Some things just go together perfectly. Where would Elton John be without Bernie Taupin, for instance? A hot sunny day is nowhere near as perfect without a cold beer, condensation running down the outside of the glass. And what would Sunday morning be without a good old-fashioned lie-in?
Once upon a time, I would have added the knife and fork to that list of indisputable partnerships, but in the United States it seems that nothing is sacred.
When I was brought up, I was told that when you’re eating, you hold your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right hand. Then you use your knife to cut things, skewer them with your fork and plunge said stainless steel device and its captured foodstuff into the merry recesses of your mouth. With ‘unprongable’ stuff such as peas, we’d use our knife to scoop them up onto the fork. Eating anything other than a burger or hotdog simply wasn’t possible without both a knife and fork.
America disagrees though. My experience of eating at restaurants through to family dinners with The Special One, The Eldest and The Youngest is that the fork is king, and the knife is merely something you use to plunge into the back of your most bitter enemy. To be fair, my family haven’t yet taken to doing that, but it’s only a matter of time if I continue to sit watching football on TV on sunny Saturday afternoons.
The fork is a multi-use device in this country. You use it to scoop food into your mouth, spear big chunks of meat or vegetables, and to cut larger pieces into more manageable sizes using the outer prong (or tine, as I believe they’re called). For all I know, people may use it as a toothpick, a screwdriver and a solution to world poverty, such is the American commitment to this champion of the cutlery world.
Sure, you might pick up a knife if you’re eating something that simply can’t be cut by a fork (a thick steak, for instance) but otherwise there’s only a need for one utensil at the dining table. Discounting fingers, that is.
Like a marriage guidance counsellor of the eating utensil world, I’m maintaining my one man crusade to keep the knife and fork together. Call me an old-fashioned Englishman if you like, but isn’t it just better to cut things with a device specifically designed for that purpose? Restaurants don’t charge for cutlery usage by number, so why not use the full range of facilities? Or is it just that lifting two implements seems too much like hard work?
It’s only a matter of time before I get thrown out of a diner for trying to teach a complete stranger how to eat properly, I can tell you.