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what side is your bread buttered on?

the cutting up the entire meal thread made me think about something else that i find odd (not rude, just strange). when someone takes a dinner roll and butters the entire thing and eats it like a sandwich. i was taught to take bit of butter if you're given a bread plate, and butter each piece of bread you tear off. if not given a plate, it's perfectly acceptable to put the roll on the table cloth.

the other thing that i wonder if people aren't taught anymore....when passing the salt, always pass the pepper along with it. they travel as a pair. at least i was taught they did. i'm fully prepared to admit that i was taught a lot of things wrong!

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  1. I've always sliced my bun in half, buttered both halves separately, and taken bites out one half like an open face sandwich.

    I'm a little surprised (actually, I shouldn't be surprised at all) that there's a "right" and a "wrong" way to eat buttered bread.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Midknight

      i also never cut the bread..... i tear it. but i eat bagels exactly the way you described.

    2. I would find it odd if someone passed me salt *and* pepper if I just asked for salt!

      As for bread, now that I think on it, when I do eat rolls (which isn't often so I really do have to think about it!) I think I butter it bite by bite, *without* tearing any off, which is probably gross and horribly rude or something, I don't know. Of course, that's when I have my own butter pats. I don't spread communal butter on something I just bit into.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Violatp

        i'm sure i'm unknowingly violating some rule of decorum as i type (in lowercase).

        1. re: eLizard

          Heh. I'm sure I break some rule or other at least once daily!

          1. re: Violatp

            "let's go through the book and break,
            each and every law."

            --Grateful Dead,
            "I Need a Miracle"

        2. re: Violatp

          I'd also find it odd if someone gave me pepper with the salt and would probably even say "no, just the salt, thank you."

          1. re: hyacinthgirl

            Mr. S was taught by his mother that you were to pass the salt and pepper together. I had never heard of this and am always saying to him, 'no, just the salt' (after 15+ years, it's a running joke with us).

            1. re: Sooeygun

              I was also taught this and still find it very odd and rarely do it myself.

            2. re: hyacinthgirl

              If you said that I would sweetly answer, I know but they travel together, unless you were a guest in my house. If you want to make me look dumb I will dish it back unless I was your gracious host and then I would not want you to be uncomfortable.

              1. re: melpy

                I wouldn't say it to make you look dumb, I would have thought maybe you just didn't hear me, and if you responded "they travel together"- I would probably think that was adorable.

          2. Growing up, it was the custom in our area (northern plains) to butter the bread before it was put on the table. If it was dinner rolls, they would be sliced, buttered, then put on the table, same with other bread that was put on the table.
            These days, I don't "pre-butter" bread, before it hits the table, but I do butter the whole slice or roll, then take bites as I wish. I do not butter as I go.

            1. I was taught both as was my husband. We have taught our son to do the same.

              4 Replies
              1. re: foodieX2

                guess it's just you and me (and your dh)

                  1. re: eLizard

                    Nope, me three (with a slight variation). As for the dinner rolls, I take a roll, put some butter on my bread & butter plate and tear off pieces of the roll which are swiped through the butter that's on the plate. Salt and pepper ALWAYS together.

                  2. re: foodieX2

                    Us four and five and our chowpup makes six. Also, as a young adult, I worked in a position in which one had to host events requiring protocol to be followed. These types of manners were adhered to, as a part of protocol. Dh is not American and he was taught all of these manners, as well.

                  3. One should cut a pat of butter from the butter on the butter dish and place it on your bread plate. Then apply the butter to your dinner roll from your bread plate.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: GraydonCarter

                      bite by bite rather than spreading it on the entire thing.

                      1. re: eLizard

                        We were taught approximately for chunks for a roll. You could butter a little more than a bite but you shouldn't butter tiny minuscule nibbles at a time.

                      2. re: GraydonCarter

                        That is what I was taught as well. I mostly do it.

                      3. My (British) Mom took great pride in teaching us "good table manners" but she never taught us to put a pat of butter on our plates. Instead, the butter was passed at the table and we would cut our rolls in half (horizontally), butter each piece on the cut side and pass the butter dish to our left.

                        When I started dining out for business I learned (by the example others set) to take a pat of butter when the dish was passed then to tear my roll and butter each bite.

                        This thread got me thinking about something else my mother taught me a few years ago. If a scone has icing, she'll cut it into slices (vertically) and butter one side of each slice. That way she gets icing on each buttered bite.

                        While I no longer cut my rolls in half and butter them as I did as a kid, I did adopt my mother's method of slicing and buttering scones. Love it!!

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                          If I'm in a restaurant with a dish of the wrapped pats of butter I put a couple of them in my armpit to soften the butter so it doesn't tear the bread.

                            1. re: foodieX2

                              Naw, I'm quite discreet about it. We're not talking about white tablecloth dining here. To be perfectly honest, I usually hold the wrappep pat of butter in a closed hand for a few moments to soften it up.

                              I seem to recall a scene on TV where somebody complains that their hamburger is cold and the waitress says "let me warm that up for you" and proceeds to put it in her armpit for a few seconds and hands it back to her customer.

                              1. re: John E.

                                That's great John, I'll ask mr bc about the movie...he'll likely remember it.

                                1. re: John E.

                                  i absolutely warm ice cold wrapped butter in my palm for a second or two.

                                  1. re: eLizard

                                    and warming butter in your hand is acceptable manners?
                                    page reference pls!

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      i'm not judging. i'm just saying what i do. and what i was taught. and wondering how were taught. that's all. hope you don't feel as though i'm judging you.

                                      1. re: eLizard

                                        I was teasing you eLiz! Judging? Who's judging??

                              2. re: John E.

                                Good plan. I imagine the unwrapped ones would have been much tougher to get back on your plate.

                                1. re: John E.

                                  The rudeness here is the restaurant serving half frozen butter, which I have seen many times. Your reply made me nearly choke on my coffee, very funny.

