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Eating / Cultural Relativism

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Flash
176840.  Tue May 22, 2007 11:29 am Reply with quote

According to a newspaper report dated 22 May 2007, a 7-year-old Filipino boy in Canada has been disciplined for eating with a spoon and fork instead of just a fork:

Quote:
When (his mother) questioned (school Principal) Bergeron about punishing students for their table habits, the reply she got was: "If your son eats like a pig he has to go to another table because this is the way we do it and how we’re going to do it every time."

The principal of the 387-student Roxboro school said he explained his position on using two utensils to (the boy) Gallardo during their telephone conversation.

"I want them to eat correctly with respect for others who are eating with them. That’s all I ask. Personally, I don’t have any problems with it, but it is not the way you see people eat every day. I have never seen somebody eat with a spoon and a fork at the same time."

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryID=36767

Suze, what do you have to say for yourself and your people?

(Actually the story sounds simply untrue to me. I bet what he was doing was firing peas into the air by balancing a spoon on a salt cellar and whacking the other end with a fork, and then trying to catch them in his mouth).

 
suze
176874.  Tue May 22, 2007 12:31 pm Reply with quote

You'll note that it apparently came to pass in Roxboro, which is a suburb of Montréal. They have some strange notions in Québec ...

I agree that it reads like one of those Daily Mail stories which, on closer examination, turns out not to be true. If it is true, I can only tut at my countryman's silliness and express the hope that it wouldn't happen in BC.

I'll agree with the notion that North Americans (including me) are more prone than are British people to eating with a fork alone* when the food doesn't require cutting, and I know that some British people don't care for this practice. Neither do the British care for the common North American habit of cutting the food up with the knife, then setting it down and moving the fork into the right hand to eat. (I don't do this, but I know people who do. I reckon it's being superseded by the European method though.)

Specifically on peas, I'd upset the etiquette pedants on both sides of the pond. British etiquette demands that they be eaten with upside down fork, while North American etiquette forbids the use of the knife to hold the peas still while placing them on the fork. I eat them the sensible way, and I'm sure most other people actually do as well.


* held the right way up, as opposed to the British preference for holding the fork upside down

 
Flash
176947.  Tue May 22, 2007 5:01 pm Reply with quote

Yes - when I was at school the Queen came to visit and the Head Boy was placed next to her at lunch. In recognition of the formality of the occasion he tried to eat his peas by spearing them with the tines pointing downwards (which I guess is what you mean by 'upside down') and she said "That looks tricky - I always eat them like this" and scooped them up like with a spoon.

I was leading a Republican demo outside the dining hall, and even I thought that was classy.

But can I ask a more-or-less serious question? We have a question on table manners in the show on Thursday. Is it true to say that Canadians at large regard it as bizarre to use a spoon and fork in combination? I'd never heard that before. What about USAians?

 
suze
176953.  Tue May 22, 2007 5:55 pm Reply with quote

Yes, that is what I meant by "upside down". Clearly I'll never be properly British ...

Now then, spoon and fork. Certainly, this wouldn't be the usual way to eat in North America and would be considered slightly odd in most places, but then is not this also the case in Britain? The only times I would expect to use this combination of utensils would be in a Thai restaurant - that being the usual Thai way of eating - or with spaghetti. I know your actual Italians deplore the practice of using a spoon to assist in wrapping spaghetti around the fork, but it's the norm where I come from (and indeed here, so far as I can tell).

I don't think there's very much difference between Canadians and USians here, though I'm struggling to find too much difference with British people either.

Incidentally, the story about the schoolkid seems to have been quite well written up in the blogosphere. Most seem to agree that the school is being silly, and that it isn't the way most Canadians are.

While I'm here, the thing about the American habit of setting the knife down and moving the fork from hand to hand. I just checked this out with Kate (Not a Number), since her family is a generation longer out of Europe than was mine. But she agrees that this habit is distinctly American, and is considered somewhat infra in Canada.

 
Flash
176960.  Tue May 22, 2007 6:36 pm Reply with quote

Emily Post calls it the "zig-zag" method.

Maybe I've just been making a horrible gaffe all my life, but my impression is that people in the UK eat with a spoon and fork in combination all the time, particularly (indeed almost invariably) for puddings but also for things like pasta and Chinese food as you say. Indeed, I think I was taught that it was OK to use a fork on its own or in combination, but that a spoon shouldn't be used on its own.

