Some foods are tricky to eat in public. When at lunch or dinner with friends or colleagues, stick with the foods you feel most comfortable eating. With Valentine's Day around the corner, practice makes perfect with all foods!
These are accepted techniques for eating bothersome foods:
• Bacon should be eaten with a knife and fork, not with the fingers. This means that sometimes an omelet is a better breakfast-meeting choice, especially if the bacon is too crisp and might fly off the plate.
• Bread is broken one bite at a time with your hands, and buttered one piece at a time. Never cut a roll in half, butter it, and eat it. This is acceptable only for morning toast in your own kitchen.
• Soup is always spooned away from you. Never eat as though you are shoveling food into your mouth.
• Poultry of any kind is eaten with a knife and fork. If fried chicken is on the menu, fingers are used only at backyard picnics.
• Spaghetti is eaten with a fork and spoon if the strands are long.
• Whole artichokes are eaten with your fingers. Each leaf is removed separately; the soft end is then dipped in sauce and pulled through the teeth to remove the meaty portion. The choke (the little spiky round part at the bottom) is dug out with a teaspoon and placed on the side of the plate or in a bowl with the discarded leaves. The last piece remaining is the tender heart, which is cut into pieces and eaten with a knife and fork.
• Asparagus is cut into portions and eaten with a fork. (In Europe, though, asparagus is one of the very few foods eaten with the fingers.)
• Sections of small birds such as quail may be held in one hand and brought to the mouth without gnawing.
• Cake, if served in small non-sticky portions, may be eaten with the fingers. If served with ice cream, both a knife and fork are used.
• Caviar is spread on toast with a knife; the toast is eaten with your fingers.
• Steamed clams are opened by hand and the clam pulled from the shell with your fingers. The clam may be dipped in butter or broth and eaten in one bite.
• Condiments such as celery, pickles, olives, and radishes are taken from the serving tray with the fingers. They may be eaten with the fingers and placed on your bread plate. The pits from large olives may be removed out with the finger and the placed on the side of your bread plate.
Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (Lisagrotts.com), certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and Facebook.com/LisaGrotts.