, if the gift never arrived, then *I* am the one who appears to be rude for not sending her a gift when she probably expected to get one. Tough call, and I would indeed wish that she'd given me at least SOME form of a thankyou -- but on the off chance that the reason might be (c), my estimation of her would not suffer because of it. However, if it happened more than once? Yes, then the impact would be a negative one, but only because to thank someone INITIALLY has always been considered simple basic common courtesy in all cultures and through all eras. One of the first things we teach our children from toddlerhood is to say Thank You, although the practice of sending follow-up written thank-yous is not nearly as widespread (so that, as you rightly point out, it is considered noteworthy -- no pun intended ;-) -- when someone does do it. :-)

                                                        2. re: skyline

                                                          I just thought of a way in which cutting up the steak at the start interferes with others (beyond violating their sense of 'aughts'). Let's assume that the real purpose of the meal is social interaction - looking each other in the eye, making small talk, etc. If for a minute or two you focus on cutting your meat, you are withdrawing from that interaction.

                                                          One might even argue that that is the purpose of the American zig-zag. During the interval when you are switching hands, you can focus on the conversation. However it does not explain why Europeans can have a conversation at the table without the zig-zag.

                                                          Some sources claim that Americans adopted the zig-zag (fork/knife switch) when they started to import the newfangled rounded tip knives, but not forks. So they had to steady the meat with a spoon. Another source claims that American high society did not adopt the European method in the late 19th c. because they were busy trying to tame the while frontiers men. Changing the rules would create too much confusion. It would interesting to learn more about the uncouth 19th c dining habits that the society mavens were combating. It might give insight into why certain rules developed.

                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                            One might also argue that mid-meal cutting distracts from the conversation. By cutting upfront, you decrease the ongoing physical and cognitive resources required by your steak, allowing for a long period of uninterrupted conversation peppered with appropriate eye contact.

                                                            1. re: jvanderh

                                                              One might argue that, but it's not terribly convincing.

                                                            2. re: paulj

                                                              Stick any geographical barrier (such as the Atlantic Ocean) between groups of people and they will develop different customs/mannerisms.

                                                            3. re: skyline

                                                              It is an arbitrary societal rule that allows people to demonstrate fraternity and respect for one another.

                                                              1. re: skyline

                                                                Here is my question: why do you want to cut your beautiful, hot on the outside, pink on the inside, steak into little pieces before taking that first bite? A steak or chop just tastes better taken a bit at a time. You zig zag, and you return to cut another piece, chew and enjoy. Cutting it in one go would tend to dry it a bit. And, cutting into bits reminds me of a mom cutting the food for her child.

                                                                I say the meat on your plate tastes better taken a bit at a time, at a leisurely pace. And you look like an adult when you are eating this way.

                                                                But we are all free to follow or not follow etiquette rules. You make a good point about other social niceties, that seem to be declining. If you don't want to change, there isn't a law that would force you to.

                                                      2. Thinking back to my pre-vegan days...hmm... I have a question for the OP before answering.

                                                        When you say "cut [the meat] into bite-sized pieces", do you mean cutting up the ENTIRE piece of meat, or just, say, 2 or 3 pieces at a time (in other words cut a couple/three pieces, eat one or perhaps two, then take a mouthful (or two) of whatever else is on the plate, then eat the remaining piece(s) of meat, etc etc.)?

                                                        Because I would answer differently depending on the actual cutting scenario being asked about. Seriously.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. A related question (and one that the thread about picking lobster sparked): Is it tacky to pick the meat out of one's lobster or crab shell entirely before eating? My preferred ritual is to get all the lobster or crab meat out, then wash my hands thoroughly, then begin eating the meat. Is that tacky? Should I be picking, cleaning up, eating, and then repeat over and over again?

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: jlhinwa

                                                            It would depend on where you were, who you were with and whether it mattered to you if your food was cold before eating.

                                                          2. Depends on whether you use the American zig-zag or the Euro method :)

                                                            1. I normally have steak at home with mushrooms and I do not pre-cut my steak.

                                                              However, I monitor the remaining steak such that I always end up with one bite of steak and one mushroom.

                                                              And yes, when ever we're in NY we eat at Peter Lugar's where one of my last acts is picking up the bone and gnawing on it just before eating the gold coin!

                                                              1. Not so much about "bad form" as bad eats. If you cut your steak first and then eat, it will not stay as warm and juicy as cutting as you eat. Those little pieces cool off and dry out.

                                                                Having said that, I would not view your approach as "bad form." I do not yuck someone's yum and I do not judge steak cutting as a personality flaw.

                                                                1. Believe the rule is - and, yes, there is a rule - cut no more than three pieces of meat, or whatever, at any one time. That way your plate stays reasonably tidy and doesn't look like it belings to a three-year old.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Jammin Joy

                                                                    I'm curious, Jammin Joy, do you know who or how "three pieces" became the point of demarcation between gauche and proper?

                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                      That's what I want to know: how did the rule become a rule? Who says and where do they say it?

                                                                  2. It seems completely ludicrous to me to pay that much attention to how someone else eats (it's not as if you're spewing food out of your mouth). I follow the school of thought that true good manners are making the people around you feel comfortable. I would be really unhappy if the steakhouse cut it for me, though. Seems anticlimactic.

                                                                    1. In grammar school I learned that the proper etiquette was not to cut up all your food at once. At most, two or three pieces could be cut.

                                                                      As this site says


                                                                      "When you cut your food up like that, you look like you are about to feed a baby."

                                                                      Which pretty much reflects a lot of the comments here.

                                                                      People, of course, will rail against the rules of etiquette in this thread. Yet, that same site states it perfectly

                                                                      ""Bad table manners are the biggest giveaway that a person lacks manners"

                                                                      If people don't care what people think of them, that is up to them. However, you will be judged ... unless your crowd also lacks manners and does the same.

