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CONTEMPORARY COURTESIES

Etiquette column: The correct way to eat spaghetti

Friday, March 15, 2013 - 12:01 am

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 www.news-sentinel.com.

Q. Karen, what is the correct way to eat spaghetti or any long pasta? I have seen people eat with only a fork and others using a spoon and a fork.

A. There is a debate about how to eat pasta, even among etiquette experts. I have seen both methods listed as “correct” in American etiquette books. And I, too, have seen both methods of eating spaghetti while dining with others. And I am not offended when people use the bowl of the spoon to twirl the strands of pasta. However, if you were in Italy or asked an Italian how to eat long strands of pasta, he or she would tell you the only correct way is to eat it with a fork only. Italians consider eating pasta with a fork and a spoon for children, amateurs or people with bad table manners. So, it is up to you as to how you eat your pasta; the American way, with a spoon and fork, or the Italian way, with only a fork. Or consider the old adage, when in Rome do as the Romans do.

If you are going to use the fork only method, pull a few strands of pasta to the side of the plate or edge of the pasta bowl and twirl the strands around the tines of the fork, with the fork tines perpendicular to the plate, and then convey the pasta to your mouth. You may want to have your napkin poised and ready to collect any errant drops of sauce from dropping on your clothes. Bibs are a no-no when eating pasta, unless you are a child. And you would not cut the pasta in polite company.

It is important to gauge when and with whom you will be eating pasta. If you can't eat it with confidence and without getting it all over yourself, choose something else to order — you may make a better impression.

Karen Hickman is a certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy LLC. Do you have a question for her? Email clarson@news-sentinel.com, and we'll forward it to her.