Taking baby steps to learning the skills of using a fork and knife
By: Palesa Matjebele
Setting up a formal table is a headache, but it’s a nightmare when you don’t even know how to use the cutlery. We’re not born holding a fork on the left hand and a knife on the other, so being unable to use them is no sin. But then again, it’s important for one to learn to use them, it’s just a great way to protect ones ego as it saves you from the embarrassment.
‘FORK AND KNIFE’ BASICS
Familiarising yourself with the use of cutlery is just important, not that you have to use a knife to cut through pap when you are at home. But going to a restaurant, and scooping on a Greek salad and a sticky steak is not amazing either.
Kitchn helps with the basics of using a fork and a knife. They say there are only two methods of using a fork and a knife, the American and the European way. We’re in South Africa, and sadly there’s no Mzansi way of using the two famous cutlery pieces, so we might as well adopt the globally acceptable manner of using the two. The American method is quite complicated; you hold a fork in your left hand and the knife on the right, that’s when you cutting the food into smaller pieces, after that, put the knife down and hold the fork with the right when you eat. And the European method is easier, the fork remains in the left hand, and one uses the knife to carefully put the food on the fork.
Now that you have an idea of using the two great pieces, you might want to do some home practices, just before showing off your skills in a restaurant. Viners advice that one also familiarise with the setting of a table, because a well set table have a lot more than a tablecloth, cutlery and a plate full of food; sitting there can be confusing. Viners give out these six things to watch out for when sitting in a formalised table:
- Knife blades face towards the plate while the fork tips faces up.
- Dessert fork and spoon lies on the table. The fork pointing to the right, and the fork pointing to the left.
- Side plates are placed on the left side of the table.
- A salad plate is small, and placed on top of the dinner plate. There’s also a soup bowl lying on top of the salad plate.
- There’s a napkin cutely folded and placed on the side plate.
- There are two glasses, a wine and a water glass. The two are always placed on the right side of the table.
Sitting in a table with unfamiliar or formal individuals is a problem, one mistake, you are written off. Such people care about even the littlest things; they are just pay attention to detail. Etiquette scholar gives out some table manner lessons on how to act, and what to do when surrounded by such people.
There’s always a napkin or a serviette for every individual seated around a table. The only way one would be considered a civil member of the society, is if they take the napkin found on the table and place it on the lap; when you have to use the bathroom, place it on your chair and when done eating, place it to your left side.
Just because you have dished the food does not mean that you can eat already, you have to wait until everyone else is done dishing and seated. For very formal events, one has to wait for the host to tell them to eat before they can even touch the food.
When it’s a serve yourself situation, you have to be mindful of your behavior. You can’t stand up when everyone else is seated, you seat down and wait for the dish to be passed onto you, always pass to the right. There’s always salt and pepper shakers on the table, first taste the food before putting on any salt or pepper; some people don’t like it when you put salt into the food, they feel that you are communicating their kitchen incompetence.