"The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any." ?- Fred Astaire
Oh busboy, I received a lot of remarks about my last article on everyday dinner manners. It seems that we don't remember the basics much less the particulars. As I said, manners are the little things you do that follow the rules that humans follow that make them human. I am an advocate for manners, not perfect manners, but just good manners.
Since it is my self-designated job to improve your enjoyment of the eating experience, I will continue by improving your manners.
Ever been in the middle of a meal or party, looked at the food and thought "What do I do with that?" or "can I use my hands?"
All food that is served at a cocktail party or during a cocktail hour should be prepared to be eaten with the fingers - canaps, deviled eggs, chips, etc. Fruits and vegetables can be eaten by hand. If toothpicks are near, use them to pick up pieces of fruit or vegetables or meat such as meatballs. It is acceptable to use your hand to dip the fruit or veggies into a dip. Never double-dip even if you use the unbitten side. If plates are available, spoon a bit of the dip on the plate for you own individual use.
Artichokes: It is both proper and polite to pluck the leaves with your fingers. Pull off a leaf, holding it by the pointed end, put the other end in your mouth and pull it between your teeth. After the leaves are eaten, return to your knife and fork to eat the heart.
Asparagus: You actually can eat whole asparagus spears, without a sauce, by picking them up with your hand. However, to be safe, use your knife and fork to cut then eat them. Pick asparagus up with your hands if the hostess does.
Bacon: Bacon can be considered finger food if it is crisp and served whole. If bacon is broken into pieces should be eaten with a knife and fork.
Berries and fruit: Eat berries with a spoon, whether they have cream on them or not. Generally speaking, even if in wedges, fruit at the meal - not the cocktail party - should be cut and eaten with a spoon or fork.
Bread: Yes, you can use your fingers to remove bread from the serving plate. Using your hands, break bread or rolls into small pieces no larger than one bite. Butter each bite at a time. It is not appropriate to cut a roll with a knife. Small biscuits can be bitten into whole. When a bread and butter plate is on the table, use it. Buttering should be done on the plate
Cheese: If cheese is served as an appetizer, such as cubes with toothpicks, it is eaten with fingers. If served as a wedge, a slice of cheese is cut from a wedge, placed on a cracker using a utensil, and brought to the mouth with the fingers. When sliced cheese is served as an accompaniment to a dish, such as apple pie, it is eaten always with a fork.
Chicken: It once was acceptable to pick up food with a bone, such as chicken, if it was small enough to eat with two fingers. Today, when dining at the restaurant, chicken should always be eaten with a fork and knife. If you are at an informal barbecue, a fast food restaurant, or at home, it is acceptable to eat chicken with your fingers.
Clams and oysters in the half shell: They can be eaten by hand at an informal event, but at a more formal event hold the shell with the left hand and lift the clam out using your fork. This'll impress everyone.
Shrimp, crab claws and lobster tails: At a meal, these should always be eaten with a fork. When served as an appetizer and there are no tongs or toothpicks, then go with the flow and use your hands.
French fries: In the vast majority of eating situations, French fries are eaten with the hands, but never if they are covered with cheese or gravy. In a fine dining restaurant or at a guest's home, use your knife and fork.
Olives: Generally, olives are considered a finger food. It is acceptable to pick up and eat an olive with your fingers and remove the pit with your fingers. At fine dining, I prefer to use a fork to stab the olive and to remove the olive pit.
Soup: Always use a utensil with soup even if served in a cup. Dip the spoon into the soup, moving it away from the body, until it is about 2/3 full, then sip the liquid (without slurping) from the side of the spoon. Don't insert the whole bowl of the soup spoon into the mouth.
The other day at lunch time in my house, I served the previous night's chicken corn chowder. The dishwasher was full so I served it with small spoons not soup spoons. As I neared the bottom of the bowl, using the small spoon became quite tiresome so I lifted up the bowl, raised the edge to my lips and finished off the last tidbits. My grandchildren looked at me and with wide smiles did the same. I think it's important that as a member of this human society, you know what is proper "to do." As a free member of society, you can "do" or "not do" the "to dos."
More "to dos" will be served soon.
Restaurant watch: Watch your manners.