I'm 100% sure that using a spoon and fork together wouldn't be frowned upon, or even noticed particularly, in an English school, and certainly not forbidden.

 
suze
176972.  Tue May 22, 2007 7:18 pm Reply with quote

Spaghetti, yes, as already noted.

Personally for Chinese food I use chopsticks, and I do think that more people make the effort in North America than do in Britain. That said, I believe that Vancouver's (huge) Chinese community actually use spoon and fork at home, and only supply chopsticks in the restaurants frequented by non-Chinese because the customers expect them. (All the same, any restaurant will supply Western cutlery if you ask, as in Britain.)

As regards puddings, I think we may have a class issue here rather than a British / North American issue. My background was decidedly working class, and I would use a spoon alone. So would my husband (lower middle, went to a grammar school because of living in Kent where we have them but wouldn't have gone to an independent school had he lived elsewhere).

From what I gather of yours, Flash, it was not working class in the slightest and you would use a spoon and fork. (And so would Miss Number, who went to an independent school in a very affluent part of BC.)

I eat cake with my fingers, while I suspect that some here would use a fork. I also eat sushi with my fingers, and in my personal opinion that's the only way to eat it.

 
eggshaped
176986.  Wed May 23, 2007 2:44 am Reply with quote

I would always just use a spoon to eat puddings, but I remember being told as a child that the "correct" way of eating them was with a fork and a spoon. As such, at important events, we would be given a fork as well, which we were never quite sure what to do with.

 
dr.bob
176997.  Wed May 23, 2007 3:39 am Reply with quote

I always used to eat puddings with just a spoon. Now that I can afford to eat in nice restaurants, they generally bring me a spoon and fork with my pudding, but at home I stay true to my working class roots (right on!).

I have occasionally been provided with a spoon, fork, and knife when served a pasta dish in a restaurant, but the spoon seems an optional extra. More often than not, I'll just get a knife and fork.

When eating pasta at home, I just use a fork. Leaves the other hand free for a glass of wine or beer :)

Oh, and suze? I'm obviously never going to be properly British either. All these years I thought eating peas with the fork "upside-down" meant balancing them on the back of the fork. I assumed that this was what they taught kids at public school, since it would probably take years of practise before you managed to eat peas like that.

 
suze
177024.  Wed May 23, 2007 5:30 am Reply with quote

Thanks egg and dr.bob, looks my theory about the eating of puddings may have been about right.

I too can afford to eat in nice restaurants more often than I used, but I don't usually have a pudding so I haven't paid that much attention to what cutlery was supplied. Although I do remember being in a slightly snooty tea shop in Tunbridge Wells last year and ordering profiteroles - and, to my delight, they came with a tiny spoon little larger than a mustard spoon. Which was exactly the utensil I would have chosen for myself.

And yes dr.bob, with you on the peas. Who'd have thought that Her Maj actually eats her peas the sensible way!

 
dr.bob
177066.  Wed May 23, 2007 7:11 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
I too can afford to eat in nice restaurants more often than I used, but I don't usually have a pudding so I haven't paid that much attention to what cutlery was supplied.


What?! Might I suggest you skip the starter so as to leave enough room for a pudding? In fact, if necessary, I'd recommend skipping the main course too! :)

suze wrote:
Who'd have thought that Her Maj actually eats her peas the sensible way!


Royalty in common sense shocker! Film at 11!

 
Davini994
426947.  Tue Oct 21, 2008 12:11 pm Reply with quote

eggshaped wrote:
I would always just use a spoon to eat puddings, but I remember being told as a child that the "correct" way of eating them was with a fork and a spoon. As such, at important events, we would be given a fork as well, which we were never quite sure what to do with.

The spoon is for eating, the fork is for defending against girlfriends/wives, who haven't ordered a desert because they are on a diet but insist on "trying", i.e. scoffing most of, yours.

;)

 
bobwilson
427275.  Tue Oct 21, 2008 6:46 pm Reply with quote

I'm almost reluctant to make a comment on this but, hell (or heck to avoid offending anyone of a sensitive disposition), it's never stopped me before so........

Quote:
the reply she got was: "If your son eats like a pig he has to go to another table because this is the way we do it and how we’re going to do it every time."


Where can I see pigs eating with a spoon and a fork? I'd pay to watch that.

Quote:
Personally, I don’t have any problems with it
- did they miss out "Some of my best friends eat with a fork and a spoon. But would you let your daughter marry one? Would you want to live next door to one?"

 

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