Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at news-sentinel.com.
Q. Karen, What is the proper way to eat fried chicken? Is it considered a finger food?
A. There are a lot of foods that are very tasty but difficult to eat. Choosing the right setting and situation in which to order them is important. For instance, if you are being interviewed for a job over a meal, you might not want to order foods that are tricky or messy to eat.
Fried chicken is a food item that falls into the tricky category. It may be eaten as a finger food at a picnic. Any other time it's served it would require a knife and fork. The knife and fork rule applies to duck and turkey as well.
Some other foods that might require some practice or special knowledge:
•Artichokes (whole) are eaten with your fingers. Each leaf is removed separately; the soft end can be dipped into a sauce and pulled through your teeth to remove the edible portion. Place the rest of the leaf on the edge of the plate. Scrape away the thistle portion to get to the heart. The heart can then be eaten with a knife and fork.
•Asparagus should be cut into bite-size portions and eaten with a fork. However, in Europe it is acceptable to eat it with your fingers.
•Bacon is eaten with a knife and fork. If it is very crispy, it can be eaten with your fingers.
•Bread or rolls should be eaten by breaking off one bite at a time. Butter each bite over the plate, not in the air or in your hand.
•Butter is often served in individual portions that are on placed on the bread and butter plates, but if a common butter is passed, take your portion onto the bread and butter plate with the butter server.
•Barbecued ribs should be eaten with a knife and fork. However, if you are at a restaurant where wearing a bib and getting a warm towel at the end of the meal are part of the experience, then by all means, roll up your sleeves.
•Olives, pickles and celery can be taken from the serving plate with your fingers and placed on the side of the dinner or bread and butter plate. Celery and pickles may be eaten with your fingers. Eat large olives with a pit in two or three bites. Hold the olive between your index finger and thumb, placing the pit on the edge of your plate. Small olives may be eaten whole.
•Corn on the cob is definitely a picnic food and should be served in that setting or at very casual meals. Butter several rows at a time and eat by holding firmly with both hands.
•Potatoes that are served baked can be eaten from the skin with your fork. The skin may be eaten with your knife and fork. Don't mash the potato on your plate. French fries are cut in half and eaten with a fork, unless you are at a fast-food restaurant. Chips may be eaten with your fingers.
•Spaghetti should be eaten with a fork by pulling a few stands away at a time. Place the tines of your fork perpendicular to the plate and twirl the strands around the fork. Do not cut the spaghetti.
•Sandwiches are eaten with your fingers. If the sandwich is large, cut it in half and eat one half at a time. Open-faced and messy sandwiches are eaten with a knife and fork.
•If you encounter a bone or a piece of food that is tough to chew, remove it with your fingers and place it on the edge of your plate. Cut your food into small bites, one piece at a time.