                                  1. re: JoannaNYC

                                    I don't know if cold butter is considered rude in a restaurant. The upscale traditional ones I have been in usually serve it cold and cut into some kind of shape like a flower or sea shell. Its either extruded or curled by hand. We are not talking foil here.

                                    The more modern establishment seem to serve it at room temp. But you cant do fancy designs with warm butter other then using a pastry tip.

                                    My guess is that cold butter is consider fresh from the old school of thinking and warm or soft butter is consider easier to spread for the modern eateries.

                              3. It's all interesting! I don't find habits about bread buttering rude, just particular. If the butter isn't soft and the bread/rolls aren't warm I'm passing over that part of the meal anyhow. But if the butter is soft and the bread is warm, I butter the entire thing and take small bites.

                                I don't salt prepared food, so just pass the ground black pepper if you please.

                                1. I used to work in very upscale restaurants so I saw all forms of behavior. However, if you are looking for the proper way there are established rules, it not just "what you grew up with."

                                  You are completely correct. Bread is supped to be buttered a piece at a time from a pat of butter on your bread plate. Buttering the whole thing at once is not rude, but its kind of lower class.

                                  It's like picking up the wrong fork for your salad. No one really cares, but if they notice you doing it at a nice dinner, it shows you have never been taught proper manners.

                                  Salt and Pepper you are also correct on. They travels as a pair. Just because someone ask for salt its not literal, its shorthand for people who have manners. Sometimes it is OK if the pepper is going to be freshly ground by a waiter.

                                  By the way, bread plate is always on the left, I see this problem the most. If you don't do anything else remember that.

                                  Its the one thing that the table will really notice. Because you just took your guests plate, now they have to either take someone elses plate and continue it around the table or have real class and not point out your crude behavior and put the bread on their dinner plate and take one for the team. LOL

                                  Bread Plate is Always on the LEFT Dose not matter if you are right or left handed. Should have its own knife.

                                  92 Replies
                                  1. re: kjonyou

                                    The salt and pepper traveling as a pair is a new one on me. I pass what people ask me to pass.

                                    1. re: kjonyou

                                      I'm sorry but I take exception to any sort of "rules" or "manners" that can distinguish a person as lower class by how they butter their darn bread! Are they chewing with their mouth open and spitting food while talking? Do they butter the bread with their fingers? Do they dig the roll itself into the dish of butter and dig out a big portion?

                                      No? They just quietly and peacefully buttered a full slice of bread but are now deemed "lower class."

                                      Well, that can suck it. Maybe I'm no "lady" but manners, to me, seem to be about everyone feeling comfortable and welcome in a group and not some set of artificial rules about forks on the left or pairs of condiments and whatnot that seem to exist only to distinguish between "classes."

                                      Rant over. I mean, for whom were these rules established for anyway?

                                      1. re: Violatp

                                        "Do they butter the bread with their fingers? Do they dig the roll itself into the dish of butter and dig out a big portion?"

                                        But if you don't care about manners then why would you care about this? It's just a matter of degree.

                                        1. re: kengk

                                          Did you read all the way to the end where I thought manners were about making people feel comfortable and welcome? The examples I gave are extreme.

                                          If seeing someone simply butter a full slice of bread makes a person uncomfortable enough to deem them "lower class" well, I say that person's priorities are skewed.

                                          Damn. I can already tell this is going to be a thread I'll end up avoiding till it falls to the bottom and I don't see it anymore. Blurgh.

                                          1. re: kengk

                                            My thoughts exactly. You will make someone uncomfortable bc someone inevitably does all those things.

                                          2. re: Violatp

                                            Sigh. But that is often precisely the point; to distinguish a proper, precise, rule-following us from the improper, ill-taught them. The same is true of many quirks and rules in diction, grammar and accents. You don't have to read threads such as this one for very long to observe that maintaining and reinforcing these distinctions are VERY important to some people.

                                            1. re: kjonyou

                                              Hold on, if I'm with a group of people I'm probably getting my chance at the bread/roll basket and butter on one pass and I'm not going to keep asking for the butter bowl. Secondly, when butter isn't offered individually wrapped but presented whipped in tiny butter dish why keep asking for the butter? Butter your slice/roll and enjoy. Low class? I think that part of your experience/comment is just too tight for the more casual way the public dines today.

                                              And why in this day and age why would you need to pass the salt & pepper if the person requires just one or the other?

                                              I think you do what you feel is appropriate for your dining pleasure and do it discreetly.

                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                You don't keep asking for the butter. You take some and put it on you dish and use thy repeatedly. Only get more butter of you get another piece of bread. The s and p go together because many people want both and you don't want to be searching and breaking conversation to find the missing partner.

                                                1. re: melpy

                                                  It's so interesting how different social circles can be. I can't think of any situations where formal manners would be required and/or strictly enforced to the extent that the company you keep would liken bread & butter preparation or salt & pepper passing ignorant or low class..or that it would even apply among family and friends. What I find awkward and demeaning is the idea that anyone is actually paying that close attention to bread buttering habits. Rock my world, melpy-I think it's ridiculous.

                                                  Work situations aside, why such formality?

                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                    Until recently, eating at home was eating at the coffee table because it was the only table I had. So all "table eating" was in public or as a guest in someone's home. My parents expect certain manners of us and I would never use anything than my company best manners with friends or in-laws or in public.

                                                    If I am in the comfort of my own home, alone, I'll eat naked and lick the plate if I want to. It has to do with respect for other people and I will judge you as not being well taught and therefore ignorant of the rule, or of not having enough respect, self or for others to use proper manners.

                                                    I happen to be observant and do pay close attention. Heck my fiance has become so observant he brought up that the folks at the next table were cutting up their meat all at once, when we got inthe car after dinner the other night.

                                                    1. re: melpy

                                                      I can respect your preference and certainly your upbringing but I can't judge it anymore than I would give weight to anyone judging my manners.

