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Thursday, February 18. 2010
Dining manners and styles, Euro and American:
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Good stuff, and well presented. FWIW, the tines down whilst eating seems to be passing in favor of tines up, but as always, YMMV.
The childhood injunction against eating peas with a knife turns out to be to prevent you from discovering that peas are a lot easier to eat with a knife.
Which reminds me of Johnson Boys.
Johnson boys eat peas and honey
They have done it all of their life
Makes the peas taste might funny
But it keeps them on the knife.
Having spent half of my 60 years in England and half in the US, I disagree that the napkin is always placed on the knee immediately. English dining etiquette says that it remains on the table untouched until the first food appears.
Watch a group of natives in any London restaurant . . .
Yes, but then there are us lefties... who basically do whatever we want.
Absolutely. If I tried to eat with my fork in my right hand, said food would never make it to my mouth. I guess that makes me European by default.
I'm a lefty who spent a lot of time on the other side of the pond and adopted the Euro style of fork and knife naturally and love it. Sometimes I get strange looks from Americans who think my table manners lacking.
#5 Kevin is absolutely correct. The napkin isn't touched until the waiter brings your first course. I should also add that the American dining "style" of eating with the fork in the right hand, AND tines up, is considered very ignorant to Europeans. Although it is understood as an American "thing",
if practised in Europe, even by Americans, it is looked down upon as the practice of the semi-retarded or "what babies do". Please remember that on your European travels and try to use the fork, tines down, in the left hand.
'...the American dining "style" of eating with the fork in the right hand, AND tines up, is considered very ignorant to Europeans.' F**k 'em.
...and the European style of using the knife to plow and smash a huge forkful onto the back of a fork is considered by Americans well-versed in rules of etiquette on both sides of the pond, just as ignorant and impolite, even while dining in Europe.
Oh... the sight of a pile of Yorkshire Pudding (meat and pastry), mashed up with the gravy, potatoes and peas piled high upon the fork, while using the knife to safely steer it to an open mouth and protecting the diner from the imminent avalanche of mushy peas crashing back to the plate... What an exhibit of proper table manners! It must be seen to be appreciated
, "...and the European style of using the knife to plow and smash a huge forkful onto the back of a fork is considered by Americans well-versed in rules of etiquette on both sides of the pond, just as ignorant and impolite, even while dining in Europe.",
Please don't confuse the UK with the rest of Europe. The 'European style' you are referring to is very, very British...not typically European.
My English husband does as you discribe and I find it frustrating...so I try to ignore it... also the habit of precariously balancing food on the back of the fork.
In most of Europe, this mashing practice is not usually observed (being German, who lived in Belgium and France, and has travelled much of Europe and who now lives in Spain). What cannot be picked up by the tines down, the fork is allowed to roll into the tines up position to scoop the food. This roll, allowing tines up when needed then back to tines down happens so quickly and easily, one doesn't notice, really nor does it take effort.
It is efficient.
Another point noticed in the UK way of eating is the cramped clamp on the fork handle, with the forefinger so close to the base of the tines, that invariably some food catches on the fingers, or sauce drips there...an awkward angle in the wrist with a cramped hand to get to the mouth.
That necessitates the elbow raised higher and needing more eating space.
In the rest of central Europe, the fork is held not quite so close to the base of the tines and held a little looser at the base of the fingers and not in the fist of the hand. Allowing the fork to roll into the tines up position as needed is perhaps more observed in Germany as elsewhere, but is completely acceptable.
What is not acceptable anywhere (here) is what is considered the 'farmer's grip'. That is, the fork (and/or knife) gripped as if it were a bicycle handle or hammer.
Almost as bad as that fussy and inefficient zigzag US method with the left hand immediatly dropped into the lap...;>D
Having a significant influence of Japan on my youth and household, we always had wet napkins which sat throughout the entire meal beside the plate. Much more effective as napkins and were, obviously, not to be put on the lap. To this day, I will leave the napkin beside the plate and devil the one who calls me lacking in etiquette.
I was just thinking.... if I was dining with Marrianne I'd embarrass the snot out of her.... Who gives a rip on which style? Good grief! Culture is that green stuff growing on who knows what left in the back of the refrigerator..........
I'm of German born parents, have traveled extensively in Germany, France, Switzerland and the UK. My mother was governess to a "Fuerst" and beat into me German upper class table manners.
They never included eating from the back of a fork and I do not ever recall seeing any European do it.
You can tell the woman in the vid is Canadian. What does she know about anything?
Mom told me the American style was no good because all that implement switching was distracting and more importantly, inefficient. Using Mom's methods I can cram eats into my pie hole much faster than any American style eater.
JoeC, dear boy ... So far, I haven't made any comment on this thread, except to enjoy the comments. Believe me, if I were lucky enough to go to dinner with you, you would "not embarrass the s**t out of me." I would be too busy listening to your stories about your interesting life, to worry about how you got your shepherd's pie into your mouth.
If you're ever in Houston, we can go to dinner and I'll prove it.
Hey, I'm in Canada.
Wonder if Kimberly would, er, like to show me that etiquette in person?
Say, at dinner somewhere...
From an early age I kept my fork in my left hand. As the fork was on the side of the plate, I picked it up with the left hand. I also thought it awkward to continuously transfer the fork from left to right hand and back again in cutting food. Not to mention the knife.
I also use my soup spoon with my left hand, perhaps because I was already accustomed to using my left hand at the table.
My parents said that when I was a toddler they put a bunch of objects in front of me to see which hand I favored in picking up the objects. They said that while my right hand predominated, close to half the time I chose the left hand, which may indicate a tendency towards being ambidextrous.
Using a fork and spoon is about the only time I use my left hand over my right. My basketball skills never developed to the extent that it would have been to my advantage to use my left hand to shoot in the manner of Larry Bird: I was bad enough with my right. Which also describes my handwriting.
Marianne... I might just take you up on that! My kids both live in Houston and my wife and I go visit them from time to time... Since I became a Yankee by moving to Dallas, I'm not sure I'd fit in your world these days, but I'd love to hear your story sometime.
JoeC ... Well, if your kids live in Houston, my husband and I certainly should be able to get together with you for lunch or dinner or whatever. As far as my world goes, I was born and brought up in the upper Middle West, and became a dedicated Texan when I married my husband in 1971. He and I are both writers and editors and curiosity about people and things is one of our major characteristics. I'm not the traveler he is. He's visted and written about more than 20 countries. But I have my share of stories too.
Interestingly enough, Americans assigned to the OSS and other clandestine work during WWII, were given instructions on European table manners and styles to help them blend in.
Seems a few Americans were exposed by Gestapo agents who recognized the American table manners, despite the perfect clothing and language skills they otherwise displayed.
FWIW, I have almost completely dispensed with the fork, except for when cutting meat. Otherwise, I find a spoon the most useful dining implement. :)