French Table Manners Matter...

Old Feb 10th, 2013, 10:11 AM
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Yes, europeans use their knives and forks differently than americns. Neither one is right or wrong - just different.

However, I don't know any place where it is considered correct to mop you plate with a piece of bread - ick!

As for the fruit - in the US fruit is usually a snack - not a part of dinner (unless some sort of prepared fruit dessert) - so eating with hands and mouth makes perfect sense unless it HAS to be cut. (Are you supposed to eat grapes with a knife and fork too?)
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 10:16 AM
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I think that anyone who has lived a sheltered existence and is unware that table manners differ from country to country would be "shocked to see folks eat like barbarians". The national origin doesn't matter. People have different customs. Suprise!

Many Americans think that the style of eating with the fork in the left and the knife in the right at all times looks barbaric. I mean, really - 2 hands in your plate at all times? Cut-shovel-cut-shovel-cut-shovel... Civilized people cut, put the knife down, then eat with their fork. Repeat. We don't think we are barbaric - we think that "they" are.

I agree though - the most important thing about table manners is to make the other people at the table feel comfortable - be polite, don't judge others because their manners are different, etc.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 10:24 AM
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surely mopping up the sauce with bread is a compliment to the chef, do you mean Americans don't do this?
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 10:37 AM
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Regarding a lot of his ideas, often your son sounds like he is 60 years old already, PalenQ. Do you think his mother brought him up this way?

As for knife and fork, since I was always left-handed, I always kept knife in right hand and fork in left hand, the European way. You are aware, I hope, that spies have been caught in the past by not knowing how to use their utensils.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 10:53 AM
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The main issue I observe is people's inability to eat with their mouth closed. This seems a much larger issue than any other differences to me.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 11:28 AM
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I agree there are differences that are neither bad nor better then another.. but sorry, the sawing of meat with a knife clutched in a fist just never looks civilized.

I also think more and more young people are not being taught table manners ( perhaps because fewer and fewer North American families make or have the time for proper sit down meals, something by the way is still important in many europeon countries, especially the Sunday lunch or dinner)

Keep your mouth shut when chewing.

Do not burp loudly at table. Cover your mouth if accidently about to.. with napkin preferred.

Cut food into small peices before shoving it in your trap.

Do not sniff at your food like a dog( picky children do this, fine, but when I see, and I have, adults do this I cringe)

Its not ok to say you "hate something"or " that stuff is gross" it IS ok to say "no thank you" , or perhaps something along the line of "its not a favorite of mine". Too many kids raised that its ok to be blunt and frankly, rude. If its not something you as an adult would say at a friends dinner party why is it ok for your child to say it at your dinner table?

Wipe your mouth with napkin, not back of hand.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 11:46 AM
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Interesting thread.

French husband confirms that it is polite to keep your hands above the height of the table. Now that I think of it, I have also never seen my French in-laws bite into a whole piece of fruit...they always cut it first (but are not averse to picking up the cut pieces with their fingers).

The thing of using bread to mop up excess liquid is pretty much obligatory in their house as they do not change the plates between courses normally. However, the first few times I didn't realise this, as being British we always change the plates! So as a result she did end up bringing me an extra plate. As she is very kind this was not a problem, apart from my being slightly embarrassed. Now I try to remember so that when she does offer me an extra plate I don't always have to say yes. However, this is in a private household; I don't think any French person would consider it polite when eating out in public.

There are two things that my French in-laws do that I can't stand, though:
1. They lick their knives (EW).
and 2. They talk with their mouths full (double EW...and even my husband does it more when we are with them).

However, I wouldn't attribute these horrible habits to being French
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 11:47 AM
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kerouac--I'm a lefty too, so eating with fork in left made me "un-American" from an early age." I always thought right-handed people were REALLY strange since we set the table with the fork on the left. DUH.

The other things that always bothered me growing up in the US were that I could never rest my arms on the table, I could not use my knife to push my food onto my fork, and heck, I not even keep my fork in my hand between bites. OK--I understood the elbow thing. But why couldn't I keep my fork in my hand while I was chewing? European rules made SO much more sense.

