Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Er... We Do What?

Did you know, this is how you eat your food:
Adopting the American habit of using only a fork to eat your meal, however, represents a revolution in table manners that's both seismic and deeply unwelcome.

The single-fork manoeuvre requires the diner to cut up his food into handy bite-size portions, before transferring the fork to the right hand to begin the spearing and eating. What a ghastly, babyish way of behaving – as if Nanny used to cut up your meat and potatoes in the nursery, and you never grew out of it.
The only person in my household who eats in a manner akin to that is our four-year-old, and as the author indicates that's appropriate. I've been to a lot of restaurants and eaten in various other public settings and... what is this guy talking about?

I can understand, as can he, the British rebellion against their sometimes absurd table manners.
Few domestic metal objects carry more precarious symbolism for the British than cutlery. Employing the wrong edge of the spoon to drink your soup, holding your knife like a fountain pen, putting a knife in your mouth, shovelling peas onto your fork – these are gaffes that consign you to social perdition, as surely as drinking tea out of the saucer.
Even as a child, the British rule for the proper use of a fork seemed silly to me. Let me see... rather than doing something unseemly like "shoveling" peas into my mouth or spearing them on the fork, I am to mash them to the bottom of my fork then eat with the fork, tines down. And if they don't stick very well, I can use my mashed potatoes as glue.... How attractive?

Come to think of it, I can't remember the last time I was served peas while in England. Perhaps that's the solution? When proper table manners make eating a particular food item completely unattractive, don't serve it in public?
Debenhams' Civilised Dining Campaign is a welcome attempt to halt the Americanising of table manners, before we're required to abandon cutlery altogether and behave like the cowboys eating beans with their fingers, in the campfire scene in Blazing Saddles...
How about a Sensible Dining Campaign? You know, a happy compromise where you can at times eat with a fork, tines up, or where it's more important that you food neatly reach your mouth than that you filled your soup spoon "back to front" or that you're sipping from from the front of your spoon instead of the side?


  1. It's actually kind of frightening to this American that you know those rules . . . especially since my son and I are supposed to meet you and your family for dinner later this week.


  2. I never mentioned that I lived in Manchester as a child? Oh, well let me make up for that: I lived in Manchester as a child.

  3. Do you suppose the author has ever eaten Thai food?


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