ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #17

Updated on May 22, 2020
Carb Diva profile image

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

The mailbox this past week did not receive a wealth of inquiries, but those that arrived were sure interesting. My Google machine had to work overtime. Let's begin with a question from Mary on table manners.

American vs. UK Dining Etiquette

When I lived in the UK, man oh man did I have a time eating correctly! Whereas in the US a person swaps the fork to cut meat, in the UK the fork stays in the left hand with tynes pointed down. (for a right-handed person).

On to this downward facing fork, things such as mashed potatoes are squashed, with peas balanced above or pressed into the spuds. It is the most absurd way to eat but that is how it's done.

Why is there a difference in the way the utensils are used?


More Than an Ocean Separates Us

As Mary stated, there are two distinct styles of eating with knife and fork—one is called the “Continental or European” style, and the other is “American” (otherwise called, with some disdain, “zig-zag”) style. Why are there two sets of rules, when did they begin, and (this is what you really want to know, isn’t it?) which one is correct?

First, let me explain exactly what the two styles are:

Continental Style

The fork is held in the left hand, with the tines pointed down and the knife is held by the right hand. If slicing of the food is required just one piece is cut by the knife and is steadied by the fork. The food which has already been speared by the fork is then conveyed to the mouth. Even if no slicing is needed the knife is used to gently nudge the food onto the back of the fork.

American Style

The knife is held in the right hand and the fork in the left hand (unless you are left-handed like me, in which case the opposite is done). After the knife and fork are used to cut the food, the knife is placed near the top of the plate, blade facing in. The fork is then switched to the right hand and used to pick up the piece of food, tines up.

Who's Right, Who's Wrong?

Americans have been responsible for so many technological achievements. It was an American who invented the light bulb, airplanes, the assembly line (Model T Ford), television, microwave ovens, computers, lasers, and personal computers, An American invented the cotton gin, dental floss, chocolate chip cookies (and the Starbucks coffee to go with it), zippers. hearing aids, GPS, the whole internet!

I could go on and on, but when it comes to dining, we're not on the cutting edge (I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself). Our continual hand-switching is inefficient at best (and European friends grimace in fear that we will skewer our lower lips with that upturned fork).

However, In the Good Ole' Days

In the Middle Ages a European's only cares when it came to dining etiquette was how greasy would his fingers become as he tore into food with his fingers.

At meat well y-taught was she withal; She let no morsel from her lips fall, Ne wet her fingers in her sauce deep; Well could she carry a morsel and well keep That no droppe ne fell upon her breast."

— Chaucer, Canterbury Tales

But then we became "civilized", mannerly, and oh-so chic.

How Did The Two Styles Originate?

Opinions are like belly buttons—everyone has one. Here is a brief sampling of the theories I found online:

  • This started during colonial times when the American colonists were forced to lodge British soldiers. Originally, the colonists ate just like the Europeans still do to this day, with the fork in the left, the knife in the right. In those days, knives were a lot sharper—they had to be (the meat was as tough as an old boot). Since this was a politically divisive time, the soldiers were scared. Keep in mind the soldiers and colonists were eating at the same table at mealtime! They started having the American hosts put down their knife, switch the fork from the left hand to the right and then use the right hand with the fork to bring the meat to one’s mouth. (I'm not buying this theory).
  • It originated in Germany where the Kaiser was born with a withered arm. To limit exposure of his withered arm he would lay his knife down on the plate and take the fork in his right hand to raise the food to his mouth. The court followed him out of respect and it spread to outside the court to the public.(Doubtful).
  • This peculiar practice of switching the fork over to the right hand started in a private school for "young ladies and gentlemen," whose headmistress (no doubt a Catholic nun) devised this idiocy to keep their otherwise-mischievous hands busy at the table. (Oh, please!).
  • "Until the 1840's everyone used the American style of handling dining utensils. Around 1852, a French etiquette book announced that if one wanted to eat in a high-class manner, one would not switch the fork to the other hand. Eventually this 'continental style' evolved and Europeans of all classes started using it. (Perhaps a bit more believable).
  • Eating with your fork in the right hand, with the tines pointing up has been popular in North America for many generations. This variation in behavior is most likely due to the fact that early American settlers didn't have the luxury of complete cutlery (silverware) sets. If a family shared a single knife, each person had to cut all their meat at once before passing the knife to the next person and, without the aid of a knife to position the food, it's easier to wield the fork with your more dexterous right hand. (This is almost as absurd as the jokes about an elderly couple sharing a set of false teeth).
  • According to Darra Goldstein, a professor at Williams College and the founding editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, when forks first came to the European dining table, diners took their cues from the kitchen, where the fork would be held in the left hand to steady a slab of meat, say, and the right hand wielded the knife. (This one actually makes a little bit of sense).

