How to Eat Like an American

No, not which foods, but how to eat them. What utensils to use and when.

I suppose you might be asking yourself if I’m being serious. “What utensils to use? We use silverware, not chopsticks, and everyone uses it the same way.”

“Au contraire,” I reply in your inner monologue – dialog now.

For a week around my birthday in 2010 I was in Iceland visiting my friend, Ester. Once upon a time, before she took up database development, Ester waited tables. Now, Iceland is a popular tourist destination and she had opportunity to observer peoples from various European countries and the US.

We were having dinner at an inn near Goðafoss and Ester remarked on my utensil technique, which, at least as far as I know, is fairly typical of Americans. She noted that, in her time as a waitress, she learned to identify a customer’s country of origin by how they used their silverware.

An inn near Goðafoss

An inn near Goðafoss

Not exactly hard core evidence, I’ll agree. However,she is not the first foreigner I’ve had tell me they think I (or Americans in general, depending on how many they know) use my silverware oddly.

So, you ask (or maybe not, if you already know the punch line), how do I, and perhaps Americans in general, use silverware?

The ‘tell’ of American silverware usage is knife-avoidance. We tend to use the edge of our forks to cut, only resorting to a knife for difficult to cut items such as steaks. I’ll cite as support for this the strengthened tine you will find on some plastic forks. Sadly, I’ve only even seen right-hand versions of these. We poor left-handers have to use the other side, which breaks easily or, heaven forbid, resort to a plastic knife.

To a lesser extent I do this with spoons too. Though it’s not as convenient to cut with a spoon, it can be done! I’ve noticed only a few others who do this, so apparently I have a more extreme case of knife-avoidance.

Here in Brazil, eaters love their knives and my wife still finds the extent to which I use a fork and only a fork amusing.

Therefore, Americanophiles, if you want to be genuine, put down that knife!

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