Thursday, September 13, 2012

Part deux: spaghetti and oyster slurping how-to

As mentioned in a previous blog entry, there is an accepted etiquette when eating foods that require some expertise. Debrett's - the guide when it comes to eating 'how-to' - covers many of the more challenging food choices, offering advice as to the socially correct way to eat.

Pasta is a particular challenge for many diners. The partaking of pasta can present a particular problem. According to Debrett's, classic pasta should be consumed only with a fork. This action, IMHO, is easier said (or written) than done and can be a tricky feat. It (Debrett's) suggests that spaghetti be twisted into a small presumably round-ish bundle around fork tines by "twirling it clockwise against the side of the dish."

This leads one - me - to wonder the end result if - say - an attempt was made to to perform this action counter-clockwise? Has anybody reading this been daring enough to test this action and does it work as well? Is it an illegal act to twirl pasta anti-clockwise and is a fine involved? But I digress.

For whatever reason and personally it doesn't make sense to me, it's a social faux-pas to cut the pasta threads with the side of the fork. Let me state for the record that - gasp - I cut my pasta with a knife to make the eating easier. Let's be candid: it's not easy to get the hang of pasta twirling. Even when this is achieved, the end result can be a stray pasta strand that adheres itself to the chin, or worse, fall on to a piece of clothing. This leads to the issue of the etiquette of retrieving a pasta strand and whether or not it's an acceptable act to use a fingers or fork retrieval. Does one leave it "as is" or does it require removal? Another point to ponder is whether guests sitting at a table should point out a visible strand pasta.

"Excuse me but you've got spaghetti on your top," a co-diner might remark in the way of being helpful.

"Oh really?" the spaghetti drop-ee might respond, looking down to verify the observation. "Thank you for noticing and bringing it to my attention," the drop-ee could respond, while pondering the next step to take.

It could lead one to wonder whether it would be considered gauche to dip a napkin in the water glass to eliminate a stain. What about the usage of a commercial stain remover stick in public? These are important issues worthy of an answer not mentioned in Debretts! Related to this, is it socially allowable to wear a bib or place a napkin at the chin?

According to another etiquette-ist, Emily Post, who has another point of view: ''Most restaurants (and hostesses) that feature pasta provide guests with a large spoon as well as the knife and fork. The fork is used to spear a few strands of spaghetti, the tips are placed against the spoon, which is held on its side, in the left hand, and the fork is twirled, wrapping the spaghetti around itself as it turns. If no spoon is provided, the tips of the fork may be rested against the curve of the plate.'' '-- The New Emily Post's Etiquette, Elizabeth L. Post, 1975

Moving on to another tricky food option, oysters aren't everyone's cup of tea so to speak. Although they're very tasty in my experience, visually they resemble - well - throat slime. They also require some dexterity in extricating them from their home in their shells and an oyster shucker is used for this purpose. That's the easy part. The difficulty for some people is in the actual eating. On the advice once more of Debrett's, "pick up the shell and bring the widest end to your lips. Tilt, and slide the entire contents of the shell - the oyster and all the juices - directly into your mouth from the shell." Once in the mouth, it can be chewed (blech) or swallow it down whole. On this aspect, Debrett's recommends that chewing is a good option in order to "savour the unique briny, metallic taste of the oyster." Savor the metallic taste? I mean, oysters are...okay but somehow savoring the taste of metal doesn't do it for me, at least.

There is also a section devoted to eating snails. Pass. Somehow eating a food whose relatives I've stepped on in the garden doesn't do it for me.

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