                                                      I don't know if I've ever offended anyone at the table, it's never come up. But I'm baffled by the focus. When I'm dining with family, friends, colleagues, young people I teach or just a simple and casual meet up for coffee I'm focused on the conversation, the good time we're having and the meal (if it applies). I'm not focused on assumptions or directing personal habits.

                                                      We all have pet peeves, we all have behaviors. I'm not keeping track or keeping score. I'm not interested in focusing on how one butters their bread. I'm focused on how wonderful the buttered bread tastes.

                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                        <When I'm dining with family, friends, colleagues, young people I teach or just a simple and casual meet up for coffee I'm focused on the conversation, the good time we're having and the meal (if it applies).>

                                                        Absolutely! If my friends and family are judging me on how I butter bread, or whether I pass the s&p together, I have more than a table etiquette problem.

                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                          As fellow teacher, as you post seems to indicate you are, I would think that the intense focus and multitasking on a multitude of details at once would be part of your everyday routine. I can watch 30 high school students attempt toget around various rules while teaching and taking pleasure in imparting knowledge while dashing off emails to members of my department as department head. I can still passively notice things. I do not ruminate on something so that it ruins my meal. These are behaviors I have witnessed from the same people over many years in some cases. I would not bring it up but I see it. Based on your description you eat looking only at your food. I take pleasure in seeing my companions as well. I just see thing and think. I have inner thoughts, I guess this makes me a worse person but I don't think badly of this person who may not know the rule.

                                                          1. re: melpy

                                                            I can respect how you see things with ease even if my approach is different. And it appears to be.

                                                            I don't eat "looking only at the food" my dear melpy. I look at my dining companions with joy not a critical eye. I'm not thinking about their manners.

                                                            There's nothing better or worse in this discussion for me, just different. I don't get worked up over manners.

                                                            Butter your bread as you wish! ;)

                                                          2. re: HillJ

                                                            Yes, what you said! It's all about enjoying the people and food. Unless someone is doing something extremely offensive (i.e., that could cause me to lose my appetite and I don't get grossed out easily), I honestly don't even notice what people do when they eat. I am engaged in our time together and the food we are eating, not the manners used (or ignored) while eating.

                                                            Sure, I have my own list of what's proper and not based on how I was raised, and what I learned the hard way in early adulthood. I just never think about it until these questions are posted.

                                                            Dang, now I am going to be watching people's manners for a while, just like I have gotten very aware of how huggy I am after reading the now-locked thread about a restaurant owner kissing customers on the cheek. Maybe I need to spend more time on the cheese board so I don't get paranoid!!

                                                            1. re: jlhinwa

                                                              More? I'm going to watch even less.

                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                Not because I want to, but because now it's on my radar whereas before I honestly never noticed or thought about it. Just like I never thought about how often I greet or say goodbye to someone with a hug but now I am hyper-aware. (I still hug as much though.)

                                                                1. re: jlhinwa

                                                                  Funny, it's the hyper awareness that I don't care for.

                                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                                    Me too. It's an involuntary thing..wish I could just shut it off.

                                                                    Like when someone says "don't think about purple elephants" and then that's all you can think about for a while, lol.

                                                        2. re: melpy

                                                          exactly. so you don't have to hunt down an orphaned pepper shaker.

                                                          1. re: eLizard

                                                            I'm curious as to how the salt or pepper shaker manages to hide itself if it becomes separated from it's partner. It has never been an issue for us. Somebody at the table always seems to be able to locate it with little drama.

                                                            However; I want to do right, so.
                                                            Exactly how do you pass them together? Both in one hand? Pass one and then the other? Are they supposed to have a little tray to sit on?

                                                            1. re: kengk

                                                              Depends on the shakers. Some pass nicely together others do not. I have not seen a little tray for them.

                                                              Some are small or clear and are not always noticable from all diners vantage points. If I see them I will quietly ask a neighbor to "please pass the salt and pepper" even if I only want one.

                                                              If I have to search or ask where it is, it has suddenly taken over the conversation.

                                                              1. re: melpy

                                                                I have on occasion seen small pairs of shakers on little trays.
                                                                I inherited a set of 8 pairs of thumb-sized shakers, meant to be included with each place setting.

                                                                Where practical, it seems to be the rule that once food has touched the lips, it shouldn't come back. You can't neatly tear away a bite of your sandwich, but you can (and should, if in public) when it's a plain piece of bread or roll.

                                                            2. re: eLizard

                                                              the orphans are usually behind the cooks station laughing.

                                                              1. re: eLizard

                                                                How big are the tables you are dining at where this is actually an issue?

                                                                1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                  or maybe it's because if you do want both, you don't have to ask for both separately....i dunno. *shrugs*

                                                                  i was also taught (and this is weird, maybe) that if someone ask for the salt and pepper and it's passed to you to pass along, you should never used them on the way to the asker. same thing for passing the rolls, you should not take one on its route. does that makes sense...as in do you understand rather than is the practice nonsense?

                                                                  1. re: eLizard

                                                                    It makes sense I guess but I guess nothing I practice because a.) virtually any in-home dining I do is very laid-back
                                                                    b.) any high-end dining I do out wouldn't have salt and pepper on the table.

                                                                    1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                      "b.) any high-end dining I do out wouldn't have salt and pepper on the table."

                                                                      Guess I've never done any high-end dining.

                                                                      1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                        but you have been to a restaurant with a bread basket and salt and pepper shakers, right?

                                                                        1. re: eLizard

                                                                          Just this past Sunday, as a matter of fact.

                                                                          1. re: grampart

                                                                            sorry, can't figure out this reply thing. i was replying to LeoLioness

                                                                            1. re: eLizard

                                                                              You did it right. You have to look in the corner to see which post it is regarding.

                                                                              1. re: melpy

                                                                                wow, the things i notice in a restaurant.....and i never even noticed THAT! thanks!!!!

