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October 12, 2009

Knives & Forks

English department store Debenhams have reported that dinner forks are outselling knives by two to one. The retailer is organizing a civilized dining campaign designed to make sure we don’t lose the traditional way of eating.

A spokesman said, “Using both a knife and a fork to eat has held this country in good stead for centuries. It’s one of the mainstays of being British. It’s about maintaining standards, before the single fork habit becomes ingrained in the next generation. Bad table manners can turn an enjoyable meal into an embarrassment.”


Knives were always used for eating in the past, with each person owning their own to use during meals. Forks are a more recent invention and weren’t introduced to England until around 1608. People were very resistant to the new tool, asking why they required a fork when they had hands. Slowly the upper classes embraced forks and they became a symbol of the wealthy.

I must admit that my husband and I tend to eat more ethnic dishes these days. I think of them as bowl foods and we use either a fork or a spoon, depending on the consistency of the food. We’re more likely to use forks than both knives and forks. Actually tonight we used both, but that’s not usual.

My nephew and his wife (who is Japanese) don’t own many knives and forks. They’re a chopstick family and if we have a family gathering at their place, we have to take cutlery.

What happens at your house? Do you tend to use forks more than knives? Is our style of eating shifting?


  1. RKCharron

    Hi Shelley :)
    I have never thought about it but, yes, we don’t use knives as often as I did when I was younger.
    Still need knives for a lot of meat dishes though!
    All the best,

  2. Amy M

    We do not use too many knives, but I think that is because we have small kids, so that would not work so well :lol: We are always out of spoons before anything else. My middle boy wants to use a spoon for nearly everything and will still try to use his fingers (much to my dismay) instead of a fork. It is like he can’t master it. And the smallest 2, well, they try, but they are small, so what do I expect?

  3. Jaime

    I can’t answer that question just yet. We keep the sharp objects away since we have little ones in the house. :wink:


  4. Kaye Manro

    When I was a kid, my mom-being the proper lady she was– taught us how to set up a table. We almost always had dinner at a perfectly set table every day! Now I usually just grab something, microwave it and eat with whatever item is handy while at my computer. A long way from childhood!

  5. Alice Audrey

    We have absolutely everything. In triplicate. Including the chop sticks. To my shame, my son never did learn to use the chopsticks.

  6. Shelley Munro

    Amy – I don’t have the small children problem in our house, but we still don’t use our knives as much. :grin:

    My nephew and his wife have a new baby. It will be interesting to see the chopstick/fork dilemma. I’ll have to ask about chopsticks next time I see them.

  7. sandra cox

    I’m a fork girl. We run out of forks before knives and spoons.

  8. Susan Helene Gottfried

    Huh? Knives are only for cutting, right? Maybe for helping get those last crumbs off the plate and onto the fork.

    I’m confused…

  9. Cari Quinn

    I hardly ever use a knife. Like you, Shelley, most of the foods I eat seem to be in bowls. Rice dishes, etc.

  10. Mary

    My household uses knives just as much as the forks and spoons mostly because my hubby loves to ahve meat …alot of meat. lol So we use the knives with dinner to cut the steaks, roast, chicken..whatever meat we are having.

  11. Shelley Munro

    Susan – The English, Australians and New Zealanders tend to eat with their fork in the left hand and knife in the right while Americans tend to cut up all their food then use their fork in their right hand.

    With more “bowl foods” the tendency is for people to use their fork in their right hand, which is a no-no according to British etiquette. Therefore people tend to purchase more forks than knives. The traditional cutlery sets aren’t working any longer.

  12. Christina Phillips

    LOL, that quote from the Debenhams spokesman made me laugh… how frightfully British!!! I always lay out the knives and forks and get really mad when the kids use their fingers!!

  13. Linda Henderson

    I don’t use knives nearly as often as a fork or spoon. I have them, but I usually don’t get them out. Now when we have a family dinner at the table (like Thanksgiving) we always set all the silverware on the table, including knives.

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