                                                                      Aside from the gross look of the food on the plate, there were other good reasons such as the food cooling too quickly in the smaller bites.

                                                                      Anyway, IMO, it is always good to go with the conventions of the country. Some people mentioned that good etiquette is making one feel comformatable. I agree, but that doesn't mean anything goes. If you violate the etiquette rules of a country, you make those around you uncomfortable.

                                                                      In Guatemala it is perfectly acceptable to pick up a hunk of beef with your hands and gnaw on it. To not do so would make others around you feel uncomfortable. Ditto with whole fried fish ... or as someone finally said to me after watching me disect the fish with a knife and fork "For God's sake, just pick it up with your hands and eat it" ... or a similar sentiment in Spanish.

                                                                      So to sum up ... eating steak in the US ... don't cut it up all at once.

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                                        The other etiquette reason is hinted at by the OP's last two words, "dig away". In our culture, having all food pre-cut at one plate and not at the others is associated with an almost conveyor belt approach to feeding (as opposed to dining), and is markedly out of sync with other diners. A diner who does this will be treated as a child, and less likely to be invited back.

                                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                                          I'm mildly optimistic that increasing multiculturalism will gradually chip away at the completely arbitrary etiquette rules and leave only the ones that actually make sense. As more and more people go to all kinds of ethnic restaurants, have friends of different ethnicities, etc, they will realize that there are many different ways to eat food at a table. Presumably, it will lead to people taking rules that are completely arbitrary less seriously. Let's say your grandmother told you that good manners dictate that you hold your pinkie at a certain angle when you lift a cup of tea and that ignoring said manners would bring down the fabric of society. If you hang out enough with tea drinkers from cultures that don't have the same rules for pinkie angles, maybe you'll realize that such rules are overrated when it comes to drinking tea as well as for having a functioning society.

                                                                          1. re: nocharge

                                                                            >>> I'm mildly optimistic that increasing multiculturalism will gradually chip away at the completely arbitrary etiquette rules

                                                                            I would strongly doubt that. Having worked and traveled to a number of countries, etiquette outside the US can be a whole lot more important than in the laid back US.

                                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                                              I was just thinking about multiculturalism in the US. Are those other countries nearly as multicultural as the US? If not, I would expect etiquette rules to stay more rigid.

                                                                              1. re: nocharge

                                                                                No. The countries I am familiar with are not

                                                                                I will tell you the minute my Guatemalan step children speak better English or I can find a Spanish-speaking teacher, they will be going to an etiquette class.

                                                                                There will be NO etiquette melting pot in this house. I care enough about them that I don't want them to blow good jobs in the future.

                                                                                Then they can do what they want with that info ... become second class citizens working in lower paying jobs or sailing into better jobs.

                                                                                I also plan to work with them so they respect the etiquette of other cultures when they are in that situation.

                                                                                What kills me about this thread, is that I'll bet most of the people who sweat over the correct etiquette at a sushi restaurant, no matter how bizarre, are just so willing to toss away American etiquette on a whim.

                                                                                I guess someone who doesn't respect the etiquette of another culture is considered a boor while ignoring the etiqutte of their own culture makes them some sort of cultural heroes.

                                                                        2. As long as they keep their fork and knife away from my plate and their feet off the table, I have no problem with it.

                                                                          Also, if you are more concerned about how your dining companion is eating their food and less about your own plate, it may not be your dining companion. It may be the retaurant. And the food on your own plate that bothers you..

                                                                            1. Yes, it's gauche and bad form in our culture if you are not being fed or having your food cut by someone else because you are unable to do so.

                                                                              1. You cut all your meat into tiny bites, and you want us to settle something for you... hmmmmm.
                                                                                The answer I like best has to do with the loss of moisture and heat by doing so. By all means, go ahead, but, yes, it's kinda weird.

                                                                                1. Hmm. If you were on a blind date and your companion did this, how would it seem? To me, it would look infantile. If they came from a different country/culture where this was common, I'd shrug and say viva la difference, but if I knew they knew U.S. customs, I'd be pretty startled.

                                                                                  I'm sure it's more efficient to eat that way, uninterrupted by cutting motions, changes in hand, etc. Steak for me is a leisurely treat. I'm a slow inefficient eater anyway.

                                                                                  Would I voice my opinion or ask why they did so? Sure, if my husband or sister or good friend started doing this. To a client of my husband's, over dinner? Never. A co-worker -- maybe, but nurses are a mouthy bunch.

                                                                                  How about boiled crawfish or shell-on shrimp? Those are typically handled one at a time.

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: DuchessNukem

                                                                                    For the OP, seeing a date eat the same way might produce a 'Pa-pa-papagena!' moment - at last someone who is like me.

                                                                                    1. re: DuchessNukem

                                                                                      But isn't the object of polite dining, not to rush thru a meal, so why cut it all at once to save time??
                                                                                      I thought it was to enjoy a meal with companions and enjoy their company, not to shovel food in to save time. A dinner should be a relaxed comfortable time with gentile conversation, and mostly, good companionship.
                                                                                      At least that is what I have learned and practiced.
                                                                                      And cutting more than 2 or 3 pieces of meat is poor manners from what I've been told for years.

                                                                                      1. re: Nanzi

                                                                                        Why assume that precutting the steak goes hand in hand with shoveling it in? That wasn't part of the original scenario.

                                                                                        A lot of the posters who say it is wrong, try to pair it with other bad personality traits - infantile, rude, awkward (gauche = lefthanded), shovelling food, gluttonous, and greedy looking. It's not enough to say it's bad manners; it has to be justified by identifying the person as bad. Or am I reading too much into these justifications?

                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                          Reading too much into it. From this long thread I have noticed a practical reason, cutting as you go keeps the meat from getting cold and dried out.

