To twirl or not to twirl: when is it good manners to use a fork?


Is it ok to eat ribs or a T-bone steak with your fingers? Also, what is the proper way to eat spaghetti?

It is not ok to eat any kind of steak with your fingers!

However, it is OK to eat ribs with your fingers if the restaurant or dinner is casual. Most likely, you are not going to be served ribs at a formal event.

As for spaghetti: some people twirl pasta with a fork inside of a spoon. While this is correct, a more “polished” way to eat it would be just to twirl a small amount with your fork, then put it into your mouth.  If a spoon is provided, then use it.  If not, don’t ask for one. Try not to suck any stray noodles into your mouth!

Spaghetti, fried chicken, corn on the cob, etc. are all awkward to eat, no matter what.  They belong to a group of foods I like to call “funny” foods. Here are some pointers that might help you:

  • Fried chicken: At home or for a casual dinner, fingers are fine unless your hostess uses a knife and fork. At a formal dinner, you should use a knife and fork.
  • Spaghetti: Twirl the pasta around your fork. Use a pasta spoon if one has been provided.
  • Corn on the cob: You may eat it with your fingers.
  • Pizza: You may eat it with your fingers.
  • Melon: Watermelon is eaten by hand only at picnics. Otherwise use your fork and knife or a spoon. If a half of a cantaloupe or melon is served, use a spoon.
  • Fruit served in sections: You can use a knife, fork or spoon.
  • Oysters on the half shell: Pick up the shell by hand and scrape underneath the oyster with a cocktail fork. Bring the shell to your lips and as quietly as you can, slurp the oyster out.
  • Fish with bones (or any kind of food with shells): Take out as many of the bones as possible with your fork and knife. If you take a bite and find little bones, push them to the front of your mouth with as little fuss as possible and place it onto the side of your plate either with your fingers or your fork.
  • Ribs: There is no neat way, but you may pick them up.
  • Steak: Use your fork and knife to cut the meat away from the bone, one bite at a time.
  • Asparagus: If the stalks are firm, you may eat it with your fingers.  Using a fork and knife is also correct.