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Old 06-26-2002, 01:27 PM
zig zig is offline
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What is the historical reason for the European vs. American (or Zig Zag) method of ha

I have found numerous sites describing the proper method and etiquette of eating with the fork in the left or right hand, but nothing yet on how the difference evolved.

I recall hearing as a child that the American method evolve from the necessity of the early American colonialists having to share a single knife among a group or family. Itís the best answer Iíve ever heard, but can anyone verify it?
Old 06-26-2002, 01:31 PM
zig zig is offline
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Sorry, the original question should read:

What is the historical reason for the European vs. American (or Zig Zag) method of handling a knife and fork?

It was cut of when I pasted it into the thread.
Old 06-26-2002, 02:03 PM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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The story I heard is that the American form developed orginally from the use of a spoon and knife, no fork. The fork didn't come into common use in America until after the habit had been established. In Europe, on the other hand, the fork came into common use earlier and the manner of use developed accordingly.
Old 06-26-2002, 03:40 PM
Hippy144 Hippy144 is offline
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My guess (I emphasize guess) is that holding a knife could seem like a threat. The reason we keep both hands above the table is so a gun can't be drawn and fired under the table. This was true with the cowboys, but I believe it spread as a sign of etiquette.
tall, dark and... well... scary, but two out of three ain't bad, right?
Old 06-26-2002, 03:49 PM
JS Princeton JS Princeton is offline
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Additionally, at a living history center (not the best of sources, I know) I was told that the Americans wanting to eschew the practices of the uppity Europeans decided it was important to maintain a custom of impropriety of use of the fork with any hand other than the right (the left being sinister!). Cutting is virtually impossible to do with the left-hand for those majority right-handers, so it was natural that one cut with the right, but by golly, you better only move the fork to your mouth with the right. This strikes me as being a lot of needless fiddling around the dinner plate; the European method appears much more practical. Practicality be damned! It was European and we were Americans!

Take this with an appropriate grain of salt.
Old 06-26-2002, 04:34 PM
bibliophage bibliophage is offline
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Your title got cut off because there's a limit to the number of characters that can go in a title. I changed it to History of European vs. American styles of handling forks and knives. Let me know if you want something different.

Last edited by bibliophage; 06-26-2002 at 04:39 PM.
Old 06-26-2002, 05:10 PM
Skyler Skyler is offline
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The story I read somewhere some time ago is that when forks were first introduced and etiquette first developed in France and England, the fork swapping scheme was purposefully devised to slow the eater down and make eating a more elegant, slow process.

The story goes that until this was established, people typically ate with simply a knife and their hands.

Along came the discovery of the New World and this etiquette was brought to the English and French colonies in North America.

After a while, European fashions changed and they started eating keeping the fork in the left hand. North America kept to the older traditional ways.


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