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The American way of using fork and knife is inefficient and inelegant. (slate.com)
17 points by helloamar 1628 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 21 comments

I hate dining etiquette. It's a fancy way of saying "doing something a specific way because that's the way everyone else does it". Groupthink at it's highest. I eat whatever way is best suited for the meal.

Fight the power!

Still, I eat with proper European table manners, because it's all we have left. Without that, it would be total anarchy! We might as well wear trousers on our heads and wear baguettes for shoes!

What's next? Wearing a neck tie on a shirt with buttons in the collar or - God forbid! - with short sleeves?! gags at the idea

The contrarian in me now says "Cut and then bring the bite to your mouth with your knife, the fork is now a stabilizing tool, also mock every European who doesn't".

If you really want efficiency, eat South-East Asian style: spoon in the right, fork in the left. The fork is used to hold onto larger things and to rake food onto your spoon, but it never goes into your mouth; the spoon shovels food into your mouth, and its edge can be used to cut as well. This way you can plow through rice and curry like you wouldn't believe, and it's a surprisingly good way of eating even things like chicken legs doused in sauce without getting your hands dirty.

In much of Asia, knifes are reserved for the kitchen, where it's the cook's job to chop everything up into bite-size pieces before being served.

God I hate it when people try to push this stupid line...

I used to live with a British flatmate who was otherwise a nice person, but would constantly harp on me when I was eating "You're using your knife and fork incorrectly."

So for a while, I tried it her way, just to see if I could get used to it, and if it was actually better. After a while, I could kinda do it, but frankly, it always felt awkward and clumsy, and there was no obvious advantage.

Both techniques have their merits—lack of switching -versus- use of primary hand for extra knife power/control—but frankly, both work just fine, neither is obviously superior, and the main difference is what you're used to (in most cases, over decades).

If you're eating dinner the the Queen, then yeah, take a cutlery course first, learn how she does it, and try to do that. She probably doesn't care, but hey, you're eating with the Queen, so a little deference to tradition and pomp seems the way to go.

Otherwise, just do what feels natural to you. If someone whines at you, ask them which hand they'd prefer to be stabbed by, and if you're doing it wrong...

I'm American and I've never done cut-and-switch. Since I was a kid, I've always knifed with my left and forked with my right. Never understood why people feel the need to cut meat with their right hand. So weird to me.

Presumably because cutting meat takes more strength and/or control than simply holding the meat still. It seem reasonable to relegate the latter to your non-dominant hand.

I find getting the fork into my mouth to require much finer motor skills than the simple sawing motion required for cutting. I'm with GP. I just keep the fork in the right hand and cut with the left.

As a kid, I was a cut-and-switcher, so maybe cutting with the right was more natural, but it definitely didn't seem hard to make the switch.

Better still, relegate the knife to food prep.

You must be a cuts-steak-with-side-of-fork kind of guy, like me!

Interesting. I used to hold the fork in my right the entire time, cutting with knife in my left hand.

Upon being informed that was a faux pas, I cut with the fork in my left, knife in right.

Finding it difficult to lift the food with my left hand, I intuitively adopted cut and switch and would eat with my right.

Noticing that no one around me (in Quebec) seemed to do this, I eventually adopted the European manner.

Now, following the Paleo diet, I frequently end up simply eating with my hands when at home. Feels great.


I'm now either incredibly avant garde or a brute.

Rampant, completely unsubstantiated speculation that is probably contradicted by the evidence: I wonder if we'd be even more fat if we didn't switch. Switching slows down your eating, and I know that there is data to show that slower eating means you eat less. I guess the foods we eat too much of that are really bad for you, like snacks, sandwiches, and sodas, don't take a fork and knife at all.

That said, my wife and I are eating out French tonight, so I'll try to put down my guilt and manners and not switch hands!

I'm left handed, never been an issue. I also never understood why table settings are the only thing where the world seems to appreciate my left-handedness.

I actually think it is supposed to make it a challenge to eat properly, to prove - at least when these manners were invented centuries ago - that one was a well-educated and respected member of the right part of society.

At the same time these rules were invented, you would have been hanged or worse for a good word, because of your left-handedness. Weirdo.

I thought this was going to be about using chopsticks.

Brutes, using two hands to eat.

Because getting food into us faster is a serious efficiency problem plaguing Americans everywhere.

It is more common in Europe to hold the fork in your left hand rather than your right. But I think that has more to do with handedness than anything.

I'm right-handed, yet hold the fork in my right hand and often get comments about being 'cack-handed'.

Part of being part of human society is to fight your basic instincts, which - as a right-handed person - would make you use the fork with the right hand. Hence why you should use the left hand.

Still beats chopsticks.

inefficiency can infer

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