Fork Etiquette – Another Pet Peeve

I am in no means claiming to be Ms Suzy Manners or to posess perfect table etiquette, BUT, this one thing that I do notice and it annoys me! People who hold their forks and use them to illustrate points flicking little bits of food and saliva all over the table are one, but my BIGGEST pet peeve is holding the fork like a barbarian.

My BIL is the worst example I have ever seen of this. As a Navy Officer you would think they would have has SOME sort of basic etiquette instruction, but sadly his manners and etiquette did not improve. He holds his fork encased in his entire fist in a way that is hard to mimic and even harder to describe with words.

The best way I can describe it, is to imagine you were born without thumbs, and place the fork (or spoon) in your fist with all four fingers encasing it and using your wrist, either pierce or scoop the food onto the utensil (if it won’t go on the utensil, use your fingers to give the food a nudge) and twist your wrist around to your mouth.

Now try that at home. It is very awkward. Watching it is completely appalling and barbaric. We only ate in public with him once after we were married because between the fork and his other table etiquette, it was embarassing.

Fork etiquette in Western social settings takes two primary forms. In the European style style, the diner keeps the fork in his or her left hand, while in the American style the fork is shifted between the left and right hands. Both styles are common in the United States[3] but the American style is almost completely unknown and considered improper in other countries.[4]

European style

The European style, also called the continental style, is to hold the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right throughout consumption. Once a bite-sized piece of food has been cut, it is conducted straight to the mouth by the left hand. There is no need to put down the knife.
The hand grasp is also different; outside of the US it is considered better manners not to hold a knife or fork as one would hold a pen, but instead to have the handle running along the palm and extending out to be held by thumb and forefinger. This style is sometimes called “hidden handle”. This method is also common in Canada and other former parts of the British Empire. In contrast to the American method of using a fork much like a spoon (tines up), in this style of eating the tines must be pointed down.
The cause of the difference in custom is uncertain. It is believed to have originated because the 17th century American colonists had established themselves before the fork, and any custom of its use, had become widespread in Europe. The implement did not become widespread in Europe (certainly northern Europe) until the 18th century, and was not adopted in the United States until the 19th century. The American use of blunt-ended knives was also a factor.[citation needed]

American style

In the American style, also called the zig-zag method, the knife is initially held in the right hand and the fork in the left. Holding food to the plate with the fork tines-down, a single bite-sized piece is cut with the knife. The knife is then set down on the plate, the fork transferred from the left hand to the right hand, and the food is brought to the mouth for consumption. The fork is then transferred back to the left hand and the knife is picked up with the right.[3][5]

One thought on “Fork Etiquette – Another Pet Peeve”

  1. well… to say the truth, after reading this article I realised that I have never held a fork correctly!
    I will try to memorise and practise some of the techniques here, but I am afraid my habit is not easily changed 🙂

    Well, I rarely go to formal diners, so I am in no much trouble anyways.


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