                                                                                          And an aesthetic reason, it keeps your plate looking nicer. Along the lines of not playing with your food, as many children might do.

                                                                                          So in terms of bad personality traits I would say that this rule is basically saying that adults at the table should aspire to a higher standard than pre-schoolers, just like no hitting on the playground and share the toys.

                                                                                    2. It may or may not be bad manners, but for me the bigger fear is that if I dropped dead early in the meal I would have spent more time cutting than eating.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. I am (or was, when I ate meat, LOL) in the cut-three-at-a-time category. As others have pointed out, who wants only the first few pieces to be the right temperature and the rest get rapidly progressively cold? Faster than it would otherwise, I mean. Cutting up in small groups seems the logical compromise between all-at-once and one-piece-at-a-time.

                                                                                        That said... my opinion on whether or not it's "tacky", "done", or "etiquette" is, frankly, why should anyone else care how I eat, or how anyone eats? Who cares, as long as their method is not interfering with how anyone else at the table eats their own food? Other than if someone else takes food from my plate without my saying they should or could, or is using their food as a projectile, I honestly don't care how they eat and don't think it's anyone's business what I do with the food on my plate either. :-)

                                                                                        Most (not all!) 'good manners' rules are based on common sense, or should be. I don't know the reason behind the "no more than 3" etiquette rule but again common sense would dictate that the more you cut a hot food up into small pieces, the faster the small pieces will get cold. It's simple physics! But why that result (rapidly cooling food) should matter to anyone other than the person eating that food is beyond me.

                                                                                        It's like the old "no white shoes before Memorial Day or after Labor Day" fashion rule that women of my generation were brainwashed into. What common-sense reason does that have -- unless perhaps that the weather is nastier in some parts of the country between Sept and April and thus white shoes would be more likely to get ruined? Again, who cares except the woman wearing the weather-stained white shoes?! Well, maybe the shoe retailers but in that case they'd WANT women to wear white shoes all year -- more replacement pairs needed, LOL. Seriously I have no idea what the supposed rationale behind that etiquette rule was either (I'm hoping it's a "was" by this day and age).

                                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: skyline

                                                                                          White clothes ... probably has to due with geography, as you mentioned ... white and light colors deflect heat. Dark colors absorb it. Think of all that white clothing in hot parts of India. Labor Day was just a convenient cut off date as mentally it registers to most people as the end of summer.

                                                                                          No one cares about how someone eats. However, many people will judge the diner as uneducated. Thhere are grammar rules also. For most people, break the big ones and people will judge that person as uneducated. Some sticklers will make that same judgement on even the obscure rules. Same with etiquette.

                                                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                                                            "No one cares about how someone eats."
                                                                                            Well..., I care. Etiquette boils down to showing consideration and sensitivity for others in a graceful, gracious and aesthetically pleasing way. I would hope not to revolt my fellow diners by making an uncouth display of my lack of self awareness as well as my lack of concern for their experience dining with me. Whether it's wielding utensils as tho' they are farm implements, chewing with an open mouth, talking with food in my mouth, strewing the contents of my plate around the table, resting my forearm on the table to steady my fork then lowering my mouth to eat from said fork, pawing through the bread basket and touching everything in it, double-dipping, etc, it's all ugly and unpleasant to look at. Will it spoil others' enjoyment of their meal? Depends on what their standards are and how sensitive they are to unattractive behaviour in others.
                                                                                            You are entitled to eat however you wish and others are entitled to judge you, either positively or negatively, as they wish. So why not make it a pleasant experience for everyone by learning a few basic guidelines for considerate behaviour at the dinner table? It's about others, not you. And, I mean the generic "you", not you, rworange. Please don't take offense at my little rant.

                                                                                            1. re: Jammin Joy

                                                                                              But why does cutting all your meat at once fall in the same 'unpleasant and ugly' category? Is it inherently ugly, or does it just violate the rules you have internalized?

                                                                                              I don't usually notice other people's dining habits. One exception that comes to mind was some Chinese students in my undergrad dorm. One or more tended to put a piece of chicken, bones and all, in their mouth, and then pull out the cleaned bones. I noticed the difference but was not grossed out by it. Later I realized that was a normal Chinese practice - how else do you eat a duck or chicken that has been chopped into bite size pieces at the Chinese deli?

                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                One is supposed to harmonize one's own eating with cultural norms so that there is no temptation given to other diners to notice how one is eating. In most large cultures, the mastering of norms regarding dining manners is a mark of adulthood and is considered an important responsibility of the family, so much so that failure to master the norms without reason (such as disability) is considered a poor reflection on one's parents. (If anything, what few norms we retain in the US are very casual compared less modern cultures, but they are all the stronger for being so few.) The fact that the norms are somewhat arbitrary is of no matter in terms of this reality. One is free to ignore the norms; one is not free to credibly expect one's ignoring of the norms will go unmarked. That's all.

                                                                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                  Well said Karl. What I find unfortunate is that some people, who are otherwise smart, talented and creative can be held back by ignoring table manners. Doing things according to cultural norms can help you succeed, doing otherwise can cause concern, justified or not.

                                                                                                  1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                    I'm not convinced that cutting your meat up at the start of a meal is synonymous with ignoring table manners. It seems more quirky than rude. I think it's entirely possible that a person could cut up a steak into little pieces before eating without spitting half-chewed food onto his plate or flinging forkfuls of food around while resting his feet on the table. I might be mildly curious if I saw someone do it, but would not assume his parents failed at bringing him up properly. I've seen some parents get in the habit of cutting their meat up to start (maybe to facilitate forking some extra food over to a hungry kid's plate or eating one-handed while holding a baby). Could it be this behavior is a carryover from parenting, rather than a greedy attempt to shovel the food in as quickly as possible?

                                                                                                    1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                      The people I've seen do it were not parents and hadn't been parents yet--men in their 20s generally. Oh and I didn't suggest spitting food out or flinging food as comparable.

