When I was a kid my mother taught me to use a knife and fork. Table etiquette she called it and it was real important she said.
Here's what she taught me:
The knife is held in the right hand and the fork in the left. Holding food to the plate with the fork tines-down, a single bite-sized piece is cut with the knife. The knife is then placed on the right edge of the plate (with the blade facing inward) and the fork transferred to the right hand, with the left hand falling to the lap. The cut piece is then speared (if not already during the cut) or scooped and eaten using the fork in a tines-up orientation. The fork is held in the right hand or put down on the plate while chewing. The fork is then transferred back into the left hand, the right hand picks up the knife, and the process is repeated as necessary. A left-handed consumer can retain the fork in the stronger hand, although the knife is still released. (Wikipedia)
She indicated that THIS was THE proper way to use a fork and knife. Any other way was WRONG!
Later in life I learned that there are two ways to use a fork and knife, the American way and the Continental or European way and
neither is more correct than the other!
Although I must say the Continental way is easier and more efficient.
Andy Gilchrist describes the two methods:
There are two styles of eating, Continental and American. In the Continental style, which is more practical, the knife (for right handed folks) is kept in the right hand and the fork in the left, with no switching unlike the zigzag practice of the American style where the fork is changed from the left hand to the right after cutting food.
The left hand is usually kept off the table and in your lap during American style dining, except when it's being used to hold the fork during the cutting of food.
In the Continental style the fork is held in the left hand with the tines down; the back of the fork up and the left index finger is placed on the back of the fork, low, for stability. This works for meat and other foods that can be pierced. For other foods (mashed potatoes, etc.) the fork is held in the same manner and the food is placed on the back of the fork and transferred to your mouth.
Both knife and fork are held while you chew although you can rest them on the plate.
The Continental, which most people consider old world is actually newer! It was introduced by the British around 1880, but Americans were trying to instill manners on their frontiersmen. The new dining methods were rejected as disruptive in the middle of this teaching process. American society felt it would diminish respect for the strict rules that were being established to remove the barbarian image.
When you are "resting", not using the utensils at the table, but you are not yet finished, the knife and fork should be placed on the plate like this:
This silverware placement is a signal to the waiter not to remove your plate!
Of course, this is assuming that the waiter knows some basic table manners!
The finish – when you are finished with each course your knife (blade turned inward) and fork should be placed beside each other on the plate diagonally from upper left to lower right (11 to 5 if you imagine your plate as a clock face). This is a signal to the waiter that you are finished. And don’t push your plate away or otherwise rearrange your dishes from their position when you are finished.
When I remember I use the Continental style of eating because as I said before it is easier and more efficient. I've always considered switching the fork from one hand to another an unnecessary, annoying motion.
**The picture above shows several mistakes in table etiquette. Can you point them out?
Put your answers in your comments.