Thursday, August 6, 2009

American or Continental Style Eating?

In the Australia, and most of the civilized world, people eat "continental style" which means fork in one hand, knife in the other, and the fork goes into your mouth prongs facing down with meat on them, and other stuff pushed onto the back of the fork. This is the way the judges on Masterchef and/or Top Chef eat.

Alternatively, most Americans eat "American style", cutting food, lying their knife down, moving their fork to the other hand, and finally taking a bite with the fork-- prongs facing up.

Eating American Style at a table full of Australians is uncomfortable, awkward, and clumsy looking. The Aussies easily cut and eat their food without all the stopping, starting, and cutlery swapping.

And sometimes at a restaurant I give it a try, I really do-- but it's not pretty, I'm like a fumbling idiot. Putting a fork into your mouth upside-down is hard, the angling is off, and I know I look like a complete freak. Making matters worse, my husband, the great assimilator, has successfully switched styles. Now I'm alone at the table being all American-awkward and weird. What the hell is my problem?

These two handy videos below demonstrate how to eat both ways. Incidentally, Cute Little Manners Lady, the star of both videos, is based out of my hometown area-- maybe she does private lessons?

This is Continental Style of eating used in most of the world:



This is the American Style of eating used in the U.S. and possibly responsible for feelings of dining-isolation amongst American expats worldwide:



I am left with a few quesions:

Would it be easy for an Aussie to eat American Style?

Do other Americans switch to Continental Style with no problem?

Am I the only expat feeling like a jackass at the dinner table?

Who thinks they're agile and graceful enough to switch their eating style?

I double-dog-dare you to eat the way you're not accustomed to. Videos of your attempts are welcome and can be emailed to flgirlinsydney@gmail.com.

If you send me a video, I will post it and make you an international superstar.



Share

45 comments:

Emily Jonas said...

I lived in australia for five years, and then moved to the us to get married. My husband always laughs at me eating the aussie way. I like it, cuz it's efficient!!

Felicia said...

I tried that way and it WAS awkward. At the barbeque at his cousins house it was glaringly obvious. lol

DarNonymous said...

Hi FloridagirlinSydney!
Your Blog cracks me up, I've read back a bit & you say some really funny things that I have never noticed before!
I've never ever noticed that people have different styles of eating (except chopsticks!). I'd just assumed that we all just naturally do the same thing (how naieve is that?!)
I am more of a shoveller, maybe that's why I've never even noticed how anyone else eats!
Great Blog!

rinniez said...

I eat both ways! I find the American way far easier for me as its the way i always choose to eat when i was a kid. However my mum and dad always pushed for me to eat "properly" and so i now have the skills to do either. :) great post... really made me think!

SuperMindy said...

I was so embarrassed that I was eating wrong. So I just kept practicing and now i eat like Australians. It seems natural to me now.

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

Emily- It's totally efficient, I wish I could do it properly without looking so silly! I'm going to really work on it!

Felicia- Yeah, I totally know how that is!

Darnonymous- Shovelling is totally the way to go!

Rinniez- You do both-- that is awesome. Do you feel comfortable doing both??

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

Mindy- You have totally gone all Australian-- you say to-mah-to! Figures that the young people adapt easier!

Amy Sheaves said...

OK...are those videos for real? If so, who watches them???

Juli Ryan said...

I started eating the Continental way when I still lived in the US. I hated all that switching back and forth.

Jenny said...

Well thanks a lot. Now I'm going to feel totally awkward eating like an American. Maybe I'll practice the continental style. But I will never eat a hamburger with a knife and fork, as I've seen Aussies do. That is just wrong.

Chantelle said...

I remember my employer coming back from the states and remarking that you guys ate by firstly chopping up your food and the scooping it up.

We laughed, and laughed at how odd that was.

I guess it's just your normal. I didn't watch the video as I have a sleeping little one to my side. But I am going to give the scoop a try at my next meal. I just hope it's at home! ;)

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

Amy- I found them on youtube-- it's crazy, you can find an instructional video on almost anything there. I actually use youtube videos when I'm learning to cook complex stuff-- there was a how to make risotto one and an how to make challah bread one.

Juli- I agree, I desperately want to do continental style without looking pathetic!

Jenny- It's like the UGG boots, better to find out early on before we embarrass ourselves for years unknowingly, right? And definitely the hamburger (and fries) should not require a fork and knife!

Chantelle- Actually it is considered rude in the U.S. to cut up all your food then just "go to town" with it. You are supposed to cut up a bite or two then do the whole cutlery hand switching thing-- see video when little one is in bed...

suzinoz said...

Great post! I've converted to the Aussie way of doing things--don't know when and don't know why, but it obviously happened somewhere along the way. Now, the problem for me is that I feel totally ill mannered when I return to the USA and visit my family. Good table manners were of utmost importance in our upbringing, and the Aussie way seems just plain rude. I've been known to tell my husband that my table manners have suffered from knowing him. I will say though, the Aussie way is much more practical and efficient. I say adapt it if you can, but be ready for the reverse culture shock when you return to the USA.

