The Ugly American (when he's eating)

We’ve had threads about things Americans eat, that others find disgusting. Now, let’s discuss Americans’ eating habits . . . not WHAT we eat, but HOW we eat.

Like, for example, eating certain things with our hands.

It’s not for me to care, but I’ve always supposed the descriptions of the legendary custom of some Americans swapping forks around whilst eating to be a wind-up on we simple foreigners.
Eating and juggling ought to be separate activities.

Oh it’s true, Claverhouse. I have unintentionally reduced dinner tables of elegant, articulate Europeans to fascinated/appalled silence as they watch me cut the food, put down my knife, take the fork in my right hand, put the food in my mouth, take the fork back in my left hand, pick up the knife in my right hand, cut the food…

I had to learn the transatlantic fork-persistence silverware technique just so the poor sufferers around me could enjoy their meals undistracted, but it still feels terribly clumsy to me.

Your European friends are exceedingly polite. My cousins just laugh themselves silly.

My German mom taught me the European style for holding fork and knife, and honest to God, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I even noticed other people did it differently.

I was at a business dinner once in Kansas City, at a steakhouse, and one of my local coworkers was staring at me during the meal. Finally he got up the nerve to ask me about the way I was eating. Had I practiced it? Was I more comfortable doing it? That got everyone else’s attention, and they made me demonstrate the technique. WTF, until then I didn’t even know it was a thing.

I picked up the Euro-style fork method when I was 19 and living in London. It came up during a meal at a friend-of-a-friend’s house. (BTW, trying to parse what Indian native people were saying with a London accent is very difficult. I knew they were speaking English, but whooo, it was awkward!) We talked about it, they didn’t particularly seem to think it was uncouth or anything, but I thought their way was certainly more efficient and didn’t look nearly as weird as how I had been doing it. I was like, why didn’t I think of that? And have been doing their way ever since. I think it’s much easier, though I do put my knife down.

My mother taught me the alternate fork-and-knife juggling thing…and I rebelled against it the moment I left home. I invented the European-style fork-and-knife practice independently.

I know a lot of people who chew with their mouths open. EEE-Yuck!

Eating with the fingers is also a bit gross, but there just aren’t any implements that are as versatile. I’ve eaten game bird with knife and fork…and, sorry, anatomical dissection is not one of my skills! I always end up leaving more meat on the bones, to be thrown away, than I actually manage to rassle down my gullet.

I know a lot of people who backwash into soda bottles. EEE-Yuck again!

I’ve heard that a lot of Europeans are appalled to see Americans eating while walking down the street. It’s just not done in certain countries.

Nice Youtube clip on US vs German table manners. Here they demonstrate the difference between the fork switching method and the European method.

Me, I would’t really know. I don’t really have table manners. I eat daintily, but usually just with a long stemmed tiny spoon. I rarely have on my plate anything, like a slap of meat, that needs to be cut anyway. If it can be daintily eaten with my hands, that’s what I prefer anyway.

Maybe I should do something about it. Oh well, I can blame my 1/16th of Surinam heritage. Surinam cuisine is eaten with the fingers on pieces of pancake.

It’s considered a a minor offense against good manners here in the Netherlands, but everyone does it anyway.

First off, I should say that IMHO Americans are no less uncouth than other people in their eating habits. Plus many customs may be completely acceptable in one country, but totes gauche in another.

Having said that, I think it’s odd that many mid-priced American restaurants don’t give their diners fresh cutlery (aka flatware) between courses. Who wants to start a fresh plate with bits of food from the previous course stuck to their fork and knife?

When I had some distant cousins over from Germany they remarked that both the volume of the conversations and their contents (discussion of private matters) by Americans in restaurants, felt, let’s say, ‘unusual’ to them.

I’ve heard people complain about how Americans wolf down their food as if they’re on the verge of starving and are devoted to getting it inside them as quickly as humanly possible. Whereas the civilized thing to do, of course, is sit for hours and enjoy a leisurely, social experience.

I ran across this when visiting Britain. I fear I am an ugly American in this sense. I don’t like to linger over food. I’d rather eat, pay, and get out. But, hey, I was on vacation, and my time was very limited. There were lots of things I’d have rather seen than the inside of your restaurant, especially when your chairs aren’t very comfortable. I’m up for leisure and socializing, but I’d rather do it sprawled in a comfy chair with my pants off.

Food as a sport.

It strikes me as oafish that America treats a meal as some sort of competitive event. Either how much food can you possibly pile on a plate, or how many platefulls you can shove down your gullet, or how unbearably spicy can you make it so that everyone can watch you sweat and grimmace in pain as you shove another hot wing in your maw. Nice.

Or am I wrong and this is not restricted largely to American culture?

Leisure and socializing, huh?? :D:D

Huh. I’ve never seen so many people that eat on the go as I did when I visited Germany.

Was the restaurant not willing to accomodate this request?

I read that to mean trading forks with fellow diners :dubious:

Europeans are just RUDE.

American and Japanese. Takeru Kobayashi of Nagano is one of the world’s best competitive eaters.