Continental vs. American style of eating: Which is better? 20-40-60 Etiquette
QUESTION: What is the Continental Style of eating? Is eating Continental Style acceptable in Oklahoma? Is the American style better?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: There isn’t “one is better” than the other really. As long as you’re doing them the correct way.
American style, the knife is in the right hand and the fork is in the left. After the knife is used to cut the food while the food is held in the fork, the knife is placed near the top of the plate, blade facing in.
The fork is then switched to the right hand (this is based on right hand being your dominant hand) and used to pick up the food tines up. The Continental style of eating, the fork (tines down) is held in the left hand (for eating) and the knife in the right (for cutting).
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: I have one child who really likes to eat the Continental-style way, ever since he learned it in a cotillion class. To him it makes more sense because you don’t have to ever switch hands as you eat. To me, I think it’s weird because I am used to the American style of eating — hold the fork in your left and the knife in your right to cut, and then put the knife down on your plate and switch hands to take a bite.
The Continental style, I am told, is used more often outside of the United States, but both are acceptable here.
The Continental style seems to be more efficient, but I still like the American way I’m used to. You’ll be fine with either as long as you pick one for the entire meal, learn how to use the utensils properly based on either style, and be sure you’re not hunched over and shoveling food into your mouth.
HELEN’S ANSWER: The Continental style features the fork with the tines down held in the left hand (to eat) and the knife in the right hand (to cut). I use the American style (fork in right hand, left hand in lap, except when cutting with the knife) but my grandchildren learned Continental style and like it a lot. It is probably good to know both styles of dining so you will feel comfortable is all situations.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Hilarie Blaney: Fashioned after the Europeans, Continental style dining is simply this:
1) Your fork remains in the left hand and the knife in the right while dining, there is no switching silverware back and forth.
2) The tines of your fork are pointed down when taking a bite of food. When breaking or resting between bites the knife and fork are placed on the plate with the fork tines pointed down. Last, when finished, the fork tines are pointed down alongside the knife (blade pointed inward) at a 4:00 position on the plate.
3) When resting during the meal, your wrists are anchored on the edge of the table while your fork is resting tines down on the plate with the handle to the left and the knife blade on the plate and handle pointed outward to the right.
In American style dining, the silverware can be switched back and forth to meet the comfort of right-handed people. The tines are facing up when taking a bite, as well as when resting and the meal is completed. Your hands rest in your lap when you are pausing or resting during the meal.
Continental style is accepted in America; however, it takes practice and most of all, consistency during the meal. When training people, I say, “one can’t fly to Europe and back in an hour, so eat your meal in one country.”
Whether it is better depends upon the comfort level you have when eating using this style. I am left-handed, therefore I am at ease with it, but right-handed people struggle a bit more because they are used to switching back for forth. In my opinion, it is much easier, less awkward and you do not eat as quickly using this style. I would Google Continental style and look at the silverware placement for a visual of my description, and it will look quite simple. In my sessions, the highlight of the dining section is using this style and people find it is so easy, fluid and comfortable.
Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email firstname.lastname@example.org.