                                                                                                      1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                        Maybe it's something they picked up in college. If you cut all the meat at the start of the meal, you then have a hand free to hold the book you are reading, or to text a friend. :)

                                                                                                        There are a good number of years between the time a young person stops eating under the watchful eye of Mom, and starts having to impress the boss (and fellow chowhounds).

                                                                                        2. I am less bothered about the way someone cuts their meat (or chicken, or whatever) than by the fact that many people chew with their mouth open. I really don't want to see their food sloshing around, it grosses me out. And I really don't care how cold their food is by the time they eat it, if they do cut it into small pieces. Hey, if they like cold food, that's their business.

                                                                                          I generally cut a few pieces at a time - don't really count - partly because I can't be bothered to cut my food all at once. I am less conscious of proper table manners when dining alone at home. I do, however, go with the "rule" about buttering my bread. Break off a small piece, butter it, repeat as necessary. And depending on the restaurant I am in (or at whose house I eat) I will break the "rule" about using my bread to sop up some delicous sauce. I guess the rules I break depend on where I am. YMMV.

                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                                            There's no rule against sopping so long as you do it with a fork (that is, hold the bread with the fork, instead of the fingers).

                                                                                            1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                                              ahahah, couldn't help but think of my favorite food scene with Michael Caine sitting extremely poised across the table from Sandra bullock while she's eating a steak, as he says: "I'm sorry, what were you saying? I was distracted by the half-masticated cow rolling around in your wide open trap." The contrast between the two never fails to make me giggle.

                                                                                              1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                                                "...the "rule" about using my bread to sop up some delicous sauce. "

                                                                                                There's an etiquette rule against that? Seriously?

                                                                                                I'm honestly NOT being facetious: I really never heard of that rule nor was it ever included in my childhood upbringing of proper table manners. And lest anyone think "sauce mopping" might have been a different-culture norm in my family, I come from an unbroken line of Bostonians stretching back more than 375 years, so that's definitely not the reason, LOL

                                                                                                Well, if there is indeed such a rule, then "fie on it", that's what I say. ;-) I shall continue to sauce-mop (holding the bread in the fingers I was born with, thankyouverymuch) until my dying day, LOL. It's not like I'm doing a Henry VIII impression, after all.

                                                                                                1. re: skyline

                                                                                                  Seriously, yes. I'm sure I've read it *somewhere* and I'll check my Miss Manners book on etiquette when I get home (I love that book-full of all kinds of use-ful and use-less info).

                                                                                                  I won't use a fork to mop up the sauce; if I'm gonna do it, it will be in a casual restaurant where no one will care if I do or not. Definitely wouldn't consider doing it in a fine dining situation. I have enough self-control and respect for formal atmosphere to refrain from that unpleasant-to-others sight.

                                                                                                  Off topic--congrats on your long Bostonian lineage. I'm sure it's very interesting.

                                                                                                  1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                                                    I actually learned and was encouraged to sop up sauce at an upscale restaurant I frequented. The chef/owner came by and said I was leaving the good stuff.

                                                                                                    Here's a good answer on the subject

                                                                                                    "Eating habits at home can be more relaxed and different from the protocol when dining out in a restaurant or someone's home. If you are already using your hands to eat the meal such as a hamburger or tortilla wrapped item, then soaking up some sauce while holding a piece of bun or tortilla with your fingers is fine.

                                                                                                    However, if you are dining with a fork, then the fork should be used. Tear off a bite-sized piece of bread and place it onto the plate, and use the fork to retrieve the bread from the sauce or gravy. Use only one bite-sized piece of bread at a time.

                                                                                                    Please note that etiquette for formal dining frowns on dipping bread in soup or gravy"

                                                                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                                                                      Here is Miss Manners on the subject: "Using bread to sop up sauces or help spear difficult foods is a middle-European custom of dubious origin. The way to do it, if you must do it at all, is to put a small piece of bread on the dinnner plate, spear it with the fork as if it were a food legitimately domiciled there, and then quickly mop up. It is Miss Manner's belief that Americans with pure minds and bodies are perfectly capable of triumphing over any article of food without calling in assistance from the breadbasket. Sopping up sauces with bread should be confined to the nursery--"nursery," in this sense, meaning the family, of whatever age, at home enjoying garlic butter in privacy. Using the fingers should be confined to oblivion."

                                                                                                      And I say, if it's a casual seafood joint where everyone is wearing blue jeans and t shirts, I'm gonna dunk my bread into the broth from my bucket of steamers, and use my hand, not a fork. And I will enjoy every bit of the soaked bread. Fine dining, ain't gonna do it.

                                                                                                      1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                                                        I think we would all agree that manners at home are different from manners in a restaurant, unless you leave tips for whoever serves you dinner at home. Funny to think you couldn't use bread to dip into sauce when so many restaurants serve a saucer of olive oil you are encouraged to dip your bread into.

                                                                                                        1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                          Touche. I forgot about the saucer of OO. It's even better if combined with good balsamic.

                                                                                              2. Me personally I think it gluttonous, and greedy looking. An exception might be if you're eating off paper plates with plastic utensils, standing, or without a table. For instance tailgating, picnicking, or camping types of scenarios.

                                                                                                1. It's an odd thing to do, certainly kind of quirky (as someone pointed out) but hardly bad manners. Picking it up with bare toes might be bad manners (or at least cringeworthy).

                                                                                                  Enjoy the food the way you like to enjoy it, and pay no mind to what I or anyone else thinks. People may stare and give quizzical looks. But if they are vocal about your preference, then probably THEY are the ones with bad manners.

                                                                                                  1. It is food etiquette, as learned by me a lifetime ago. You cut your meat as you go, one piece at a time. But then, you were expected to lay your knife across the top of your plate as you eat the piece you just cut. Nowadays, of course, people hold their utensils in each hand, and often don't lay down the knife.But pre-cutting your meat into small pieces is just not good table manners.

