French Table Manners Matter...

Old Feb 10th, 2013, 08:12 AM
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French Table Manners Matter...

Recently whilst eating out in a restaurant my son said that in France it was considered to be rude to not use both your fork and your knife in combo when eating - to use just a fork, as many Americans do, was considered rude or crude - just not proper table manners.

I asked why was it rude and he said because of the way it messes up the plate, spreading food out around it rather than the French way of picking up food with both knife and fork in one motion.

So in France if eating with others try to do it the French way!

And the French also use bread as a mop - to mop up liquids and bits of food left on your plate.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 08:46 AM
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Britons frown on only using a fork too, or they used to.
Here too (the Netherlands) when eating out it is normal to use both utensils. what you do at home is your own affair.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 08:48 AM
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Well, using bread as a mop at a "white tablecloth" dinner is not considered particularly polite by many Americans, but I would not expect a French person in the US to desist.

Similarly, I have lived in France for 3 1/2 years, UK and R of I for total of 5 years without feeling the need to conform to the French, indeed European, knife and fork method. It doesn't seem to have hindered our social life as we dine with Germans, French, Dutch, English in their homes and ours. I don't think anyone has turned one of our invitations down due to my "rude, crude" manners.

My husband is English so I suppose he passes muster but I can tell you that sometimes watching him eat beans on toast in the English fashion isn't particularly appealing on several levels.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 08:51 AM
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cathinjoetown - I have had the same experience - having had Sunday dinners with my French in-laws for years and always feeling free to use my own method of forking things into my mouth - but I never really realized that it was thought of as rude by at least some French, like my son - if I had known it was considered crude - maybe a better word than rude - I would have conformed to local customs as would be the polite way IMO to do.

Now Americans eating in a restaurant by themselves that is a different story.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 09:01 AM
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It is not rude, but the others at the table might exchange wry glances if you cut your meat using two hands and then put the knife down to switch the fork to your other hand to eat. This totally contradicts the American reputation of efficiency.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 09:13 AM
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And it realy seems wierd
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 09:13 AM
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Anything that is so tough that it slides food around on a plate when cut with a fork, should be cut with a knife and held with the fork.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 09:13 AM
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Then we could discuss the manners connected with eating cheese.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 09:18 AM
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Then we could discuss the manners connected with eating cheese.>

yes indeedy - like in a restaurant when the cheese plate comes after the meal you do NOT take one of each type!
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 09:24 AM
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On another site, they were just worrying about whether cheese is to be placed on the bread or spread on the bread. Naturally, everybody said "placed" which is generally true, but then there are the runny camemberts or munsters that you might have at home -- different rules!
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 09:33 AM
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I understand there used to be restaurants in the US during the depression where you had to eat in a hurry so the use of the fork let you focus on shoveling the stuff in as a fast as possible.

As the Swiss say there is nothing shameful about poverty
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 09:35 AM
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kerouac or others - mi-mere - my son's grandma whose Sunday after Mass dinners I attended for years - IYO was I rude by not taking some of the cheese she would take out and urge me to take a piece of but which was sadly old stinking cheese?
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 09:38 AM
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I'd have thought it rather bad manners to take (or rather, appear to take) any notice of anyone else's table manners (spilling soup over your neighbours excepted). But then, things may be different in France.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 09:42 AM
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No, you are correct, Patrick. The table manners of other people are invisible to everybody in France except for PalenQ's son, who regularly appears to steer him wrong.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 09:43 AM
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I think he is just screwing with him. Family issues!
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 09:53 AM
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Well he did not say that French thought that foreigners could not be excused for their natural behavior and I am curious about kerouac who grew up in the States and went to USC I believe before going to France.

I wonder did he abandon his natural-born American table habits the second he landed in France or did he say at school cafeterias in the U.S. or on dates eat here the way the French do, subjecting him no doubt to intense schoo ridicule?

kerouac - if you did change over as I suspect, why? Is the French way a better way of shoveling food in one's mouth - it ain't to me - neither seems advantageous - what do you think or who do you think has the best method of stuffing one's mouth - you obviously having done both ways - this is a serious question.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 09:53 AM
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I assumed that everyone ate the way I did, with fork in left hand and knife in right, being used together , but on my honey moon( 25 years ago) my ex and I took a cruise. We were seated at a table with three other young American couples. We all introduced ourselves and started to chat, they all seemed very nice. Then when dinner came I remember thinking " how can such seemingly civilized people eat like THAT" .. my goodness this pretty little thing from some southern State was holding her knife in her FIST and sawing her meat, it was funny, my ex and I just looked at each other..

That is when I learned that some people eat differently. It looks awkward and a bit , er, rough. We taught our children to eat as we do.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 09:57 AM
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One thing I learned in France at a young age, when fruit is put out after dinner, one does not eat it with their hands if it is whole, you still cut it up and eat it with fork. In family situations you can pick up some cut peices, but you would still cut it into managable pieces first. You could cut a plum in half to remove the stone, then eat it half at a time for example. Perhaps my family was more formal then others, sometimes people look to their own experiences as being the only way, but in any culture or country even people within it vary.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 09:58 AM
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I think justineparis has managed to understand exactly what my son meant - something most others have missed - that yes French at a dinner would look shocked to see folks eat like say Barbarians!
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 10:11 AM
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One other point: our French friends told us to keep our hands on the table when not eating, resting the wrists at the table's edge.
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