Q. Thank you so much for your recent column addressing how to properly hold a fork and knife when cutting an entree. I used the article to show my grandchildren to reinforce what I have been trying to tell them for quite some time. Every time they come to my house and have a meal, I try to teach them proper table manners because it seems their parents just don’t have the time. Could you also provide the proper way to hold a fork and a spoon. I told my grandchildren to hold their fork and spoon like they hold a pencil or a crayon. I thought that would be an easy example for them, except I found out they don’t hold either one of those correctly either. No wonder they don’t hold a fork or a spoon properly.
A. Yes, I have noticed many young people (30 and younger) hold their pens and pencils in some very unusual, visibly uncomfortable, contorted fashions. The same applies to holding a fork and a spoon to bring food to the mouth.
Figure A provides the proper position of the thumb and fingers when holding a fork. You can see the handle fits, or I like to say is “cradled” comfortably in the space or grove between the thumb and index finger. The middle finger is also used to stabilize the utensil. The tines of the fork are facing slightly toward the body. The tines of the fork are noiselessly slid underneath a small amount of food on the plate and are brought up to the mouth. A fork is not used to noticeably or noisily “stab” into a food item. However, when attempting to eat a small uncut tomato or grape, for example, it is proper to carefully stick the tines into the grape or tomato and bring it to the mouth rather than sliding the tines underneath and trying to balance the grape or tomato until reaching the mouth.
Figure B is an example of how “not” to hold a fork. Having said that, this does not apply to a small child who has not yet acquired the physical strength or dexterity to correctly hold a fork or spoon.
Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Patrick Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.