                                                                                                    As to who made this rule? I don't know. But if you are eating with your boss or your in-laws, follow the rule, OK?

                                                                                                      1. My mother taught me to cut meat 1-2 bites at a time as soon as I was old enough to wield a knife by myself. The practice was reinforced when I was a young teen in cotillion. There was never an explanation as to why - it was just the way things were done. Of course, I was also raised to be polite and gracious. If a dining companion cuts up the whole steak at once, I will almost certainly notice, but I'm not going to say or do anything that would make my companion uncomfortable, nor would I "defriend" someone over it.

                                                                                                        1. IMHO, it's far more gauche to either talk on a cellphone, or text, at the table (ANY table ANYWHERE) than to cut up one's meat all at once.

                                                                                                          Sadly, FAR more people do the former things (especially texting!) at table than the latter .

                                                                                                          And IMHO the mobile-device thing is a much worse (more insulting/offensive) table-manners infraction than any food-cutting style.

                                                                                                          Hmmm. An entire new thread could probably be made out of "Is it socially acceptable to use a mobile device at the table?" LOL

                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: skyline

                                                                                                            I'm with you on the problem of mobile devices at the table. But I would bet the consensus would be YES and NO, with a lot of arguing in between.

                                                                                                            1. re: skyline

                                                                                                              I'm with you on this. I don't know which is worse: the person sitting across from you and only paying attention to his mobile device, or the person in the next booth or table who is loudly talking into a cell about his/her entire life!

                                                                                                              If you do this, you know who you are!

                                                                                                              1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                Many years ago we were lucky enough to be having dinner in a lovely restaurant outside of Rome. Virtually all the Italians were on their cells the whole time including one couple who never spoke to one another--unless they were actually carrying on a conversation via their cell phones.

                                                                                                            2. YES!!!! Terribly bad form.

                                                                                                              1. This whole issue would be moot if the kitchen cut everything up into bite size pieces, as they do on the civilized side of the world! But then I suppose we'd be debating the finer points of handling chopsticks and slurping our noodles. :)

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                  Fantastic point! But as you pointed out, Chinese & Japanese restaurants already pre-cut the protein. Have you ever seen a knife at either restaurant:} Personally I think this whole issue is ridiculous. Most of us have our quirks, some just happen to involve food. It's one thing if you're on a first date or with co-workers/clients where you have to "put on" that you know the expected etiquette of dining in the US. Ok. But if you're with friends and family? Who really cares? I like to eat my meal one component at a time; first my vegetable, then my protein, then my starch. I hate to mix. Does that make me gauche? Perhaps. But my husband thinks it's an adorable quirk:} Also, I let him any my friends/family make fun of me. If you're going to have a food quirk, have a sense of humor about it. If you cut your steak into teeny tiny pieces, you should not get into shouting matches when your loved ones start saying "goo goo": } That being said, would I do this on a business meeting? No.

                                                                                                                  1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                                                                                    The only reason I usually follow the rules of etiquette at home is because I want to keep my social skills sharp. If I break them at home, I might forget when out.

                                                                                                                    So, yeah, at home I've been known to cut up my food all at once on occasion. I'm usually working on something, book on the table, leaning on an elbow at times reading it and talking on the cell phone.

                                                                                                                2. When eating a steak I'll sometimes cut off a slice about 3/4" thick and however long that part of the steak is. When I do that I am somehow compelled to cut that piece into 3 or 4 smaller pieces.................... but it always bothers me when I do it.

                                                                                                                  It reminds me that my Mom always complained that I ate too fast and pre-cutting would certainly seem to encourage that habit. I can't say whether that reminder is more or less concerning than the etiquette thing.

                                                                                                                  1. Yes, it is bad form to precut your steak into bite-sized pieces. I classify it as uncouth, undignified and infantile.

                                                                                                                    I would imagine someone that precuts their steak into bite-sized pieces also orders their steak well-done with a side of ketchup for dipping and washes it down with a glass of white zin.

                                                                                                                    13 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: MonMauler

                                                                                                                      Though none of those things, in isolation, would be classified as uncouth by most, while the pre-cutting would even in isolation.

                                                                                                                      1. re: MonMauler

                                                                                                                        I think, often, people who eat well-done steaks with ketchup are used to eating cheap beef or meats that aren't eaten rare (probably not a lot of filet, duck, or sushi-grade fish in your average lower/middle class home). Sometimes that's because they've put their money into more important pursuits. My parents eat well-done steaks, but frugal decisions like not eating out often meant they could put me through private school and college on a middle-class income, and that seems like an imminently mature and couth set of priorities to me. I guess it's sometimes my first instinct to feel superior to people who order like newbies, but it's usually quickly followed by the understanding that their life experiences have been different than mine.

                                                                                                                        Now, rich guys who eat well-done steak? Unforgivable.

                                                                                                                        1. re: MonMauler

                                                                                                                          Just curious, MonMauler: Is it the well-done steak, or the ketchup dip, that brings it into the realm of "uncouth"? ;-)

                                                                                                                          In other words if someone at your table ordered their steak well-done and then put nothing but salt and/or pepper on it, would you consider them gastronomically uneducated, uncouth, etc?

                                                                                                                          1. re: skyline

                                                                                                                            First, I will respond to jvanderh: there are more important pursuits than my current one for the perfect cut of beef? (just kidding!)

                                                                                                                            skyline, to me it's an either/or scenario. It is uncouth to order your steak well-done, just as it is uncouth to dip a steak cooked to any doneness in ketchup.

                                                                                                                            My mom, for example, prefers her filet (favorite cut) well-done, and when I am grilling over their house it pains me to manhandle the piece of meat the way I do to get it the way she likes it. I'm not out to "yuck anyone's yum," but I do find her lacking in gastronomical sophistication, especially when it comes to steak.

