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More strange American customs

June 6, 2010
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Neither American nor European style; photo by striatic

In addition to struggling to adopt the metric system, this weekend I was once again reminded that my American style of eating is not just strange, but completely impractical.

The European or continental style of utensil etiquette is completely foreign to my motor skills — I was rigidly taught to eat with either fork or knife in my right hand, no exceptions. One’s left hand isn’t good for much other than occasionally holding a fork while cutting and then once again laboriously transferring utensils between hands. Holding a knife while eating is not allowed.

This makes it almost impossible to keep up with others at a table when everyone else eats according to European etiquette: fork in left hand, knife in right hand, and you’re good to go. No switching utensils back and forth, no setting down the knife between bites, and, most important, it’s possible to use one’s knife to maneuver food onto one’s fork rather than fruitlessly stab at that last tasty bite one-handed before giving up in despair.

I’ve tried switching to the European style, but not only does it feel innately wrong, but my left hand is such an amateur that any food it attempts to conduct toward my mouth usually doesn’t make it that far. Mastering the use of chopsticks was comparatively simple, as it’s all a matter of right-hand coordination. In fact, I still prefer to eat plenty of dishes with chopsticks given the option — less stabbing, more delicious.

Does anyone have tips for training to eat efficiently?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    June 7, 2010 2:58 pm

    Practice, practice, practice. I sometimes resort to this method as it is a lot more efficient. But then, I was raised with a mother who was born and raised in New Zealand, so I was accustomed to both ways. If you can master chopsticks, this is a cakewalk, plus you can eat cake faster.

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