                                                                          2. re: eLizard

                                                                            Sure. But in a more casual setting I see nothing wrong with using the salt before I pass it to my best friend.

                                                                            I guess I wouldn't do that at a business dinner, though. So maybe it's more about my dining companions with me?

                                                                        2. re: eLizard

                                                                          That must be one loooooong dining table if salt and pepper are so far away from each other, a search party to retrieve one of them has to be involved.

                                                                          Wow. Just.... wow. I have friends from all walks of life & backgrounds. When they are sharing a table with me, I don't judge their buttering ways. In fact, I couldn't possibly give less of a fuck.

                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                            And we can all see by the way you ended your post you are keeping it "classy" too.

                                                                    2. re: kjonyou

                                                                      "kind of lower class": what does this really mean? I would not assume someone buttering their entire roll to be "lower class."

                                                                      1. re: debbiel

                                                                        The next couple sentences perhaps state it better:

                                                                        "It's like picking up the wrong fork for your salad. No one really cares, but if they notice you doing it at a nice dinner, it shows you have never been taught proper manners."

                                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                          I guess I just don't think of them as "proper manners." To me, important manners are those that, if not displayed, will reasonably make people uncomfortable. Fork selection and buttering habits don't tend to fall there for me, and I don't think I make judgment about a person's manners, class, or upbringing based on them.

                                                                          1. re: debbiel

                                                                            Absolutely that is at the heart of what constitutes good manners. We're not living in Downton Abbey times. And would that everyone were like you, this world would be a better place. But while oneself may not take notice of other folks behaviors, plenty of people do and will judge according to these standards. Breadcrumbs mentioned above learning from the example of others in eating out on business. That's one environment where one's manners can make or break you.

                                                                            Again, better that people know the established rules, and they can decide to follow them or not.

                                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                              Absolutely, it is important for people to have awareness of established rules (though I would say a range of established rules, as what is expected varies) and to decide. That is different, though, than what some folks on this thread seem to be suggesting.

                                                                              You are saying, "Know the rules. Make your own decision about whether or not to follow them." That works for me. Other people are passing judgment on those who do not follow them. Suggesting that someone who butters an entire roll at one time is lower class, improper, or ill-mannered would, I hope, be considered much more rude than any possible way I can imagine of buttering a role.

                                                                              And, while the "know rules; decide" position works for me, I would add that I think it good to question these expectations and work at changing them when they seem silly. Otherwise they promote exclusivity, and I prefer more inclusivity at my dinner table. (except for people filing their nails, but that's another thread).

                                                                              1. re: debbiel

                                                                                Within the same family siblings taught by the same parents can and often do grow up to have very different sensibilities; manners included. Do I stop dining with my brother because he picks up the wrong fork or because I butter my entire roll in one shot?

                                                                                Come on, this is all a bit much (as you suggest deb).

                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                  Exactly. I have so many better reasons to stop dining with my brother!

                                                                                  I kid. Ish.

                                                                                    1. re: debbiel

                                                                                      Who mentioned that they would stop dining with someone over breaches in etiquette?

                                                                                      1. re: melpy

                                                                                        That was a joke in response to a comment HillJ made (in the post to which I replied).

                                                                                  1. re: debbiel

                                                                                    Suggesting that someone who butters an entire roll at one time is lower class, improper, or ill-mannered would, I hope, be considered much more rude than any possible way I can imagine of buttering a role.

                                                                                    Grand Slam Out of The Park Home Run Miss Debbie!!!!!

                                                                                    Hell woman, I think I love you!!! :) Ha!

                                                                                    1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                                                      Well thank you, Uncle Bob, but I'm a bit embarrassed about typing role instead of roll.

                                                                                      1. re: debbiel

                                                                                        Ahmmmm...I never noticed!! Really! ... However, it's early, so don't give up hope. I'm sure some Pius, Pretentious, Pompous aaah... person will come along and correct you.

                                                                                        Best Regards!!

                                                                                        1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                                                          :) Well, often I am the one who notices such things in my circle. I just don't usually point them out unless it is one of the friends with whom I have a ongoing joke about these matters or it is one of my students.

                                                                                          1. re: debbiel

                                                                                            Students? An English teacher??? :))

                                                                                            1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                                                              No. College professor in another area, but known for being demanding about writing. And thinking. And class potlucks.

                                                                          2. re: kjonyou

                                                                            Thank you for laying out those established rules of dining. Each time they come up, it seems that there are fewer and fewer who are aware of them, let alone adhere to them. While you're taking flack for repeating them, I think more knowledge is better than less. No one is obligated to follow them, but at least now somebody is choosing to reject formal manners consciously instead of out of ignorance.

                                                                            1. re: kjonyou

                                                                              eat to the left, drink to the right, stand up, sit down, fight! fight! fight!

                                                                              that's what i always say when someone ask "which plate is mine?" or "which glass is mine?"

                                                                              i'm a weirdo.

                                                                              1. re: eLizard

                                                                                Long confirmed and still endeared.

                                                                              2. re: kjonyou

                                                                                Wow, so many replies to one post. Touchy subject I guess when you mention class. Is that trailer getting to small for you? (just kidding)

                                                                                With regard to salt and pepper its not literal when someone says pass the salt. They travel as a pair because it makes common sense. You don't have to ask for each separately. It's like cream and sugar. You offer your guest both as a pair and they choose what they want to use. "oh you want sugar too? why didnt you say so"

                                                                                Its not all about you. I know that's harsh but its a fact. The next person might want both now they are separated and everyone has to stop their conversation to match them up. In polite society you should be considerate and think of the other guests and maybe even anticipate their needs. Not just " they asked for salt so that's all I gave them."

                                                                                With bread its the same thing. No one is forcing you to fallow any rules it a choice. But like it or not people judge you by superficial things like how you look and how you act.

                                                                                Can I wear shorts, tank top and flip flops to a formal wedding because it is what I feel comfortable in? Not opening a door for someone who can do it them self? That is the argument some of you are making.