Anonymous said...

I tried so hard when I lived there but it never worked out and it looked like you said a fumbling mess!!! I was there for just over two years and gave up to my eating my way.
Some of my aussie friends said our way was actually more formal since we stop put down the knife and then go on. they said the other way is more popular because it's faster to eat. I don't know what's true, but it's easier to drive on the other side of the road,walk on the other side of the aisle or shopping centre, then to swap your eating styles!

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

Suzinoz- I'll keep that in mind about going back to the U.S.- once I do get the continental style going, I'll make sure I still practice American style so I don't forget how to do it. haha.

Anonymous- You are so right, during our visit back to FL I realized that the driving on the other side of the road thing is actually the easiest thing to adjust back to.

Dina said...

Don't worry.

It must run in our family.

And I'm worse than you because I fail at both American AND Australian eating styles.

Those videos make me embarrassed to eat period. I'm going to have to just stick to finger foods.

Mama Bird said...

That is so funny! I am ALL to aware of how differently I eat when we are in Australia since I'm the only American and the only one putting my knife down. I've tried to eat the Aussie way and although I can do it, it definitely doesn't come naturally. I just gave up. Nobody else seems to notice though. Well, they've never said anything that I can remember anyway.

I did take on the custom of putting my knife/fork across my plate to signal that I am finished though. I especially like it in restaurants since they KNOW when you are finished and don't keep coming to the table and asking how everything is a million times like they do in the US. So annoying (and I used to wait tables).

Do they do that where you are? Sometimes I wonder if certain things are the Australian way or just my Australian family's way.

Kismet said...

wow....being left handed I never have done the cutlery switch (cut right, eat left), but I do eat tines up.

So I guess I am a weird blend - or looking at it in negative terms - rude in both cultures.

I promise I'll practice up before we come visit!

Marvin the Martian said...

Odd, I've always eaten continental-style and have occasionally been reprimanded for it, but I just don't care. I personally favor soup, just to avoid the whole issue.

COPHstudent said...

Hey Hey fellow Miamian!

You know my parents spent my entire life trying to get me to eat the continental way and I never had a clue why? good manners..right..

heres my opinion since I obviously eat the American way without any shame.

The Austrailian way seems very efficient for getting the food into your mouth which is what the purpose of eating is right? cut eat, cut eat, cut eat etc

But I like to savor the whole eating process, smelling the food, the contact, the cutting, the positioning, then putting my knife down and enjoying at whatever pace I feel okay with.

that sounded like food porn...

=] i feel as long as I'm using utensils and not shoving food in my mouth like a beast of burden I'll be okay in the manners department.


ps.
when you've done things like eating the american way your whole life switching utensils isn't as a hard as holding onto them the whole time >=D of course it might be different when a whole group of people are staring at you do it jajajaja

Kerry said...

I must eat weird even for an American. I hold the knife in my left, fork in right, when cutting... and then I don't put down the knife and switch, I keep the fork in my right when I take a bite. No wonder I eat so fast! But thanks for opening my eyes to yet ANOTHER difference I had no clue about. I'm gonna attempt to eat this way today...

LesbianBride said...

Wow - Aussie here, and I had no idea there was a difference. However I'm ALWAYS getting in trouble by my mother (and the occassional ex-partner) for "eating the wrong way".

I put my fork in my right hand, my knife in my left - big no no. I don't eat with the prongs down. So... I guess if anything, I eat "American" style, but I don't even switch hands for the knife and fork. I was ambidexterous as a kid, though, and I blame that for my bad eating. I simply cannot have a knife in my right hand... unless I'm chopping something up in food prep - like vegies or whatever. Then I can use either hand.

I'm now totally going to spend evenings out watching how people eat! I've never paid attention before. My mum obviously does, and she certainly has prongs down. I never realised that was a style - I thought it looked bizaare! I'm going to observe my GF tonight (she's English).

haha.

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

Dina- I never noticed you didn't know how to use a fork and knife properly-- you must be a good faker!

MamaBird- I have no idea?? I probably should pay attention more?

Kismet- Don't practice on my account, I'd like to have someone to be embarrassed WITH. Awkwardness loves company.

Marvin- Good thinking on the soup only diet.

COPHstudent- I love that-- "food porn"! Haha, you're hilarious! Yeah, the only real problem is feeling like everyone at the table is wondering why you eat so strangely, especially when you're just trying to kind of tone down all your Americanism and blend.

Kerry- You are so welcome, haha.

Lesbian Bride- Now I'm so confused! Isn't continental style supposed be your fork in right hand and knife in left??? Today, yes TODAY, I realized why I was doing such a bad job of it all this time-- I had my fork in my left hand-- I moved it to my right and OMIGOD!! Guess what-- I did it!!!! I feel like a big winner! Yippie for me. (how pathetic).

