August 24, 2018
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The use of Knives and Forks

Milllions of people around the world use knives and forks multiple times a day, but do we really know the origin and how to use knives and forks correctly?

The Origin of the fork

The fork first came into use during 14th century Italy, and up to the 17th century aristocrats carried their own cutlery in a box called a ‘cadena’ either over the shoulder or around the waist when attending a banquet.

  • Always use the cutlery from the outside inwards. Use the first set on the outside for the starter dishes – usually the smallest fork, knife and/or spoon. This is followed by the soup spoon.
  • Starter dishes aren’t always served in the same order. It depends on the menu. The salad, for instance, can be served either after the soup or before the main course. The appropriate cutlery will be placed in the same order the dishes are served.

The Fish Fork

The fish fork is a narrow fork with curved tines  in the middle. The fish knife is somewhat wider than the meat knife and doesn’t have a cutting edge.

Always use the largest knife and fork for the main course.

The knife

The kings of yesteryear carried their swords and their knives on their right side. The confidantes of the king or queen always sat to their right.

  • That is why, until today, we seat important guests to the right of the host and hostess.

To the left of the king or queen, sat strangers , or people not in the confidence of the throne, so as to enable royals to keep an eye on the weapons of these guests.

The custom of placing forks to the left of the plate was especially beneficial to left-handed guests.

How to hold a fork when eating:

  • Use the knife to push the food to the front part of the fork and then bring it to your mouth. Turn the prongs of the fork downwards. Do not use the fork like a spoon.

  • Use a fork together with a spoon to eat a dessert. Hold the fork as always and use the dessert spoon to ‘cut’ the dessert. Now push the dessert portion with the fork onto the spoon. (See the illustration above.)
  • At informal occasions, use a fork on its own, e.g. to cut and eat a slice of quiche or cake. When you use a fork on its own, turn it over and use it like a spoon.

Always hold the fork as close as possible to the end of the stem, but don’t cling to it. It’s not that difficult to use correctly! The fork should rest on the middle finger and be supported by the two adjoining fingers.


The knife

Hold the knife so that the handle presses against your palm. Your thumb rests on the side of the handle and your fore finger on the handle’s back. This finger should never come into contact with the cutting edge of the knife.

  • Hold the knife like a bread knife, not like a pencil.
  • The other three fingers are curled around the handle to hold it in place.

The butter knife

  • Place the butter knife on your side plate next to or slightly over your fork. Otherwise, place it to the extreme right of the plate.???
  • Use the side plate only for either bread or for cheese after the meal.

The cheese platter knife

A cheese platter is served either before the dessert, as the French do, or else after the dessert together with port or other sweet wines.

How to eat it:

  • Cut off small pieces of cheese with the cheese knife. Put them on one side of your side plate together with other types of cheese, olives or figs, or whatever you have picked.
  • Spread soft cheeses on your plate and eat with wafer thin crackers or thinly sliced toast.
  • When putting cream cheeses or pate on crackers or thinly sliced toast, hold the toast/cracker in your left hand and spread with the right hand. Use the left hand to bring the cracker to the mouth.

How to use a knife and fork together:

  • Hold the knife in your right hand and the fork in your left hand.
  • The prongs of the fork should point downwards.
  • Eat from the tips of the fork.

Word of advice:

If you have used the incorrect cutlery, continue eating and finish the course.  Merely ask the waiter for a new set of the appropriate cutlery when the next dish is served.

Good manners add to the enjoyment of ife!


Till next time

Anne Dreyer

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With her warm personality and tangible style, she infects her audiences as she trains and inspires them from her personal life experience as a successful business woman, and entrepreneur.

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