American Use of Silverware

Why does it appear that only Americans use a fork with the tines pointed up while all other cultures seem to keep the fork tines down?

Perhaps it’s the way we eat. Fork in right hand(usually) with the food nicely scooped up on the fork, tines up.

Europeans, perhaps, tend to eat with fork in left hand, piercing the food, and held upside down in our point of view.

So, our tines may be pointing the same way as the food enters our mouth, just that the fork is held in a different manner.

*Note: This is my off-handed opinion, and I have not much basis for this, other than watching a crazy Englishperson eat dinner one night.

Chiefly because there are more US movies being played around the world than there are foreign[to us]movies being shown here.

So the ,assumed,customs and habits of Yanks are more open to observation.

As to why we dont eat"european"[or Brit]----it’s because we’re neither of those.

Frankly I use those tools in the European manner because it was natural for me------and my family members think I’m certifiable!

But then there’s always Poi and Cous-Cous to consider.

Come to think of it “three finger Poi” isn’t bad at all!

Possibly because much of the rest of the world uses the fork in the left hand, while using a knife held in the right to either help impale the food, or shove it neatly on the fork. Americans either spear the food, or chase it around the plate with the fork until they catch it. With this method-with or without a surreptitious finger shove-it is easier to scoop up the food with the tines facing up.

It has always seemed to me (a transplanted quasi-Scot) an odd way to eat. I am always having to ask for a “butter knife” (otherwise I get a steak knife) in restaurants.

I think Miss Manners has contended that it is traceable back to an era when Americans were struggling to out-genteel each other (and Europeans). True American etiquette requires that you cut one bite of food at a time with knife and fork, then put the knife down and transfer the fork over to your right hand with the points up. This is maximally fussy, ergo maximally genteel.

As was mentioned, in Europe both implements are used at the same time throughout the meal (I guess).

Being a left-handed American, I cut my food, put the knife down, and then flip the fork over in my left hand, which confuses everyone.

Carina42 Re: your being a transplanted Scot…You may appreciate this.

I went out to eat in London with an English friend. Instead of “chasing” my food around my plate, I ate “Continental” style, holding my fork upside down in my left hand, spearing my food, and eating just like anyone else in the restaurant. It wasn’t hard to do. Actually makes sense, rather than changing hands after cutting meat.

As we ordered desert, I challenged my friend to eat his dessert{which required a spoon) with his left hand. After all, he had just finished gracefullly eating a meal with his left hand.

Guess what! He couldn’t do it. Could barely find his mouth.

cher3, that’s exactly what I do, too! (being a fellow southpaw and all)

as far as goes the OP, I think it has to do with the way the utensil is held…

on this side of the pond, the fork is held kind of like a pencil, slid down… hence, the ‘tines-up’ way of doing things is the most ergonomically viable technique.

in the old country, (and I’m guessing on this one) the fork is held in the hand, with the index on the handle of the fork, as if it’s an extension of the pointing finger. Try putting food in your mouth in this fashion, holding the fork tines-up, then tines-down. The tines-up way has your hand up in front of your face, kind of awkward. The tines-down way, the hand is down at chin level, with the wrist at a much more comfy position, and out of the way when you’re dining with a partner.

I know I got a bit more technical than the topic warrants, but that’s just cuz i’ve been away from SD for so long, I felt I had to make up some way… ;o)


I’m pretty sure that cher3 nailed it. In fact, I have memories of family stories from the period around WWII in which GI’s who had picked up the “polite” “American” habits, returning to their farming families on leave, were heckled for not simply eating “normal” like the rest of the family (i.e., the rest of the (rustic Yankee) family was following the European mode).

It appears that U.S. society invented a method that was cumbersome simply to “appear” cultured.

(Of course, Miss Manners’s other answer was that we eat with the right hand while they eat with the left because we are on opposite sides of the Atlantic.)

I was taught that when you are done eating that you put the fork & or knife on the plate facing down. Then the waiter comes & picks it up. I wonder how they do that in england? Face up?

I use the fork in my left hand and cut with my right. Then I pierce the meat with the fork and eat it. Sometimes the tines are up and sometimes the tines are down. It’s not a conscious thing, rather it’s just how the fork happens to face when I bring it to my mouth. Since I hold the fork like a pencil (instead of in a fist) it’s easy to eat tines-up or tines-down. If I’m not cutting, I’ll often use the fork tines-up in my right hand and use the knife to hold the food still (doncha hate it when it tries to scurry away? :D) while I scoop it upwith the fork. Of course, this is for food that is not easily speared with the fork. Rice, and such.

For some reason, I find it difficult to use a fork when I’m eating Asian food. It seems much more natural to use chopsticks.