                                                                                They are social customs, that's all. No one said you have to be a part of that. But they do establish social class. It's not just about money.

                                                                                A gentleman or lady usually refer to a person who has a certain amount of class AKA manners. A dude or a chick are not labels usually associated with that. They do what feels good to them, what they think is right and if anyone dose not like it they can "suck it".

                                                                                You butter your bread all at once because it's easier and you can (pardon the pun) chow down faster. You are focused on you and your wants, which look selfish. The guests and conversation are supposed to be primary reason you eat with other people, food is secondary.

                                                                                THAT is why it's considered lower class. Unless of course you are at home alone, then go ahead and like that plate.

                                                                                1. re: kjonyou

                                                                                  I find it's also true with grammar and spelling; one can tell that the person that doesn't know how to consistently use an apostrophe is of a lower social class. That person must be just thinking of themselves, right?
                                                                                  Seriously, I was taught to butter the whole slice and to eat it politely, not gobble it up, not to chow it down faster.
                                                                                  If one thinks that is low class, then, I believe there are bigger issues at play here.

                                                                                  1. re: wyogal

                                                                                    Some might argue that it is not polite to subject your dining companion to the sight of your using your teeth to tear pieces of food from the main portion-- perhaps part of the logic around the bread and buttering piece by piece.

                                                                                    What strikes me as baffling here, and I speak not directly to you Wyogal, although I know I have 'replied' to you, is how angry and resentful so many Americans seem to become over the notion that there are customs and protocols associated with social interaction. Seriously, I've never seen such outrage expressed elsewhere. I wonder if it is to do with a notion of individualism.

                                                                                    (I am intrigued by some of the reports of people deliberately flouting mannerly behaviour-- on this thread or another-- and suspect that there is a certain amount of privilege that allows people to get away so successfully with that choice. My guess is that women and people of colour-- or minority groups in any context-- may have a more challenging time there... I'd also hazard a guess that only thin people can eat food with their hands and off the bone; fat people may be interpreted as slovenly and gluttonous should they choose to do so. In that regard, declarations of self mask the social context and mores than enable certain behaviours and do not, as some might hope, divest themselves of all connections.)

                                                                                    1. re: Lizard

                                                                                      In our neck of the woods, it was odd to see someone pick bread apart with their fingers to eat it piece by piece.
                                                                                      It does not mean we were low class.
                                                                                      Social protocols may have their place, but in my view, this isn't one that I would adhere to. If perhaps, I was at a fancy schmancy dinner and EVERYONE was eating a certain way, then I would see that and probably follow along.
                                                                                      Edit: how do these same people eat pizza?
                                                                                      I just don't see this specific protocol where I have lived. I find it much more rude to hold class over people's heads.

                                                                                      1. re: wyogal

                                                                                        That is a very good question about how to eat pizza.

                                                                                        Table manners, like all manners, actually evolved to make people feel welcome and comfortable. Taking a serving of butter or guacamole, etc onto your own plate, then dealing with it saves the rest from double dipping and also constantly passing around and hunting for the same serving platter.

                                                                                        Of lesser importance is breaking things down to bite size portions, but this is to save your companions from watching you tear off sections with teeth and chomp. Some foods are meant to be picked up and bitten, and if served such, it is pretentious to cut up fried chicken on the bone, pizza, etc. I would not expect to find such on the menu in an expensive restaurant, but if it is, you should still pick it up, then ask yourself why you are paying 5 star prices for pizza, etc.

                                                                                        1. re: JoannaNYC

                                                                                          Well deep fried chicken is an American thing so you eat it with your hands. But pizza is an Italy is not a 5 star place and they still only eat it with a knife and a fork.

                                                                                      2. re: Lizard

                                                                                        Lizard, i am not baffled, per se, but i did enjoy your response. much of it resonated with me, and i think your assumptions about what is acceptable for different gender/racial/body types is fascinating. being the flaming liberal that i am.

                                                                                        here's what i think, and i hope this doesn't come out wrong. i don't judge you when you eat a piece of bread differently from what the traditional rules of etiquette dictate. i just notice because the opposite was so ingrained in me. what i do think, and this is tricky to explain, is that the overall acceptance of relaxed standards leads to eventually accepting unacceptable behavior. now i'm not saying that buttering and eating a whole slice of bread leads to the decay of civilization, but much like text and twitter has led to the inability of half a generation to form a complete, puncuated, grammatically correct sentence (forget about writing in script, oh and forgive all run-ons and lack of capitalization here, pls.), flouting/dismissing dining rules of etiquette as passe or elitist or whatever can eventually lead to accepting a lot of agregious or offensive behavior (a lot of which has been hilariously reported on these boards). and that, to me, is a shame. i understand culture and communcition is always shifting, and we have to adapt. but i think that it's important to know how the rules work. i think it affords a lot of us more opportunities (and i know this might sound like privilege since there are entire swaths of the population for which manners and other social codes is and was a way of "us" keeping "them" in their place) when we can do things like write properly and know which fork to use at a business dinner.

                                                                                        i think of my nieces and nephews and wonder, how things will go when eating with their partners' parents for the first time. in their 20's still ordering chicken fingers off the children's menu not even knowing about the missed easy opportunity of being able to impress someone important to someone important.... could they ever, i dunno, have dinner at the white house? is it wrong to want to impress someone?

                                                                                        just some ramblings. and hopefully, i won't get flamed too badly for them.

                                                                                        1. re: eLizard

                                                                                          Great post! Impossible, of course, to really get to the heart of the matter here and the difficulty (mine anyway) of getting what you feel in your heart to be put down in words....well, you know what I mean. Anyway, sometimes a picture does it better.