                                                                                                                            (Of course, in my comments on this thread, I am assuming we are talking about a good cut of beef.)

                                                                                                                            1. re: MonMauler

                                                                                                                              The insult in this case is to a piece of meat, not to another person (unless that person empathizes with the meat).

                                                                                                                              1. re: MonMauler

                                                                                                                                My mother too had problems with lots of cuts of meat and wouldn't eat lamb, goose or duck. But that's the way she was raised and I don't see why the way she likes her meat cooked--assuming she doesn't want it braised when everyone else is having grilled--to be "uncouth." Why shouldn't she get to eat a steak cooked they way she likes, especially when she's asked for her preference? It truly doesn't hurt anybody else.

                                                                                                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                                  My mom, too, doesn't eat lamb, goose or duck.

                                                                                                                                  Like you said, it was the way she was raised - overdone meat and potatoes. There's nothing wrong with that; in fact, that's exactly how she raised me and my siblings.

                                                                                                                                  And she always gets her steak cooked the way she likes, at least when I'm cooking it for her.

                                                                                                                                  I refer to it as uncouth because I find it lacking in gastronomical sophistication, especially since she has never touched a piece of beef cooked less than medium.

                                                                                                                                  Uncouth is not pejorative, though it does have a poor connotation. I certainly am not insulting my mother!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: MonMauler

                                                                                                                                    I agree, the word "uncouth" is probably not the best choice of adjective because I think to most readers/hearers it equates to "boorish", "rude", "tacky" and probably a few other pejorative descriptions as well ... even though that's not the word's actual meaning.

                                                                                                                                    "Gauche", on the other hand, can be interpreted in two differing ways: Either as lacking in social experience, or as being deliberately untactful or crude in word or deed. Thus, "gauche" can be either an inadvertent or a deliberate action, but "uncouth" (by definition) isn't the latter.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                                    My father always ate his beef well-done, no matter whether it was at home (meat from the butcher shop, never the supermarket) or in a restaurant (his two favorite leisure activities, especially after retirement, were shopping and dining out). He knew his way around food, all right, but his preference was for well done meat, period.

                                                                                                                                    I recall a few occasions when the filet or Porterhouse he'd ordered was discovered to be medium (or worse yet, medium rare) rather than well-done as specified. He'd immediately send it back to the kitchen with this comment, delivered with a smile: "Please tell the chef that if I'd wanted to see blood on my plate, I'd have stabbed the waiter."


                                                                                                                              2. re: MonMauler

                                                                                                                                While we are imaging things, let me throw out another possibility - ADHD or other psychological disorder. I'm not a doctor but I have watched the ADD and Loving It program on PBS. Apparently there are more adults with ADD than we realize, even many who don't know it themselves. They may have learned to function well in an adult world, but still in various ways they may have trouble fitting in with normal life. Parents report that it is harder to manners to the ADHD children. An adult may have picked up on the basics, but not have enough social awareness to realize that they are different on minor issue like this. And their relatives and friends might not be bothered enough to discuss it.

                                                                                                                                A person with OCD might feel a need to finish the task of cutting their meat, rather than flipping back and forth between cutting and eating.

                                                                                                                                I'm not advocating that we go around diagnosing strangers based on their dining habits, but I think we should cut others some slack, and not assume the worse when someone does not quite meet the standards we have internalized.

                                                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                  I wouldn't go there: a lot gets saddled on those things, and it doesn't help. (I have to do the now requisite recitation that I write this "as someone who" has a couple of very close family members with rather spectacular developmental disorder histories, where the table was at times one of the more problematic venues...)

                                                                                                                                  I think we can separate those situations out: in the main, a person who is concerned about whether his table manners might thought gauche is not the same person with ADHD, autism or OCD in table praxis. The issue for such a person is that, in our culture, they will be thought unmannerly. It's up to them to decide how they want to deal with that reality.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                    OCD? How about anyone who posts 12 or more times on this thread? ..:)

                                                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                      Um, ADD and ADHD are not the same condition. ADHD is Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity. A kid who is hyperactive might be harder to get to sit still long enough to eat, let alone to get him to practice good manners. An ADD kid is probably going to be able to sit still and focus a bit more. I am probably ADD (not a defined condition when I was a kid.) and I certainly did learn table manners. Two of my kids are probably ADD and they learned good table manners. Really, people who don't have good table manners probably have not been taught them. If good manners are modeled for them, they will learn effortlessly, with only a few corrections from mom or dad. If a person doesn't have a clue how to eat in public, I assume he or she was never taught. It doesn't have too much to do with ADD or ADHD.

                                                                                                                                  2. I was about to respond to this when I realized I haven't ordered a steak at any restaurant, steakhouse or otherwise, in quite a long time.

                                                                                                                                    The rare times I have a steak these day are at my parents' place, and my dad usually cooks up big hunks of meat. If I am in a steak mood, I'll just usually slice of a small section, and usually in a way to avoid the fat and/or tougher parts of the meat. Since I have the knife in hand and it's generally a small portion anyway, I just go ahead and slice that piece into bite-size ones just for efficiency sake.

                                                                                                                                    I suppose though if I do order a steak at a restaurant in the future, I won't repeat that process and slice off one piece at a time.

                                                                                                                                    As for whether it's gauche, tacky, bad form to do so in public - eh, I'm of the "whatever floats your boat" group on this one.

                                                                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: josquared

                                                                                                                                      You raise an interesting point. When people 'cut one bite at a time', what shape and size is it? Imagine a square piece of meat. Is each bite another square, cut off with 2 slices at right angles? Or is a piece off a slice? Or a triangular piece off a corner?

