DINNER ETIQUETTE: Get it Forkin’ Right!

It is strange that talk of dinner etiquette can so often end in arguments – surely a breach of any etiquette guideline. But nothing divides people more than the question of how to use your fork…

I found myself outnumbered, knife in hand and back to the wall. If the cause is right then I will fight to the bitter end. Actually I will pretty much fight for any old cause as you shall soon see. Which is why in this particular moment I found myself outnumbered with my knife deep in the flesh of the animal in front of me. I then used my knife  to scrape the meat and a few errant peas onto my fork and stuffed the food into my mouth. Still chewing I reiterated the point I was arguing with my dinner companions. “Forks are shaped like shovels and should be used as such.” I could not understand why they couldn’t admit that it was weird to pile food onto the back of your fork like the English are so prone to do.

It has occurred to me since my dinner was ruined by a bunch of incorrect fork users that this is a divisive issue. It is right up there with the cat or dog debate, conservative or liberal conundrum or chicken and egg arguments. A great many people insist on using their fork in a way it was never intended in the name of being polite. I don’t understand exactly what makes this method polite as the only outcome can be dropping your food everywhere? But it is an issue nonetheless.

The English (or European) approach (i.e. the wrong one!) is called the ‘hidden handle’ method because the knife and fork are held so that the handle is hidden in the palm and held by the thumb and forefinger with the fork prong pointing downwards. Food is then scraped onto the back (yes even the ‘hidden handle’ people call it the back which only further proves their incorrectness in this matter) of the fork to be delivered on a shaky journey to the mouth. The American (or correct) method is to hold the fork much the same as a spoon – it is often referred to as the ‘zig zag method’ and uses the fork like a shovel to carry food to the mouth.

I appreciate the fact that forks are useful for spearing things – which is why people who know how to use a fork correctly do switch a fork around to the ‘hidden handle’ hold if they are using it to help while their knife cuts the food and/or want to pick up the food by stabbing it i.e. what you would do if you were eating a steak. This is why the fork has prongs – both methods agree on this point. But then there is the fact that many foods such as rice, cous cous and peas cannot be eaten with a fork by stabbing it. This is why the genius who invented the fork did not make the prongs straight like a carving fork. The genius who created the fork realised that the little things in life mattered and that if you made prongs that were bent you would also have an instrument that could be used to ‘shovel’ food as well as stab it. Genius!

Since the fork was first invented in Ancient Greek times some people still haven’t grasped the fact that the fork is specifically designed to stab and shovel. But you will find me at dinner parties all across the country fork in hand, zig zagging around the room proving my point that forks should be used in the way they were designed. Do you eat in the correct forkin’ manner?!

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