When faced with an array of cutlery at a dinner party, it is easy to be a little overwhelmed. The questions start piling up: which one do I use first? How do I hold them? After a few tentative glances around the table, you might be able to seamlessly blend in with those around you. We here at AC Silver, however, have prepared this little guide to cutlery etiquette – just in case you need to brush up.
The General Table Setting
Firstly, look down at your table setting, if there is more than one piece of cutlery in front of you, then the outside-in rule is your friend. This rule is quite simply to work from the outside in when using cutlery. So, if you are served a starter first, then use the fork to the far left of your plate and the knife to the far right of your plate. From here, you just work inwards; the next plate requires the set of outermost cutlery, etc.
How to hold cutlery
When it comes to the fork, the prevailing way of holding it is in your left hand, tines facing downward. Use your fork to spear and lift food into your mouth. Place your index finger on the back of the fork, facing the tines, for a firmer grip.
So you’ve quite literally got to grips with the fork, what about the knife? This, you hold in your right hand with your index finger extended along the blunt side of the blade. When needed, use your knife to cut through food. However, when the dish doesn’t demand a knife, keep it to the right of your plate during the meal.
Try to hold your spoon by resting the end of the handle on your middle finger, with your thumb placed gently on top. Specifically, when eating soup, dip the spoon sideways at the nearest edge of the bowl to you, then skim the spoon away from you. This is a good tip for using the spoon, no matter the food you’re eating with it – skim away not towards yourself!
American vs. European Style
Naturally, with varying cultures comes varying ways of holding your knife and fork – specifically when holding the fork. So, the European style is when you hold the fork in the left hand and then the knife in the right. This position does not change in the European style: fork in left, knife in right.
The American style seems almost wild in comparison! Initially, the fork is held in the left hand and the knife is in the right, then a switching, or zig-zag sort of action takes place once the food has been cut up. This means that the fork is transferred to the right hand for eating, and then back to the left for cutting up food, and so on and so on.
In recent years it has been suggested that most of us actually adopt the American style when using cutlery. In fact a survey was carried out (yes, the severity of the situation demanded a survey) the results of which stated that around a third of the under-30s age range use their fork with their right hand – seemingly going against British traditions. Shocking, I know!
Say you’ve paused for a moment to chat to someone or maybe to have a sip of your drink, where do you put your cutlery? The answer is, place them in an inverted v, with the tips of the fork and knife pointing towards each other.
There seem to be a few different ways of placing cutlery once you have finished your meal. Your safest bet is to place the knife and fork parallel to each other, with them both in the 12 o’clock position on the plate.
Hopefully I’ve dished out helpful tips, I haven’t tried to spoon-feed you here, but hopefully you’ll feel well and truly covered when faced with cutlery. Now, we’ve reached our fork in the road – good luck!