Dancers Anonymous > Knife and Fork / Table settings

Discussion in 'Dancers Anonymous' started by Pacion, Dec 13, 2006.

  1. Pacion

    Pacion New Member

    I haven't come across it before, but am getting the impression that the way the knife and fork is held in the US, differs from Europe.

    How are they held in your part of the world?

    (I didn't grow up in Europe but was "taught" knife in right hand, fork in left)

    Re table settings, the cutlery would be setout on either side of the plate (soup spoons and knives to the right, forks to the left) rather than at the top or all on one side of the plate. Occassionally, dessert spoons and folks would be placed at the top of the plate. What is the practice in your part of the world?

    (For the Americans, no links to Martha Stewart please ;))
  2. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    Not if you are left handed !!-- americans cut with right ( or left ) and then place fork in the usual knife hand .
  3. bjp22tango

    bjp22tango Active Member

    I AM left handed.

    I eat with the fork in the left hand, knife in the right. I don't switch hands with the fork.

    I think you will find that some people are taught to eat with the fork times pointed down, while most Americans eat with the fork times pointing up, more like a scooping, spoon action. If you watch any Merchant Ivory films you will see the British stabbing their food with the tines down, taking small bites, mashing anything loose on the fork with the knife and then placing the bite, fork tines down, into their mouths. Maybe it makes for more elegant eating?

    Would this be also more prevelant in "upperclasses" of all countries?
  4. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    There's a scene in "The Big Red One" (a WWII film about a rifle squad in the 1st I.D.) that illustrates this difference. The squad is eating a meal in a Belgian inn or something with a few other soldiers, and the innkeeper grabs a pistol and shoots one of the other soldiers dead. She'd been watching the Yanks eating and cutting with their right hands and switching hands to eat, and this fellow was doing it the European way, and she figured out that he was a German infiltrator dressed up as a Yank.

    Edit: But AFAIK, the place settings are near-identical, Pacion. Knife on the right, fork on the left. Utensils (e.g. salad forks) used first are on the outside. After-dinner utensils (dessert, coffee) on the top.
  5. Pacion

    Pacion New Member

    Ouch! Yes, I have read vaguely that successful spies/infiltrators had to lose their cultural habits/mannerisms as a matter of survival. But, what if the poor fellow was indeed American, but had been educated in Europe?

    I love the Merchant Ivory films!
  6. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    I can't tell you how to do a place setting. I failed that unit in Kindergarten.

    Somewhere about a decade ago, I heard of a reason for the standard US hand dance of constantly switch the fork between hands (fork in left hand to cut, put down knife, fork to right hand to transport single morsel to mouth, fork back to left hand and knife to right and we're cutting the next single morsel). It was adopted during the Revolutionary War as an anti-British gesture, kind of like how we renamed so many German foods during WWI (eg, hamburger -> Salisbury steak, sauerkraut -> freedom cabbage). Take that story with several grains of salt.

    While working construction with my father, we did one home remodel for a university professor of linguistics who had helped to train our agents during WWII. Teaching them to handle their cutlery like a European was an important part of that training.

    It's a good thing I wasn't in that war. I eat in the sensible manner (European style; fork stays in the left hand) and I know nothing about baseball. I'd have been shot within a week. 'Course, it also doesn't help that I do most of my cursing in German.
  7. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    We're the same . . . knife on the right closest to the plate, then spoons - large down to small - going away from the plate. Forks on the left . . . main eating fork closest to the plate, then the salad fork on the outside. Yes dessert spoon/fork at the top of the plate. Doesn't matter which hand you use the fork in - as it's your darn food!

    What's kewl to learn, is what to do is at the end of the meal when you place your silverware close together on your plate, with just a slight tip of the fork or knife extending out over the plate, which indicates to the waiter/waitress that you are finished and the dishes/silverware can be removed - all w/o a word being spoken. It's kewl to see how many waters/waitresses do know this - you'd be surprised.
  8. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    i hold fork with left hand, whether cutting or not. am right-handed in some respects, left-handed in others... definitely lean toward ambi. i write with my right hand, tho.

    i never switch hands for utensils -- is it really that common in the u.s. to do so?
  9. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Agreed, but that's not the position I've heard. I'd always heard that the "resting" (aka, don't touch my plate) poistion was fork and knife crossed in the middle of the plate, with one extending out at about the 4 o'clock position, and the other at about the 7 o'clock position. Don't remember which went which direction. But if you're finished, they should be lined up parallel to each other extending from the center of the plate outwards at about the 4 o'clock position. Balancing the knife across the edge of the plate was, I'd been taught, just sort of a stashing place between bites.

    It is very cool, though, to see servers pick up on this.
  10. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    as a waiter with extensive experience in these rarified sorts of things, i'd say i'd be happiest to see the cue you have described, peach. the utensils could even be crossed a la vince's description, but joined together in some way around 4 o'clock is nicest.

    that way, when the waiter lifts the plate they are also less likely to shift or fly off... but i rearrange the silver as i take the plates away, anyway, and put them in a position on the plate that "locks" them in place...

    knives sailing through the dining room aren't very desireable ;)
  11. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    I AM british !!!!!
  12. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member


    Context, please.
  13. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    Yes, in America, the standard way to eat foods that have to be cut is to hold the knife in the right hand and cut while using the fork in the left hand to hold the food still. Then, you put down the knife and switch the fork in the right hand to eat. Repeat as necessary. The fork goes back and forth a lot. And you're always having to find a place where you can put down a handle-heavy knife without it sliding into the middle of the plate and getting juice all over the handle, or falling off of the plate into your lap. :rolleyes:

    A while back I was reading some Internet material on this. The fork is a relatively recent introduction to tableware, compared to the knife and the spoon which go back to Biblical times or further. If I remember the discussion, the fork arrived in the 18th century. Prior to that, the custom was to stab fork-able food with the point of the knife and lift it to your mouth that way. In fact, some people ate with two knives, using one to cut with and eat with, and the other to hold the food still while cutting. I think the difference in the European and American styles of cutting goes back to that, but I don't recall the details.

    I have always heard that forks go on the left, in left-to-right of the order you will use them (e.g., left to right, salad fork, main course fork, dessert fork). Everything else goes on the right except for a dessert spoon or a coffee/tea spoon.
  14. Pacion

    Pacion New Member

    Or, another way of saying it/imagining it is that you work your way from the "outside inwards". Amazing what you can pick up just from watching the movies (a la Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman :lol:)

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