And Peas Are Even Worse!

I have a nephew who can't bear to have his foods touch each other. (If Heaven forbid, the peas touch the potatoes, the offending marriage in the midst of the two is left on his plate).

He could NEVER consume peas in Europe. Mary's description is spot on. And, it answers my question of "why do the Brits love mushy peas?" (The answer is that they are much easier to fork and eat because they are already smashed).

Look at this video for a graphic explanation of the "continental" (i.e. civilized) method of eating peas.

OK, I think we've just about exhausted this topic. (I'm still shuddering at the thought of mushy peas. Tried them once; never again).

But here's one more video, just for grins and giggles.

Lexicon of Cooking Terms


A few weeks ago I was asked to explain some of the lesser-known cooking terms. We started with Letter A, and have progressed to letter "F". If you want to catch up, a link to the first installment is here.

Fillet - As a verb, this is the term for removing the bones from meat or fish. As a noun, a fillet (or filet) is the piece of flesh after it has been boned.

Fine dice – a cube-shaped cut, about 1/8-inch in size.

Flake - To break lightly into small pieces. Commonly we refer to cooked fish as being "flaked" when it is broken down.

Flambe' - To flame foods by dousing in some form of potable alcohol and setting alight. If you have any notion of performing this (and honestly, it achieves amazing flavors and results, and is a dramatic presentation if you have an admiring audience), PLEASE go to YouTube to learn how to do so safely. Please use caution. I’ve seen people sacrifice their eyebrows doing this.

Florets – The small, closely bunched flowers that make up a head of broccoli or cauliflower.

Flute – to press a decorative, scalloped pattern into the edge of a pie crust.

Fold - To incorporate a delicate substance, such as whipped cream or beaten egg whites, into another substance without releasing the air bubbles. Place your rubber scraper in the center of the bowl. Next, cut down through across the bottom of the bowl, and move the scraper up and toward you to the edge of the bowl. Rotate the bowl a bit, and do it again. And again, what you are trying to achieve is to bring the contents at the bottom of the bowl up to the surface where the whipped cream or beaten eggs are hovering.

Fond - The brown caramelized bits of “stuff” left in the pan after you sauté meat or fish. It’s the foundation (the springboard) for great sauces.

And, one final question from Kari:

Is It Safe To Store Food In An Opened Can In the Refrigerator?

I caught my daughter storing some tomato sauce in it's can. I thought that it was bad to store food in the can it came in. Has that changed?


Kari, like you I grew up hearing that storing food in an open can in the refrigerator would result in botulism (or some other dreaded illness). The first cans for packaging food were made of tin (which contains lead, and you recognize the problem of lead poisoning). We still refer to them as "tin cans" but the packaging for foods is now made from steel. (Aluminum is used to beverage cans because it is thinner and easily molded and resists corrosion).

Botulism is not a problem, but BPA is. Almost all metal food and beverage cans contain an industrial chemical called bisphenol A, or BPA. The chemical is used in epoxy resins that coat the inside of food cans. There is a growing concern from health organizations like MayoClinic that BPA can seep into food.

Some packaging is labeled "BPA-free", but I would still advise not storing opened cans in the refrigerator, especially foods that are highly acidic (tomatoes, pineapple, etc.). The interaction of the acid on the can might result in the food picking up a metallic taste.

Well, That's All for Now

Thank you to everyone who sent their questions to the Mailbox. Don't be shy; there are no dumb questions. If you want to remain anonymous you can email me at

Have a great week!

© 2018 Linda Lum


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)