                                                                                          1. re: eLizard

                                                                                            Wow, this is the first time I've seen two lizards replying to each other on this site. ; )

                                                                                            1. re: eLizard

                                                                                              I like your ruminations. And I adhere to many of the manners decried by those on this page (I was raised to cut off a bite at a time, to break off a small piece of bread to butter, to place my napkin in my lap, etc.) and admit I do find the alternative behaviours 'ill-mannered' (which, by breaking free from custom, are just that-- albeit not 'low class' or offensive). I find worse, though, these really angry posts from those who declare that etiquette was not meant for them.

                                                                                              (And again, I suspect this is American-- and not 'anarchist' as someone else suggested; the latter is a political position.)

                                                                                              1. re: Lizard

                                                                                                I think the anger comes from others calling those that don't adhere to this bread rule as low class.
                                                                                                Just because they don't butter the bread the same, does not mean they are low class, as yes, some have stated on this thread.
                                                                                                It also doesn't mean that I pick my teeth at the table, don't use a napkin, etc...
                                                                                                and I don't find disagreement as being "really angry."
                                                                                                I find judging one's "class" by the simple act of buttering bread differently that I find to be insulting.

                                                                                                1. re: wyogal

                                                                                                  So if you were in a fancy steak house with new neighbors and they stared eating the mashed potatoes and steaks with their hands you would think what?

                                                                                                  I have a hunch it would not be "oh how nice".

                                                                                                  Clearly in other parts of the world this is acceptable, but since we are talking about America, I bet you would be making a judgment call about them just by how they pick up a steak.

                                                                                                  Steak meet Bread.

                                                                                                  1. re: kjonyou

                                                                                                    Are you equating buttering both halves of a dinner roll at once with picking up handfulls of mashed potatoes and steak and eating them without utensils?

                                                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                                                      Yes I am, and thank you, the tone of your response proves my point. Your outrage of comparing one custom of eating bread to eating steak is exactly what I am talking about. Why is the bread thing no issue, but OMG eating steak by had is totally different?

                                                                                                      In parts of Asia, India, and Arab culture they eat everything by hand, even rice.

                                                                                                      Shaking with the left hand my not mean anything to you, but do that in middle eastern country and they will look at you with disgust. One had is always for eating, one is for wiping. It's considered dirty and evil.

                                                                                                      1. re: kjonyou

                                                                                                        That was not outrage, it was astonishment. This thread is not about other cultures, it is about buttering bread in the good old US of A.

                                                                                                        By the way, I am not intolerent of the eating habits of other cultures. I just think the 'faux pas' of buttering both halves of a dinner roll at once instead of picking up a knife and buttering a corner of the roll and eating the buttered bite (this seens cumbersome to me) is less egregious than picking up a hunk of meat with one's bare hands and gnawing at it anywhere in the U.S.

                                                                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                                                                          Its not the same because you cant see past your own mindset. But like I was trying to say, whats not a big deal to you IS a big deal to some.

                                                                                                          Not a big deal which hand I shake with, but to some people it would be even in this country. You are assuming everyone in America is from the same place. We do have Arab Americans you know. I am sure their parents teach them traditions from the old country.

                                                                                                          1. re: kjonyou

                                                                                                            Have you noticed this Chowhound thread?


                                                                                                            Are you aware that in America it is customary to shake right hands in greeting?

                                                                                                            I am not commenting on the cultures from other countries. I am commenting on American culture.

                                                                                                2. re: Lizard

                                                                                                  I'm just not seeing the anger that you are. When I have seen any anger in was in direct response to posts referencing class.

                                                                                                  1. re: Lizard

                                                                                                    Not really directed at Lizard - just seemed like as good a place as any to point out an underlying theme I noticed about Americans and etiquette in these last couple of threads. For all the, sometimes justified, condemnation that Americans get for their lack of (local) manners when outside of the USA, I've noticed a more than equal attempt at adjusting their own expectations when hosting people from other countries/cultures. While I go out of my way to learn about the hosts etiquette rules when visiting their homes/countries, I try just as hard to make them feel welcome in my home by trying to accommodate their traditions with mine. I don't think this a uniquely American trait but sometimes it seems that way and I kinda feel good about it. So much for the "ugly American".

                                                                                                  2. re: eLizard

                                                                                                    "what i do think, and this is tricky to explain, is that the overall acceptance of relaxed standards leads to eventually accepting unacceptable behavior. now i'm not saying that buttering and eating a whole slice of bread leads to the decay of civilization, but much like text and twitter has led to the inability of half a generation to form a complete, puncuated, grammatically correct sentence (forget about writing in script, oh and forgive all run-ons and lack of capitalization here, pls.),"

                                                                                                    Do you see the irony in your post, or is it just me?

                                                                                                  3. re: Lizard

                                                                                                    I think you are on to something. As an American, we don't really mix with other countries like they do in Europe. Oh, we are more diverse, but we expect everyone to adapt to our ways.

                                                                                                    I think the anger comes from realizing they don't know what they thought they did. When someone points out the establish customs at a dinner table, they get all bent out of shape because they never learned them.

                                                                                                    The response should be "thanks for letting me know that". Not "you can suck it" "only in a fancy shmacy place" or "in our neck of the wood" or "my mother taught me different." "How dare you call me low class just because I wipe my nose on my sleeve, tuck the napkin into my neck, and shop at Wallmart" " I take offense at that" "now pass the ketchup for my steak please."

                                                                                                    Of course you should bend your manners to the surrounding areas but I think a lot of Americans take this as an excuse to not bother learning anything.

                                                                                                    If I go to Italy, I will not be eating pizza with my hands. Italians don't eat pizza with their hands they use a knife and fork. Not just at high end places but all pizza places. That is the custom. In America, it's the reverse.

                                                                                                    But there is a big difference between two cultures and me just growing up in a trailer park double dipping my Fritos into the Velveeta. I mean hay, that's how we do it in these parts. It's not a fancy shmancy restaurant so you can all suck it.