However, I'm laughing about your refusal to mop up sauce with bread, nytraveler. I watch Parisians, Romans, you name it, wipe that sauce up the plate at the most upscale of restaurants. Yes, most do it with the fork; others just go right to it.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 12:03 PM
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Eating fruit in France depends on the circumstances. City people do tend to cut up their fruit. You will usually not see the same thing out in rural areas.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 12:11 PM
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My Dordogne neighbors don't tend to cut their fruit. But they do eat pizza with a knife and fork.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 12:35 PM
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Alessandra, I am also a lefty and agree that it makes the most sense since that's where the fork lives.

I grew up in Virginia where folks routinely used their bread or their biscuit to mop the plate...the juice was called "soppy" and you "sopped" it up with the bread. Naturally, this practice was frowned upon by my mother and we were not allowed to do it EXCEPT when she was out playing bridge and my dad was in charge of dinner.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 12:57 PM
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"But they do eat pizza with a knife and fork" there is another way?
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 01:06 PM
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Well, bilbo, judging by the number of people I see walking down the street here in DC cramming pizza slices in their mouths, I'd have to say yes. I much prefer to knife and fork, but I hardly ever eat pizza, so am not an expert.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 01:23 PM
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Since I only like pizza with a super thin crust, eating it with a knife and fork is the only way that I could ever eat it.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 01:37 PM
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Walking down the street and eating snacks is not quite so common in Europe, yes an ice cream cone, but most locals wouldn't be eating pizza and walking. They would picnic, sit on a bench, a patch of grass, a low wall, most anything other then running down the street eating something like that. Things are changing though..
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 01:55 PM
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I'm aware of that, but Americans don't typically use knife and fork with pizza when eating it in a restaurant, either.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 03:33 PM
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My Dordogne neighbors don't tend to cut their fruit. But they do eat pizza with a knife and fork.>

And my in-laws eat a salad - the same ole salad everytime - pieces of leaf lettuce with a few tomatoes and onions, etc. - they eat that with a knife and fork even though the pieces are usually cut up small enough for just a fork to manage.

I often snickered to myself how my French in-laws were attacking their lettuce salad just like a thick steak (which I never saw them serve ever - usually meat was some kind of rump roads, chicken, etc. only doled out after some salad and veggies were served and then doled out by the piece - one for each person with gravy then ladeled over it.

and yes of course bread should not - in my in-laws case, ever be torn like we want to do to a baguette sometimes but neatly sliced before doling it out.

and yes they do use bread as a utensil and a mop to mop up their plates - I never ever failed to see my in-laws do that- at least in their homes. They often remarked 'a French person cannot each without the use of bread as a utensil!
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 04:04 PM
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Well this American grew up with parents who thoroughly schooled us kids in table manners. This was to prepare us for the fancy restaurant we'd dine in at our hotel in Bermuda. We were told if we had rude table manners at the restaurant that a man would walk up behind us and loudly ring a bell over our heads to alert the other patrons to the presence of rude diners. Needless to say it didn't take me long to not give a damn about whether I held my knife and fork properly, where my hands were, what I did with the bread or generally care what other people thought of my dining etiquette, as long as I chewed with my mouth closed. My French and Italian in-laws have never reprimanded me for my table manners.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 04:43 PM
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No mopping up sauce with bread is NOT a compliment to the chef. It does make it look like the diner hasn't had a meal for several days and is going to eat everything not nailed down - possibly pulling leftovers from other people's plates.

the worst I have seen was a (potential) MIL who served ice cram for dessert in huge mounds, which naturally melted before they could be eaten. She then proceeded to lick the plate clean - leaving ice cream on her nose and around her mouth. And yes, she licked that off too. The only one I had seen do so before that was my dog - who had no excuse - not having hands/being able to use utencils.
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Old Feb 10th, 2013, 06:43 PM
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I am actually a bit torn over the mopping issue, as when I eat at home with French friends, they all tend to use a piece of baguette to mop up any sloppiness. But not so much in restaurants, though I have seen in happen in both casual and fairly fancy places. My own instinct would be not to do it in a place with tablecloths, but for sure to do it at a beach-side place in Bouziques where the mussel broth was just amazing! I wouldn't care WHO saw me!
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