Kelley said...

"The great assimilator" - LOL!

A Free Man said...

I've always eaten 'Continental' style because my Mom was manners obsessed. So am I for that matter. We're kind of snobs.

Do you have a new header?

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

Kelley- Yeah, it cracks me up too!

FreeMan- New header?? read a few posts back...

Natasha said...

Haha, I love this! I have tried - unsuccessfully - to switch and it's impossible! I don't have a video, but I do have a picture of a very adorable Belgian boy trying to teach me how to eat "properly"... http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=3501354&id=734340494 (not sure if that will show up...)

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

Natasha- That's so funny, and I was just about to leave a comment here saying I can't believe no one was up for a video of their attempt/s or even a photo! Thanks!

LesbianBride said...

Ohh, am glad you managed to do it!

shenanigans said...

I didn't realise Americans even ate in a different way. I'd never heard of such a thing as "Continental style". I just thought it was eating. Feel duty-bound to point out, however, that the second video is wrong. It's all about not putting your cell hone on the table, which we all know, surely? Even Americans...

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

Lesbianbride- Thanks for the encouragement!

Shenanigans- What's wrong in the 2nd video?

shenanigans said...

Hey Flordia Girl...

Technically, there's nothing wrong with the 2nd video. It's about not putting your cell phone on the table when you eat (I'd have written "cell phone" on my first post but my new Mac and I are having some keypad issues.) That's fine... BUT, you bill it is a video that demonstrates the American style of eating, which I would like to see. Oh, BTW, I love her accent. It reminds me of Margarita Pracatan.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hpkP2mb4SA

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

Shenanigins- Can I call you Shenani for short? haha

The second video is the "american style". And in one of the videos she says NOT to put your cell phone on the table, right? I'm so confused.

Rassles said...

I eat by stabbing my food with the fork and ripping bites off of it.

This is why I'm still single.

shenanigans said...

This conversation is going on far too long considering the importance of its subject... but, the point is this: The second video, which you've billed as a demonstration of the American style of eating, features no eating demonstration whatsoever. It's just about why you shouldn't put your cellphone on the table, which seems to me completely unrelated to your post and makes me think that you've accidentally posted the wrong video. By now, of course, I could just go to Youtube and look up the damn thing myself, but I thought you might like to replace the video you've embedded with one that actually demonstrates the American style of eating, it being the theme of your post and all.

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

Rassles- Haha

Shenani- Omigod, I am such a dumbass!!! I will fix it now! Thank you!

ian said...

So I am going to confuse you totally now- sometimes it's OK to eat using a fork in your right hand - but only if it's a cake / pastry fork. You have those right? Along with fish knives / forks, soup spoons, butter knives - it's hard work being British.

Annie said...

I was always taught that the only 2 rude things you could do with cutlery was to gesture with the knife (big no no), or to eat with the tines of the fork facing up. It didn't matter which hand the knife was in, or whether you swapped hands to use the fork, but tines up was always considered rude. I assume this is because it looks as though you are shovelling the food in a la Homer Simpson.

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

Ian- I bet you can't wait to study my table manners tonight huh?

Annie- Doh? (that was a Homer Simpsonism)

Cassandra said...

Blah I always feel clumsy with chopsticks even though I'm determined to get better at it.

Now I just eat for as long as I can with chopsticks (very slow) then switch to a fork.

Perhaps you could do the same? Try and practice for half your meal.

I guess the real difference in between the two styles is that the continental version means you cut as you go (you'd cut a piece of steak and pick up a few choice sides on the same forkful) but the American style means you'd cut up most of it first, right?

Maybe your style means you eat more slowly - and that's got to be healthy.

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

Cassandra- I have really been trying to eat Australian style and I like it-- but I still look and feel awkward doing it.

And yes, you would cut it as you eat it, not all at once.

Anna said...

teach your kids to eat the aussie way! it's easier to learn the american way afterwards.
i'm a sydney girl with an american dad and i was brought up eating the american way. i get teased all the time and it's hard to switch!

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

Anna- Hi! They eat Aussie style, yay! I do too now-- I've almost mastered it, kind of. Cheers!

Aingeal said...

This is a great blog! Funny enough my partner always thought I ate weird! It's nice to be able to show him something that other Americans in Oz do!

ozaussieoz said...

LOL this is great! I do it continental-style now, but I always just ate with my fork, and I used the knife to cut things up and would put it down when I didn't need it. That one episode of Seinfeld went through my mind while I read this, the one where Elaine's boss eats a candy bar with a fork and knife... While we visit America, my mom goes out of her way to make sure that she gives my husband (Aussie) a knife and fork with his meals, regardless of what is on the plate, just because she knows that's how he's going to eat. Great post!