There’s a dining etiquette brouhaha brewing on the other side of the Atlantic.
As The Daily Mail reports, Britons are using knives less and less when they dine—so much so that forks outsell knives by two to one. Whereas traditional etiquette calls for a knife and fork, more people are now eating “American-style,” using just a fork in one hand to cut up their food.
“It’s such bad manners,” British etiquette expert Jean Broke-Smith says. “I know the Americans cut up their food and then leave the knife hanging on the side of the plate while they move the fork to their right hand and dig in like animals. This is just another sign that people are forgetting what a dining room table is. I have to teach kids how to eat with a knife and fork and sit at a table instead of using a fork in a plastic container in front of the television. It’s very sad.”
In our defense, I have noticed that Brits use knives more frequently than we do, using them not just to cut up meat but also to arrange morsels of food on the fork for dishes like pasta and beans. And with people opting for less formal meals these days—say, a fast food burger or a chicken wrap rather than a chicken cutlet—it’s not surprising that the knife has fallen by the wayside.
We often think that if something is soft enough to cut with a fork (say, a crab cake), we don’t need a knife. But using a knife is more formal and correct, even if we don’t think we need it. However, to avoid any lapses in dining etiquette here or across the pond, follow these simple rules:
-Do not cut your meat all at once, then “dig in.” Cut a bite-sized portion with your knife and fork, then eat it, then cut another bite.
-Avoid using your hands. It’s one thing to use your hands to eat a taco or a burger, but you don’t want to be seen picking at your salad with your fingers. If you can’t get every bit of food on your fork, use your knife to help.
-Observe what others are doing. If your dining companion (whether it’s your date or your boss) is using a knife for everything, follow suit. You should also consider cutting burgers or sandwiches in half with a knife and fork, or cutting up pizza bite by bite if you’re in a must-impress situation—it’s less casual, but less sloppy too.