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20-40-60 Etiquette: Meat me halfway

Reader can't stand watching friends eat.  [Image provided]

Reader can't stand watching friends eat.  [Image provided]

Editor's Note: Male guest panelists have been asked to also weigh in on this question. Readers, do you have any comments?

QUESTION: How can you help me with people with whom I eat? I'm frustrated to watch people stabbing the object of their meal with a fork held like a stake (not steak) and then sawing the meat with a knife. Then they put down the knife, transfer the fork to their right hand and eat from there. I would hope they wouldn't eat like that at a White House dinner.

I was always taught that to look civilized, you place your knife in your right hand with the blade facing your other hand, and then you pick up the fork in your left hand with the tines pointing upward. Turn the tines of your fork, still in your left hand, to the plate and use your knife to put food on your fork, which stays in your left hand as you eat. Your hands rest on the table edge — no elbows on the table.

I cringe when I see all this STABBING food like some slasher-film — please help me stop the madness!

— My Mom Trained ME Better!!!!

CALLIE'S ANSWER: Well, I think everyone knows now after reading your question. BUT, depending on where you are eating maybe people can decipher how proper they need to be. Maybe mention to the people you are eating with that it is a nice restaurant before going to dinner.

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: How interesting, because I was taught the opposite: that you cut with the knife using your right hand (not by stabbing it, though) and then gently set down the knife and switch your fork to your right hand to eat. Then I learned from local etiquette guru Carey Sue Vega the style you're describing is Continental Style dining and popular in countries outside the United States and growing in popularity here. The style that you are finding offensive is actually correct etiquette as well and called American Style. I never knew; to me keeping your utensils in the same hands (at least for us right-handed people) seems weird and wrong. But Vega has pointed out that both ways are perfectly acceptable, although if people eating the American way are visibly stabbing and sawing then that might be more intense and improper for a White House dinner.

Also, as another friend noted, some people have disabilities and find it hard to eat one way or another. I think we need to recognize the two different ways of proper eating, depending on your culture, and do our best to eat politely and without calling attention to ourselves. And while we're at it, we'd probably save a lot of our own sanity if we do our best to overlook the perceived faux pas committed by those with whom we choose to eat.

HELEN'S ANSWER: Cutting your meat can present all kinds of problems and you probably just have known all along how to do it and have done it properly. When you see others making etiquette mistakes it is hard not to enroll them in the next etiquette class or tell them what they should be doing.

However, hard as it may be, it is not very good manners to point out their shortcomings, so I suggest that you continue to be the good example and look the other way when you encounter bad table manners.

Scott Kinnaird, 50s, executive chairman, A La Mode Inc.: Bad grammar is as annoying to some people as bad table manners. My advice is to let go of the notion of controlling the behavior of others and work on controlling your reaction to their behavior. You'll be more content and that contentment will spread to those around you.

Brad McNeill, 40s, owner, A&B Paving: Dear My Mom Trained ME Better, your description of cutting meat may be "civilized" in your world, but there are other ways in other cultures. For instance, according to Forbes Magazine, there is the American Style and the Continental Styles of dining etiquette. American Style would be cutting meat with the fork in left hand and knife in right hand and then placing knife on right corner of plate while switching fork to right hand in order to put meat in mouth. In Continental Style, you leave the fork in left hand, tines down, while cutting meat with knife in right hand, and then putting meat in mouth with the left hand. In both instances you have to stab the meat in order to hold it in place while cutting. Both styles of dining would be acceptable at a White House Dinner or a family meal at the Sizzler.

It is always good policy to keep an open mind even if it goes against everything you have been taught. You're never too old to learn something new. We, as people, are different in almost everything we do so it is a good idea to accept people and their annoying habits and, hopefully, they will accept ours.

Richard Rosser, 50s, author of “Piggy Nation,” a series of books, a cartoon and more on etiquette: Who in the heck are you eating with? A bunch of cowpokes? And do you enjoy eating with these folks? If so, I have three possible solutions: First, you could impose your strict table etiquette on them, but you might alienate everyone and end up eating alone. Second, let it go. Maybe the joy of eating with these people outweighs their table manners. Third, you might consider not eating with them and eat alone. Personally, I like solution No. 2!

Dave Cathey, 40s, The Oklahoman's Food Editor: I honestly would tell whomever it is to either lighten up or put chopsticks on the table.

Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email

Related Photos
<p>Reader can't stand watching friends eat. [photo provided]</p>

Reader can't stand watching friends eat. [photo provided]

<figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - Reader can't stand watching friends eat. [photo provided] " title=" Reader can't stand watching friends eat. [photo provided] "><figcaption> Reader can't stand watching friends eat. [photo provided] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - Reader can't stand watching friends eat.  [Image provided] " title=" Reader can't stand watching friends eat.  [Image provided] "><figcaption> Reader can't stand watching friends eat.  [Image provided] </figcaption></figure>
Helen Ford Wallace

Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for... Read more ›

Lillie-Beth Brinkman

Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman Read more ›

Callie Athey

Callie Athey is 20-something and is a graduate from the University of Oklahoma. She has worked in various positions, ranging from Event Coordinator to Environmental Health and Safety Assistant. Currently, Callie is an Executive Assistant to a... Read more ›