Last night The Beau and I had a heated discussion on the topic of how to properly use a fork and knife. The Beau, who spent a year living abroad in Denmark, follows the Continental school of thought, which I am heavily against. When it comes to eating, what is the proper way to hold your fork and knife?
Personally, I am an advocate for the American style of eating and dining. While both the American and Continental styles are technically correct, the Clean & Proper approved method is the American method.
In this style, which is often known as the “zigzag method,” the knife is held in the right hand with the fork in the left to cut food, one bite at a time. In between cutting each individual piece, the knife is placed at the top of the plate with the blade facing in. The fork is switched to the right hand for eating and the fork tines (prongs) remain facing up.
If you need to pause during eating, place your utensils in the “resting position” with the knife on the right side of the plate, blade facing in, and the fork placed on the left side with the tines up. The “resting position” is important for a couple of reasons. First, it lets your waiter know that you are not finished with your meal. Secondly, it prevents your fork and knife from sliding around your plate or worse, crashing to the table and taking with it bits and pieces of your meal! Once your utensils are picked up off the table, they should never again touch the table.
When finished with your meal, place your fork and knife side-by-side on the right side of your plate. The fork should be on the inside with the tines up, and the knife on the outside with the blade facing in.
This style was originally adapted by the French, and thus Europe, around the mid-1850s. It is thought to be a more graceful way to eat as it requires less work and less fumbling with utensils. Frankly, I find it the lazy way to eat as it encourages you to rush through each meal like a rabid beast, rapidly shoving food into your mouth as if dinner were only about survival. Equally important, the thought of consuming a meal using a fork with the tines face down is just appalling!
In this style, the “resting position” has the tines of the fork placed down, and overlapping the blade of the knife. The “finished position” is the same as in the American Style, but with the fork tines facing down.
To eat using the Continental Style–which I highly recommend against–the fork remains in the left hand, while the knife stays in the right hand. Oh the pain of even sharing this with you! As you cut your food, the knife remains in your right hand as you shovel food into your mouth using your left hand and a fork with tines facing down. The agony of such a sight!
There you have it, and as you might imagine, The Beau and I are never lacking in mealtime conversation!