Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 541

The forking issue

Okay, here’s the deal: we Brits often comment on the way Americans eat. Yes, we do. #sorry

When I say ‘Americans’ I don’t mean all Americans, but some Americans. So don’t take offence if you’re not one of the Americans about whom I am referring, and if you are one of the Americans about whom I am referring, I am just writing a blog ‘taking the piss’ British style πŸ™‚ .

So, the American fork-eating thing is a thing we Brits often comment about. Yes, really, it’s true.

Why? What is so different about the way Americans and Brits eat?

Watch this.

And this.

And this.

It’s really all about the way we hold the fork. There are two basic methods for eating with a knife and fork. The “American” way involves having your fork in your left (often held in the fist, not with the index finger on top of the fork) and your knife in your right when cutting your food, then putting the knife down and switching your fork to your right hand to eat, tines facing upwards. (If you’re right-handed, that is.) With the “European” method, the fork remains in the left hand and the knife helps coax your food onto your fork. The tines remain facing downwards.

According to some etiquette books, the American style came to the States with the British colonists and took hold here, while the European method is a somewhat more recent change. Well I never! You mean my father’s descendants once held their forks like that? He’ll deny it! πŸ˜‰

The European style is also referred to as “hidden handle” because the knife and fork are held in such a way that the handles are tucked into the palm and held by the thumb and forefinger.

The European way

The European way

The American style is also referred to as the “zig-zag method” where the fork is held like a spoon and indeed sometimes used like a spoon to scoop rather than spear food.

According to Wikipedia, American spies were exposed in at least two American films by using the wrong fork technique: O.S.S. (1946) and The Big Red One (1980). Genius!

We Brits talk about this fork thing a lot. And when I was in DC this very weekend I was given a fork that was impossible to hold using the European method I am used to (index finger on the top). So I had to hold the fork in my fist American-style and switch hands to eat. (NB: It was a very trendy hotel with uber-trendy cutlery (aka silverware) and I think it was more style over practicality!).

This is that fork.

The trendy fork

The trendy fork

Me trying to eat American-style

Me trying to eat American-style

The Robin Christmas card

‘Do you get Robins in the USA?’ asked a British friend who sent me this Christmas card, below.
‘Not like these little chaps,’ replied I. ‘They’re gurt big thrushes here in America-land.’

Little Robin Redbreast :)

Little Robin Redbreast πŸ™‚

I don’t think I’ve seen a Christmas card (or ‘holiday’ card) with a robin on in the USA. What a quintessentially British thing it is!

Can you turn it down, please?

God knows I’ve tried to like them, but I just can’t do it. American sports bars, that is.

Argh, the noise!
Argh, the football!
Argh, the people on TV talking about football!

On Sunday I missed the good old British pub with the log fire and the oak tables and the roast dinners and the sing-song banter of old men reminiscing about times gone by (am I slightly romanticising this?!). Anyway, we took my British friend into an authentic American sports bar in Columbia with its 109 sports screens for the Ravens game. You know, just to experience it.

This. Ugh.

This. Ugh.

Good lord, never again! Especially at lunch time when an American football game is about to start. I couldn’t hear myself think, nor my friend and my husband speak, over the noise of the TV commentators.

‘Would it be possible to turn the TV down?’ I asked in my best British accent.
‘Um, it’s Sunday football in a sports bar,’ replied the waitress.

Fair enough. But that whole American sports bar thing is definitely not my cup of tea!

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1 Response to Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 541

  1. Not everyone in America is passionate about football! I don’t think I’d enjoy eating in a sports bar either. Though I have gone to a Mexican restaurant to watch soccer (and the sound was turned off!) For the first time in my life this past two years I have actually taken a mild interest in football because the Seattle Seahawks (our local team) went to the Superbowl. It was hard not to catch Seahawk fever the way they kept winning, and with just about everyone sporting a Seahawk shirt or hat, and every store decorated in blue and green!

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