                                                                                                    By the way, as I am part Italian you might not know, Italian Americans mostly came from low income (poor) immigrants from the southern part of Italy. They were considered lower class by all standards of the times. Watch the movie Titanic if want a feel for this. This probably explains why pizza here is eaten by hand or on the go instead of how it was originally intended.

                                                                                                    1. re: kjonyou

                                                                                                      "If I go to Italy, I will not be eating pizza with my hands. Italians don't eat pizza with their hands they use a knife and fork. Not just at high end places but all pizza places. That is the custom. In America, it's the reverse."

                                                                                                      If it's one of those sloppy Neopolitan pizzas, even an American would use a knife and fork.....I think.

                                                                                                      1. re: grampart

                                                                                                        "sloppy Neopolitan pizzas" Really? So now because you are loosing the argument you are calling the original sloppy. Nice.

                                                                                                        You do realize the opposite is true as well. American pizza could be called, cheese laden, greasy, factory produced dorm food.

                                                                                                      2. re: kjonyou

                                                                                                        I don't mean for this to sound pushy.

                                                                                                        "If I go to Italy, I will not be ... Italians don't..."

                                                                                                        Even in this age of information, how should the average traveller to Italy [or to wherever] learn that Italians do/don't in terms of eating?

                                                                                                        What sort of research should a person on a 10-day 8-country tour be expected to do?
                                                                                                        FInding hotels, rental cars, tour plans, famous places, castles and gardens, markets and groceries, buying souvenirs, and maximizing their experience-- even food-centric Hounds probably get more excited about all of these than about researching how to eat one particular food item.

                                                                                                        1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                                          Do whatever you want, but what you are saying is if you go to another country you dont have time to bother with their culture because you are too busy maximizing your entertainment.

                                                                                                          That is basically why we are considered rude many times by other countries. It's not something you look into 5 minutes before you board the plane as an afterthought. Those countries look at other cultures throughout their life just because they find them interesting and want to learn things about the world.

                                                                                                          That is part of what being cultured is, understanding beliefs, values, attitudes, customs outside your normal setting or area where you live.

                                                                                                          Really, how long dose it take to read a few websites on basic social customs. An hour or two maybe?

                                                                                                          But then, not everyone cares about being cultured.

                                                                                                          1. re: kjonyou

                                                                                                            Actually, I was playing "Non-Hound's advocate."
                                                                                                            My personal interests in both food and culture would mean that I would do as much research as possible before going on even a "3 hour tour."

                                                                                                            However, the whole world isn't Hounds.
                                                                                                            And, << not everyone cares about being cultured.>>

                                                                                                            "We The People," believing to be cultured, need to be gracious enough to grant others the space to grow.

                                                                                              2. I believe (according to the Emily Post books my grandmother gave me when I was like 10) that you are supposed to break off a piece of bread and butter each one before eating it.

                                                                                                In reality, I split open the roll, butter it all at once , and eat each side separately.

                                                                                                1. I eat a dinner roll the same way I eat a biscuit or cornbread.....
                                                                                                  "Bust" it open, apply butter, close it up, and take bites. However some restaurant bread requires cutting or breaking a piece from a larger piece. I then butter and eat the piece. Not a big dinner roll/bread eater...unless the dish just 'cries' for it.

                                                                                                  Pass the salt means just that. Pass the salt.

                                                                                                  1. Salt & Pepper are a pair and travel as such.

                                                                                                    Why get into a conversation every time--
                                                                                                    Pass the salt please.
                                                                                                    Did you want the pepper, too?
                                                                                                    Oh [looks at plate] a, yeah, sure.

                                                                                                    For the not-a-pair people-- what happens when someone asks for the S&P? The entire table grinds to a halt to reunite them and then pass them.


                                                                                                    As a side note-- I'm not going to look for it, but a long time ago, when Sam reigned in his Magic House, there was a CH discussion about quality restaurants.
                                                                                                    A 'Hound said something to the effect of they would "turn around and walk out immediately" if there were S&P on the tables, because it was an indication of a weak chef.

                                                                                                    That's become an intermittent family joke -- my younger daughter will turn to me in horror: "Oh no, Mom, we have to leave!"
                                                                                                    I almost always fall for it-- "What! Why?"
                                                                                                    "They have salt and pepper On The Table!!"

                                                                                                    15 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                                      <<For the not-a-pair people-- what happens when someone asks for the S&P? The entire table grinds to a halt to reunite them and then pass them>>.

                                                                                                      You must have a very large family!

                                                                                                      1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                                                                        Really, it was just short shakers and a million other things ON the table!!
                                                                                                        When everything is family style, there are bowls, tongs, lids, spoons, spoon rests, trivets... lots of stuff that's not food on the table.
                                                                                                        Clear-off-the-table-Dad had to be "watched" or the S&P would end up in a sinkfull of soapy water, and the occasional piece of silverware would be shot out into the front yard when he shook out the tablecloth from the porch.

                                                                                                        1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                                          The image of that is hilarious. I guess he should get some credit for trying (or maybe he was trying to get relieved of the duties). My Dad always managed to disappear when it came time to clean up after dinner. But I also have a Mom that won't let me touch her dishwasher because she likes to load it herself and I recently realized I have become the same way without even knowing it. It's amazing what we pick up from our parents.

                                                                                                          1. re: Scooter8

                                                                                                            Dad's famous line to Mom, "But you're so much better at these things!" (It's a quote from something they read or saw eons ago).

                                                                                                            1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                                              My fiancé doesn't like my cleaning. First I clean then he does saying it was done badly. Then he complains about how many chores he has. No sure what to do with that one besides continue doing the chores as best as I can.

                                                                                                              1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                You're going to have to learn to live with this and accept it, because he is not going to change. Maybe the two of you should discuss which chores he absolutely needs done his way and let him do those and you do the chores he is less likely to fret over.

                                                                                                                A few years ago my brother told his wife that her spritz cookies weren't as good as our mother's. They had a contest. The tasting was supposedly a blind taste test by their boys. My brother won the contest. My SIL told him that making the spritz cookies for Christmas was now his duty. They no longer have spritz cookies at Christmas.

