Manners, Shmanners

A few days ago, I read this blog post by Adrian Leeds about the “murder” of the American Hamburger in France and nearly killed myself laughing. If you don’t have time to click on the link, let me sum it up: the French don’t pick up hamburgers with their hands to eat them – they don’t even put the top part of the bun on the rest of the burger – they eat them very daintily with a knife and fork. Leed’s description is spot-on and is something I’ve observed many times with a sort of awed incredulity.

The French are trained at a very young age to eat just about everything with a knife and fork. While I believe that this is generally a good thing (do people even use knives in the U.S. anymore?), sometimes when I watch them struggling to eat some down-home finger-lickin' food with a knife and fork, I feel sorry for them.

Last New Year’s Eve, I got a hankering for some crab legs (I grew up near a wharf) and so my husband and I bought some King Crab legs to ring in the New Year. The way I grew up eating them, you steam them hot, douse ‘em with Old Bay seasoning, then crack them with either your hands or - if you're a lightweight – a nutcracker. Next, you swirl the crab meat around in some melted butter, pop it in your mouth and go: mmmmmm. It’s not fancy eating. Butter dribbles down your chin. Your hands get sticky with crab juice and seasoning. The table is littered with shells. But who cares? As far as I'm concerned, the process of eating crab legs is just as soul-satisfying as the taste.

Anyway, we invited a French couple over to share in these goodies. When I plopped the platter of legs on the table, they looked slightly alarmed -- they had never eaten crab legs before -- but then tucked in bravely. While Dawg and I messily eschewed the nutcracker in favor of our hands, our friends quickly figured out how to use the nutcracker to crack the legs, used their knives to extract the meat, used their forks to dip the meat in the butter and then ate the meat tidily with their forks and knives. I kept having to repress a smile at this glaring cultural difference. But I had no urge to be French about it.

Didn’t look like as much fun.


Lindsey said…
Pizza is another one of those foods that they can't shame themselves to eat with their hands. There are just certain foods that don't taste as good with a fork :)
Barb said…
Hah! Yup, pizza is another. I read in some expat book on living in France(can't remember which one) that the writer's mother-in-law always ate a banana with a knife and fork. That just seems crazy.

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