TND – Culture Wars

July 11, 2013


One of the more enduring culture wars between the US and Europe is over the correct way to hold/use a knife and fork.  I was brought up strict European – fork in left hand, knife in right hand, you use both simultaneously, and only rest them on your plate if you are doing something else with your hands, like taking a sip of water (or wine), or tearing off a piece of bread.

If you learned your table manners in the US you are more likely to pick up your fork in your left hand, your knife in your right hand, cut yourself off a bit of food, lay down your knife, swap your fork to your right hand, spear the bite of food – eat – chew – swallow – move your fork back to your left hand, pick up your knife again in your now free right hand and repeat the process all over again.

I have always found this baffling.  It’s so cumbersome.  It’s so wildly inefficient.  It’s so much more likely to end with you dropping food off your fork unless it’s a tidy discrete item like a piece of meat (seriously, how on earth do you eat lasagna like this?)  Who on earth dreamed up this system?  And why?

Now I have an answer thanks to an article in Slate.

“Put a Fork In It”

Apparently, originally the whole bait & switch method of eating was a European fetish in the early 1700s.  No one seems to really know why anyone ever thought it was a good idea, theories range from it being a matter of delicacy to the enduring prejudice against the sinister influence of the left hand.  Whatever the reason, when the colonies were establishing themselves they brought this high falutin’ method of eating with them as a marker of culture and sophistication.

Back in Europe, however, by the 1850s the cut-and-switch method of eating was falling out of fashion, possibly because everyone realized what a waste of time it was, or the age of the Industrial Revolution made everyone seek out efficiency in all areas of their life.  Whatever the reason Europe evolved the two handed approach to dining, while as America broke away from European governmental oversight they held on to ‘French’ manners as regards their dining etiquette.

Granted I don’t actually know if this the right answer, but it seems plausible, and at the very least it made for an entertaining article.

Sweet Potato Biscuits
Baked Ham
Broccoli Slaw
Marinated Cucumber Salad

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Recipe previously given:  Obvious Answers, Optimism & Guinea Pigs


Baked Ham
What I wanted was a spiral cut ham, but since that’s really only available at the holidays (Easter & Christmas), what I settled for was a mini-smoked ham that I cut a diamond pattern into and drenched in peach glaze and baked until warmed through (20 minutes/lb – as per the instructions on the ham).


Broccoli Slaw

Recipe previously given:  Each Peach Pear Raspberry?

broccoli slaw

Marinated Cucumber Salad
(serves 6-8)

cucumber salad

2-3 cucumbers
8-10 large radishes
½ red onion
1-2 fresno chilis, seeded & thinly sliced
Handful of mint, chopped
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1-2 oranges
2-3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
Drizzle of honey or large pinch of sugar
¼ cup peanuts, chopped (I used honey roasted)

Slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise, seed them (I use a spoon to scoop out the seeds) and then cut into thin slices (about 1/8” thick – I used a mandoline).

Thinly slice the radishes about 1/16” thick – a mandoline is your new best friend.  Thinly slice the red onion, again about 1/16” thick.

Whisk together the orange zest, juice, vinegar, and olive oil.  Adjust the seasoning to your taste – depending on how sweet your oranges are you may need more or less honey/sugar, salt & pepper.

Toss the cucumber, radishes, onion, chilis, and mint together with the dressing.  Allow to marinate, tossing occasionally, for 30-45 minutes.  Stir in peanuts just before serving.

You can slice the vegetables, and make the dressing the night before, but don’t toss everything together until the day you’re serving, although I do like to marinate the onion in the dressing overnight if I have time.


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