Big Fork, Little Fork

The mysteries of dining etiquette

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I am nouveau riche. And by “new” I mean I’m on the more recent end of evolving from an ape to a human and by “wealthy” I mean I’ve got more than just a banana and fleas. In addition to walking fully upright, my bragging rights include having a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, and a meal on my plate.

My upbringing was lacking enough to compel my former manager, who is British, to teach me the correct way to use a fork and knife. I’d grown up shoveling food into my mouth with a fork’s tines turned upward – like a scoop – and using the edge of that very same fork to cut food up into smaller bits. Who needs a knife?

The British way has you flip the fork over so that the tines face downward. My colleague then used her knife to push food onto the fork. So, that’s how you strategically stab bits of food with a fork, huh?

When done with a meal, etiquette dictates that you place your fork and knife in the shape of an X on the plate to indicate completion. Again with the tines facing downward, so that no one gets impaled when the server whisks the plate and silverware back to the kitchen.

Whenever I go to a fancy restaurant, I see a big fork, a small fork, and a knife lined up next to my plate. Sometimes there are even more utensils. I use the small fork to eat my appetizer. Afterward, I try to hide that ideal-sized fork under my napkin – which is still resting on the table and not across my lap. This move never fools the server, who inevitably finds my preferred fork and absconds with it, forcing me to eat my entree with a comically oversized fork clearly meant for a giant. I feel like I’ve got baby hands trying to wield that heavy utensil. I’m burning calories just lifting it.

This is how my imposter syndrome ceases being a private worry and publicly betrays me. Anyone from an upscale background can tell, just by sharing a meal with me, that I am recently descended from proto-human ape creatures.

When I eat in front of my colleagues – or anyone British – I use the etiquette I was taught. But in the privacy of my home, where no one is the wiser, I choose to eat with a spoon. Just like you see in prison movies. This beats an upturned fork, being the closest thing to an actual shovel. It’s all about efficiency.

Now if I could just get rid of these darn fleas…

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