23 November 2012

Eating with fingers is fine in this digital age, says Debretts

In a world of ever-changing standards, a Debrett's guide to etiquette could be considered the last bastion of old-fashioned social decorum.  

So it may be with some bemusement that readers pick up their newest guide, which deals with how best to eat with one's fingers.

The list of modern "dos and don'ts" declares that more informal times mean it is now acceptable to eat with the hands rather than silverware.

Table manners are no longer about adhering to a rigid and outdated, code of conduct, it proclaims, with the use of a knife and fork no longer an essential part of dining.

The guide, which includes a 10-point plan to eating with the fingers, is a marked departure from previous guidance from Debrett's, which emphasised the proper use of cutlery in polite company.

It says that table manners exist for guidance but should not unnecessarily affect the enjoyment of dining with family and friends.

The new guide states  that in our more informal times, it is acceptable to eat certain foods - such as pizza and calzone - with your hands.  It goes on to explain that the aim should be to create as little mess as possible with food cut into manageable pieces and sufficiently cool.

When eating with your hands it can be tempting to hunch over your plate, so try to sit up straight, don't intrude into others' space and never put your elbows on the table.

Critically, any food spilling on the plate then should be dealt with using a fork.  Don't pick it up with your fingers.

According to the rules, which concentrate on Italian cuisine, diners shyould make use of a napkin, placing it on the lap to ensure that clothes remain pristine. Wipe your hands as you need to, try to avoid licking your hands clean.

Other pitfalls, such as getting food on the lips, should be dealt with in a discreet dabbing motion, rather than grand wiping gestures.

The final point of the guide to modern table manners states that eating with your hands is a relaxed and convivual style of dining but don't let your standards slip.  Remember your manners and, above all, never use your phone at the table.

Debrett's prides itself on being the modern authority on all matters etiquette, taste and achievement. (see: http://www.debretts.com/)

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