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Classic Eating Manners for Difficult Foods

Updated on June 13, 2013
Image Courtesy - Mien Magazine
Image Courtesy - Mien Magazine

If you are invited to a house party or a private function, you know very well that you have to bring with you the basic eating etiquette.This is not to impress other guests, but simply because it is a must in every social gathering.

Elegance with our eating manners is simply an attitude of enjoying the most simple pleasures of eating. Table manners of course do form the basics of dinner etiquette, and if you know even the most simple basics, you will feel confident at every dining situation.

There's actually no one...two...three... or strictly do this and do that.... we'll only learn what to do so as to be comfortable with eating. Let's begin.


Clams and Oysters

Special oyster forks are usually provided, but it is correct to use a dessert or cocktail fork to spear the oyster and dip into the sauce. The oyster is always eaten whole. Connoisseurs say that it should be pressed against the roof of the mouth, its juices extracted and then swallowed without chewing. This is fine for connoisseurs.

But if you merely want to enjoy your oyster, break it with your teeth in the usual way without masticating it. At an informal setting, it is okay to pick up the shell with your fingers and suck the oyster right off the shell. The same thing with clams, hold the shell with the left hand and lift the clam out using your oyster fork.


Typically, lobster is served with cracked points and with the tail split in half. But when served whole, crack the shell with a nutcracker then use a cocktail fork (that’s the tiny little thing with three tines) to remove the meat. Eat the tail meat by pulling out one piece at a time.

If you pull out a large piece, cut it with a fork. Pull off the small claws and suck out the meat (there's not much meat in them, but what's there is sweet!) as if you were drawing liquid through a straw. Place all empty shell pieces onto a separate waste bowl or plate. Crab, shrimp and lobster cocktails are always eaten with a cocktail fork.

Here is a complete step-by-step guide to eating lobster.

Image Courtesy - Visual Photos
Image Courtesy - Visual Photos

Corn on the Cob

No hostess in her right mind would offer this vegetable at a formal dinner. It is not easy to eat corn prettily but you can find three-pronged holders especially made to help you with this kind of food. Simply stuck in either end of the cob to enable you to lift it to your mouth without messing up your fingers. If corn is being served, fingerbowls should be used even at informal meals, as this is a messy vegetable.

I've included an infographic below that says about you and how you eat corn. It's fun!

Hot Soup

Slowly pull the dish close and scoop the soup in movements away from yourself. Avoid overfilling the spoon or it will spill as you lift. Remember it's hot soup you are eating so lift your spoon carefully and slowly from the bowl to your mouth. Don't blow on your soup to cool it off. If it is too hot to eat, wait until it cools.

As you near the end of the soup, it is polite to tilt the bowl to scoop remaining soup, but tilt it away from you and not towards you. Simply push the bowl away from you gently when you're through. If a soup spoon is not provided, use a dinner spoon. Be careful as you might get the wrong spoon and end up eating soup with a serving dish spoon!


Fresh Fruit

At a formal meal it should be cut up with a fruit knife and fork presented on the plate and not laid beside it. Large-sliced fruits are usually offered with a fruit knife to help you cut them into bite sizes then eat them with your fruit fork. Small fresh fruits like plums and apricots are eaten with fingers, as are dried candied fruits.

Peeled fruit is eaten cut side down on the plate so juice runs onto the plate while cut side facing upward for an unpeeled fruit to absorb the juice. You seldom see oranges served as they are really too difficult to cope with, although tangerines can easily be peeled, broken into small pieces and eaten with the fingers. Fingerbowls are also placed beside each guest.

Eating Artichokes by Food Blogga
Eating Artichokes by Food Blogga


These are served with melted butter or vinaigrette sauce. Each leaf is broken off with the fingers. Dip the base of the leaf into the sauce then bring the whole soft end in your mouth.

Gently pull it through your teeth to remove the edible part. Do not yank. You don’t want to look like a hungry dog tugging against a piece of food. Discard the rest by placing on the side of your plate. The heart is eaten with a dessert knife and fork after cutting the meat into bite-size pieces.