                                                                                                                                      Being a non-zigzag lefthander, cutting a lot of bites does not save me any effort or motions. But the practicality of cutting bite size pieces means I do use a mix of these methods. Sometimes cutting off (triangular) pieces, and sometimes cutting off slices which I then cut up bite by bite.

                                                                                                                                      For me it isn't a matter of following some rules, but rather one of balancing two goals - eating the food, and interacting with my dining companions.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                          What's the diagnosis for people who count other people's posts, Veggo? :-)

                                                                                                                                          1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                                            Same diagnosis- hopelessly OCD, anal to the end, which actuarially should be 28579 days, around noon.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                                                Now I feel guilty. I set him up, and he went for the bait. Too easy. Predictable as a trained pig.

                                                                                                                                    2. If you are talking about cutting a steak into bite sized pieces before starting to eat it, although it may not be gauche, it certainly will result in eating lukewarm and likely dry meat. Can't imagine doing so, and on second thought, perhaps it is a bit gauche. On the other hand, cutting up food for a child or handicapped person is obviously another story. This is often necessary for children, persons with poor eyesight or limited motor skills. Not gauche at all...indeed very thoughtful!!

                                                                                                                                      1. From what I've heard, yes. Anything that makes one appear to be overly hungry (i.e. cutting up your meat in order to wolf it down) is considered impolite.

                                                                                                                                        32 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: BananasFoster

                                                                                                                                          yes! When dating we were always advised to eat before a dinner date, so that the girls/ladies eat daintily at the table, but it would seem that the same rules apply (much more noticeable for girls on a date since this is a case where first impressions mean a great deal).

                                                                                                                                          1. re: lilgi

                                                                                                                                            That rule went out decades ago. Now women are expected to eat.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                                              I never said they're not expected to eat, and as far as I know this advice is still given. In my day it was in the 90's. But this was meant to reference the "shoveling/wolfing" of food which in no way reflects a positive image when we speak about first impressions.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: lilgi

                                                                                                                                                What, if a woman doesn't eat a meal before she goes out to dinner she will "shovel/wolf" her food? Would you think it was normal advice to say a man should eat before going out so he wouldn't do the same? I think both sexes can eat dinner without shoveling/wolfing even if they haven't eaten since lunch!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                                                  Escondido it is merely advice; you can take it or leave it, and if you are confident enough in your table manners no need to follow it. It is given in order to facilitate socializing with your dining partner as well as following the rules for proper dining etiquette. This article is a good read:

                                                                                                                                                  Whether people wish to follow the rules is entirely up to them, and this was already expressed upthread.

                                                                                                                                                  But to be more specific as to why it's not a bad idea to have something to eat before a dinner date? Well, you're less likely to appear hungry. And the bottom line is that it's good advice in a social situation as well, since it's much easier to follow the rules of etiquette when we're not thinking about what's on our plate.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: lilgi

                                                                                                                                                    I've had several guys tell me they really prefer a woman to eat normally on a date, and it seems to be those with a healthy sense of mutual pleasure.

                                                                                                                                                    But, I know what you mean. I dated a guy who was on some crazy crash diet and hadn't eaten in days before our second or third date. He inhaled his food-- I mean cleaned his plate in under a minute. It was incredibly off-putting, both aesthetically and because of what it indicated about his general health and sense of balance. A happy medium is nice: genuine enjoyment, but taking the time to savor.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                                                      For me just having a piece of bread before going to eat was fine; but the last thing I want is to be starving when I'm worried about first impressions or setting and example.

                                                                                                                                                      I wonder sometimes if the rules of etiquette aren't just an exercise to keep natural instincts at bay and to distinguish us as social beings, but every culture plays by a different set of rules.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: lilgi

                                                                                                                                                        Pace Rousseau, we do need the ability to make deliberate choices in response to our natural instincts, and one role of cultural rules is to keep us exercising our choice muscles so we retain the ability to easily resist our instincts when giving into them is not in the common good or our good. If these choice muscles are not exercised on small things, it's harder to exercise them on more consequential things; kinda like trying to run a marathon without training up to it....

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                                          Alternatively, kinda like Mike Tyson...

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                                            Yes, we should all learn to repress our urges because we learn to be civilized. Now if you wish to blow what is being discussed all out of context, then would you advise your children not to take along precautions when 'dating' (did someone say no one dates anymore)?

                                                                                                                                                            As I said before, on occasions where it matters most, when you're starving it 'can' affect the way you order food, how fast you're eating, and how focused you are on your plate, not to mention what you're drinking. But you already know this, correct?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: lilgi

                                                                                                                                                              I would say anyone that is privileged enough to go out to dinner is never "starving"; that is what it means when people truly do not have enough to eat. Going to dinner with an appetite is as it should be. Why would you go out to eat if you were not hungry? I have to assume you and I have little in common when it comes to the idea of eating in a restaurant, especially with someone one is dating. I find the idea of not being hungry at dinner--or else you will order too much food, eat too fast and drink too much, to be a very peculiar idea.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                                                          IF I were to be in the man-woman dating game: Any woman who "ate like a bird" I would regard with suspicion with respect to any future associations I might entertain with said woman. Any woman who picked at her food, or who ate daintily yet seemed hungry at an equivalent occasion at a later date would be regarded in the same vein. Any woman who both picked at her food and declared that she was fussy about her food - AND especially if she said she was hesitant to try anything "foreign" would be consigned to the ash heap of history.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                            I love foreign, but yes I prefer to eat daintily, won't wipe my plate clean, ask for seconds, order up the entire menu, drink like a fish etc. :)

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: lilgi

                                                                                                                                                              You leave food on your plate on purpose, even if you would like to eat it?

