Sunday, March 9, 2008

Plate & Utensil Etiquette in Europe

As I sat at the completion of our meal the other night (we were in deep conversation about politics with our son in law, who is visiting with us), I noticed that my fork and spoon (both used to slurp up all the good juices in the bottom of the pasta bowl) were arranged as you see in the left photo above. And I realized that the arrangement of my utensils was one of those visible messages used throughout Europe.

When you visit in Europe, there's a kind of utensil code - it's etiquette, really - when you dine out. Most likely it's the same when you dine in as well.

  • The etiquette message of the left bowl - the arrangement of the silverware indicates that I'm still eating. The fork and spoon are in the upright position, and set so I can grab then easily. The message - don't touch my plate.

  • The etiquette message of the right bowl - the two utensils are aligned together on the right side and turned upside down. Meaning I'm finished and you may take my plate or bowl.
For those of you who live in some parts of the world this is probably nothing new at all, it's common sense, since you use these codes all the time. You learned it from a young age. But we here in No. America haven't learned these codes. Why, I wonder? Maybe it harkens back to the early Pioneers - they had no time or patience with the fripperies of fancy manners. I like the custom and wish we'd use it more often. I have lurkers (lurkers are people who read my blog, but never comment) from all over the world. Won't you chime in and tell me about your silverware or utensil etiquette? Is it the same as I've explained when we've visited in Europe. Or are yours different still?


Kalyn said...

I learned about this when I worked in a French restaurant in Salt Lake where the owner was big on European ettiquette. Seems like a good idea to me.

Toffeeapple said...

Did you know that in the great houses of France when a table is set the spoons and forks are put out with the backs showing? This is so that the family crest (engraved on the back) can be seen?

Carolyn T said...

Kalyn - I haven't seen it done here in the U.S. Wish we did, though.
Toffeeapple - seems like I read that somewhere, once upon a time, about the family crest. I think I've seen silverware placed upside down somewhere in my travels, but don't recall the circumstances.