Here's more from the Etiquette Guy on how to eat artichokes in an elegant fashion.


In general, asparagus is viewed as finger food. Use your knife & fork to eat them in a formal setting and your fingers in a casual dinner. When the stalks are firm and are not sauced, it's okay to pick them up with your fingers, but one at a time. If the asparagus is limp or covered with sauce, use a knife and fork, and cut the stalk into bite-size pieces.

Hors d’oeuvres

Hors d'oeuvres (awr durv), are light appetizers offered as an extra course. Since they are intended to allow guests to nibble on something while waiting for the main course to be served, they are often finger foods, such as cheeses, crackers and chicken wingettes, and eaten without the need for silverware. Unless there is something tough like sausage, salami or pieces of meat, from which fat must be removed. In this case, a knife and fork are used.

If sliced cheese is served as an accompaniment to a dish, it is eaten with a fork. When it is served as an appetizer, such as cubes on toothpicks, it is eaten with fingers.


Take the Simplest Rule

Any food that is covered with something like cheese, gravy, chili, etc., they are considered utensil foods, so use your fork. If still in doubt about what to do, use utensils.

Your eating habits reveal as much about you and the feeling can transform you from an ordinary eater to someone with class. Enjoy!


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    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      Great tips! My husband and I bonded on an early date when we were having sushi. We ordered a spider roll, which was very unwieldy. Instead of making a big deal about it, he just said, "here goes!" and put the whole thing in. He was still gracious, but we laughed about it. I guess we knew it was meant to be. :)

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 5 years ago from The City of Generals

      That was sweet Laura. The fun attitude you both had together while laughing about that spider roll moment was so precious to remember... and since sushi is considered "fast food" I think any manner of eating the dish is acceptable provided it is being enjoyed.

      Thank you for sharing that. It was a perfect date! More happy bonding for you two. Keep up and cheers!

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 5 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      This applies to all ladies out there, who want to experience fine dining. Men will just follow and support them.

      I enjoyed the soup (nice photo). Thanks for sharing, kabayan!

      Bon apetit!!!

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 5 years ago from The City of Generals

      Hello kabayan travelman.

      "Men will just follow and support them" says it all.

      There is nothing more inspiring to us women than your words and actions of support. You just showed the man in you and the genuine spirit of a true pinoy! I'm proud you are my 43rd follower :=) kabayan, salamat and you've liked the photo.

      Thank you very much. BLESSINGS!

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      At least next time I won't make a fool of myself. But when given the chance, I'd eat it the way I feel comfortable.

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 4 years ago from The City of Generals

      Hi jpcmc - since all societies have had various rules for eating, we can keep enjoying the ride provided the food is being enjoyed. You're not alone, truly :=). Thank you for sharing.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Good pointers for how to approach eating different foods while in social gatherings. Voted useful and up.

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 4 years ago from The City of Generals

      Thanks so much Peggy. I'd say that at all times it pays to know even just the basic etiquette. It's both beauty and respect for others. Best regards!

    • shai77 profile image

      Chen 3 years ago

      Wow, so good to know. I always worry about corn on the cob, never thought of offering a finger bowl with it. What great tips. Excellent job!

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Excellent advice. The world of food is quite perplexing, and no matter how well we think we know what to do, there will always come a surprise dish that confuses us for a moment. When all else fails, watch what others are doing! :)

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 3 years ago from The City of Generals

      Hi shaiz... you're not alone with the corn on the cob. With the finger bowl, you're telling the guests that it's fine to eat the corn any manner. Though, in more formal dining occasions, I will not serve corn - for beauty and convenience purposes, lol. Thanks for dropping by. Goodluck:=)-Tonette

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 3 years ago from The City of Generals

      Hello Jayme. "When all else fails, watch what the others are doing"... very true and our safest mode.... or use utensils when still in doubt. In my experience, I skip the dish that looks like I would never enjoy eating, haha. Some of the funny moments about social etiquette, but which usually serve as lessons. Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts. Enjoy and best of all. :=)-Tonette

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