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                                                                If you leave some food on your plate your host will wonder if you did not like the food. But if you finish everything, your host will wonder if he has given you enough. It may even be a sign that you would like a second helping. Such is my confused understanding of dining etiquette in some country whose I identify I no longer recall. :)

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                                                                  jvanderh, was taught always to leave a little on your plate.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: lilgi

                                                                                                                                                            I was taught good table manners by my parents and have followed them my whole life, whether here or in Europe. The link you supplied covered basic table manners and made no mention of eating before going out to dinner. I believe it is a waste of food and money to order something you are not going to eat or to pretend that you have the appetite of a bird because you've already eaten.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: lilgi

                                                                                                                                                              From the link you provided:

                                                                                                                                                              "You should always hold both your knife and fork – you should not cut your food up at the start and then use your fork only (this is an American tradition and is generally fine in America, but not in Europe). "

                                                                                                                                                              First of all this is terribly incorrect. Cutting one's food up "at the start" and then using the fork only is VERY RUDE in America. Secondly, I resent the heathen implication tossed towards Americans on this thread.

                                                                                                                                                              I am sure that there are good and bad manners on both sides of the "pond". I am equally sure that the definition of such differs on each side of said pond.

                                                                                                                                                              I am beginning to tire, however, of the the undercurrent of "American gauchness" on this thread.

                                                                                                                                                              Manners differ between societies. None are superior to others. Each of these of these societies contain members who are better at said manners as well as those who don't (or can't) comprehend them well.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                When I read that, I thought it begs the op's question and wondered if it wasn't what initiated the thread, or was it out of genuine curiosity, but it seems that it begs a debate. The way the article was written, it seems to be imply that it's okay for Americans to be 'gauche'. What???

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: lilgi

                                                                                                                                                                Under point 1, that 10 Points article has:
                                                                                                                                                                ' The tines of your fork should always point down toward the plate – for difficult foods like peas, you should use your knife to squash them onto the tip of the fork. The fork is not a scoop, do not use it like one."

                                                                                                                                                                I believe that is part of the European idea of putting food on the backside of the fork. Squashing food on to the fork hardly sounds elegant to me!

                                                                                                                                                                Contrast that with this description of the development of the fork:
                                                                                                                                                                " In late 17th Century France, larger forks with four curved tines were developed. The additional tines made diners less likely to drop food, and the curved tines served as a scoop so people did not have to constantly switch to a spoon while eating." http://www.hospitalityguild.com/Histo...

                                                                                                                                                                So is the fork a scoop or not?

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                  What do you recommend as a better device? Boy scouts are trained to carry only a knife and a spoon.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                    I was taught that either European or American style of dining is acceptable. Now when you find yourself in the strictest of circumstances, is it automatically assumed that you adopt the European style of dining? The history of the fork doesn't tell me how or why the Europeans adapted to their way of eating, tines down. If you ask my opinion I can't stand the way it looks to hold utensils in both hands, stab at your food, bring it to your mouth, but I don't make the rules.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                      I agree. The tines turned down with squashed food stacked up the back of it has always seemed a bit inelegant to me. But, due to the perceived superiority of English manners, it seems to be accepted readily as proper and mannerly.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                        Did anyone else grow up hearing "I eat my peas with honey. I've done it all my life. They do taste kind of funny, but it keeps them on the knife"?

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                                                                          There's a bit of historical basis for that ditty


                                                                                                                                                                          Before the modern 4 tine fork was developed, knives were used to eat with. First there was the pointed tip that was used to spear the meat you just cut off the joint. Then the points were disallowed (too dangerous in a food fight!). But forks weren't any good for eating peas since they only had 2 tines.

                                                                                                                                                                          "In fact, many knives were designed with a handle like a pistol grip and a blade which curved backward so the wrist would not have to be contorted to get food to the mouth as can be seen to the left."

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                            HA! I wonder whether it's the Americans or the Europeans using the honey.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                                                                              Looks like mashed potatoes serve that role in England:
                                                                                                                                                                              " You cut a piece of meat, stick a fork in it. Use your knife to put a smear of potato on the back. Use your knife to smush peas into the potato."

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                Thought about that as I shoveled peas into my mouth this evening. It seems sort of limiting if the food is anything special, but now I know what to do if her Royal Highness, Duchess of Cambridge ever invites me to stay for dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                  "The Continental, which most people consider old world is actually newer! It was introduced by the British around 1880, but Americans were trying to instill manners on their frontiersmen. The new dining methods were rejected as disruptive in the middle of this teaching process. American society felt it would diminish respect for the strict rules that were being established to remove the barbarian image."

                                                                                                                                                                                  from this link:

                                                                                                                                                                                  and it begs the question, shouldn't there be a standard? Because if the zig zag and european methods are both considered acceptable, how would you be advised for lets say Dinner at the White House, and are we saying that that no method is preferred over another just to be courteous? Because clearly we have strong opinions one way or the other.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                                                                              That made me smile. Decades ago my grandmother used to sing that song. Wow, she's been gone for three decades, so it has been *many* decades since I've heard that tune.

                                                                                                                                                                              Thanks for the memory.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                                                                    I thought dating went out some time ago! Isn't it considered a quaint practice from another era?

                                                                                                                                                              3. I read the entire thread. Predictable. Every time a table manners issue comes up on CH we hear, from a certain quarter, that it's a free country and they have a perfect right to eat with their hands (eg lamb chops and fried chicken), dip salad bits into the dressing with their hands, eat mashed potatoes and gravy with a spoon, tip up the soup plate and drink from it, and in other ways show us the life they once lived in the nursery. Go for it, kids. Especially, do this when you are being interviewed for a job and the prospective boss takes you out to lunch. See what happens.

                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                                  Speaking of the nursery, one of these things is not like the others. Eating mashed potatoes with an implement that's clearly wrong for the job would not endear me to an employee, especially if there were any kind of mechanical skill required.

                                                                                                                                                                2. i do not think it is proper to cut your entire steak and then eat it. i prefer the cut and eat

                                                                                                                                                                  1. Folks, this thread has gotten wildly off the original topic, so we're going to lock it now.