There's no doubt Americans and Europeans do things differently. From the metric system to counting with our fingers, we have many idiosyncrasies that comprise our overall cultural canons. But perhaps nothing divides our cultures more than our dining habits.
Let's start by stating the obvious. Americans eat faster than Europeans. We're on the go, and often don't take time to enjoy meals, especially those served mid day. Europeans tend to linger at the table, and will often eat even basic meals over multiple courses. In the U.S., we eat more out of necessity, where in Europe it's traditionally more out of enjoyment.
But of all the culinary differences of when, how, and sometimes even why we eat, the biggest difference between American dining and European dining styles might be in how we use our flatware.
American Dining Styles
In the United States, diners hold the fork in the left hand and knife in the right. Once a bite is cut, you then place the knife on the plate and switch the fork to the right hand. Essentially, American diners will never place food in their mouths while holding the knife.
It's also uncommon to use the knife to shovel food onto the fork. And when a meal is finished, you signal to the wait staff that your are done by placing the fork and knife parallel from the top left corner to the bottom right corner of the plate.
European Dining Styles
To be honest, European dining styles are more efficient. You hold the fork in your left hand and cut with the knife in your right. The knife does not leave the right hand, meaning all of the pauses required by switching hands in the American dining style do not exist in European dining.
In Europe, the fork is typically faced down, and you curve it up to your mouth. It's common to use the knife to shovel food onto the fork, and to signal you are done eating, diners simply place their cutlery down.
What It All Means
In the days of World War II, dining styles could mean the difference between freedom and captivity. An American spy was famously caught in Germany because he put his knife down and switched to his fork.
Today, though, different dining styles require different types of flatware that are better suited to nuances of each style. For example, because the knife remains in hand during the entire meal, European style knifes are typically lighter and more comfortable to hold. In the U.S., the idea of a quality knife is quite different, and the perception is hefty is better. But even in the United States, fine dining and business dinners often lend themselves to European styles.
This means operators must consider a range of factors when selecting flatware. Who will be the primary customer? What should you look for in a fork or knife? What types of materials should be used, and how should flatware be constructed? And finally, what types of designs will fit best with the overall décor or aesthetic of the operation?
We can help you answer some of these questions.
Learn more about selecting the right type of flatware for your operation in the BauscherHepp Flatware Selection Tips, which are available free for download.