                                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                  OK, now that's just a cryin' shame. They need to rework their arrangement so that somehow, the spritz still get made. I mean, even a bad spritz cookie is pretty dang good.

                                                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                    Wow, that ended badly for him. I bet his next idea for a contest is who can clean the bathroom or fold the laundry the best. I bet he loses. On purpose.

                                                                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                      All the chores besides the cooking and grocery shopping fall into this category. I refuse to be calle lazy. I will do all "my" chores and he can redo if he wants. His chores are the loud ones because they hurt my ears and the dishes (not loading or unloading the washer ). He also refuses to let me do his laundry. We have lived together 5 years rarely fight and are getting married in October. Everyone does their own laundry. I don't expect change.

                                                                                                                      1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                        Oooh-- do we need to ask you to create a thread about your food plans around the wedding?
                                                                                                                        Or do you have one here already?

                                                                                                                        1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                                                          There was a post asking about caterers but we have chosen the caterer and the menu. If I have time when I get home and have all the info in front of my I will post about what we have decided so far.

                                                                                                                        2. re: melpy

                                                                                                                          What is important is that you two have figured out what works for you. FYI, the dynamics will change considerably once there are children in the picture. My guess is that he will lighten up considerably as far as how the chores are concerned.

                                                                                                            2. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                                              "Salt & Pepper are a pair and travel as such."

                                                                                                              Regal China made a line of s&p shakers in the 1950's called Huggies that came in many variations (animals & kids)that were meant to be picked up and passed together. (see photo)
                                                                                                              Also, there have been many 1 piece s&p's over the years that HAVE to be passed together.

                                                                                                              1. re: grampart

                                                                                                                My children's great-grandmother was a S&P set collector, and she had bunches of "forced pairs."

                                                                                                              2. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                                                My in laws were very unhappy that I don't have s and p in the table because I actually season the food properly for consumption and bOUGHT me a pair. I don't like table salt or powdered pepper so they live in the table just for them to use. And much to my chagrin, they pass separately!

                                                                                                              3. Maybe a little OT, but still bread and butter. When I was a kid, would make my Dad's lunch for work. He ALWAYS insisted bread be buttered. Not just for the flavor, but kept sandwiches from getting soggy. To this day, always butter bread for any sandwich.

                                                                                                                As for bread/rolls when eating out... usually tear off a bit, butter and eat.

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: kseiverd

                                                                                                                  I grew up with buttered bread sandwiches and still mostly butter the bread for sandwiches today. It seems that the sandwich places offer everything for the sandwiches except butter.

                                                                                                                2. I completely agree with both things you say. In a casual atmosphere I may not follow the first one exactly to the tee. However I would never dream of breaking the second rule and I cringe when they are separated. They travel together, period.

                                                                                                                  1. I was raised to butter one piece broken off at a time, but sometimes if the bread/rolls come out hot, I really like the butter very melted so I will break it open, put some butter in and let it melt and then break pieces off and eat it. Not perfect, but I figure it's a fair compromise for getting the butter warm while the bread is still warm and after the offensive act of buttering it all at once, I will be polite and break pieces off in small pieces. So far no one has banned me from eating out in public with them.

                                                                                                                    1. I was "taught" the salt and pepper thing when I was in a sorority in college. The "reason" was so that the salt and pepper didn't get separated and "lost".


                                                                                                                      That's one of those things I was taught...and then I discarded for being nonsensical, in most situations I'm in.

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                        Lost shaker of salt, huh? I thought that could only happen in Margaritaville!

                                                                                                                      2. I find this discussion fascinating, as I grew up in a cultural mash-up, so not only was I raised by wild dingos, but those dingos marched to a beat of a different drum. Salt and pepper stuck together because that's common sense. But we rarely had bread with dinner, and when we did it was likely to have smoked fish with it, along with butter, which is an entirely different scenario. Eating bread out was a learning experience, and despite what is "proper," I have to say there are a whole gamut of bread eating styles out there, some very tasteful, some less so. I defaulted to butter on plate, bread buttered in increments, but not bite-sized. Maybe one half of a sliced roll, or half a slice of bread. Then that whole plate of olive oil at the table threw me for a loop. And what about salt and pepper cellars with spoons? Do they still travel together if they are not attached?

                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: maxie

                                                                                                                          you're giving me hives. hee hee.

                                                                                                                          actually, our every day s&p is an all in one shaker/grinder deal. so it's not a problem at home.

                                                                                                                          1. re: eLizard

                                                                                                                            Seems safest to stick with properly seasoned food. Wouldn't want to give myself a stroke figuring out how to avoid the waiter deeming me low class. (though that salt may just what puts me over the edge).

                                                                                                                          2. re: maxie

                                                                                                                            What a fun replay, maxie! And thank you for throwing the olive oil at table and s&p spoons into the mix because they both illustrate how times have changed...even when some original forms of etiquette haven't always caught up. Casual dining changes everything. Why should we run passed the fact that casual restaurant settings are more the norm that ever.

                                                                                                                          3. This is a good thread. I've discovered what I was doing wrong and this will help me enjoy my meals more than ever. I don't remember who taught me this but I've been buttering the bottom of my bread. This works fine until I put it down. Then, the buttered bread sticks to the table and makes a mess. If I have a bread plate and try to pick up the bread, the plate often rises up with the bread and if I used only small amount of butter, the suction sometimes isn't strong enough to keep the bread and plate stuck together, making the plate drop - sometimes breaking, every time loud enough to draw unwanted attention my way. I was always wondering why fellow diners looked at me aghast when I would request a spatula so that I could scrape my stuck bread off of the table top. No more strange looks for me! For now on I'm going to butter the top side of the bread.

                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                              Chowhound can be so educational. I learned recently on here about cutlery and now understand why people looked at me so strangely when I ate soup with my fingers.