Anatomy of agreement

First I see Slate’s tweet:

The American way of using a fork and knife is inefficient and inelegant. Here's a better way:

I’m annoyed. The piece already sounds trite and presumptuous. It deals with something as snobbish and unimportant as table manners. I assume it’s written by a Frenchman. 

Then I click the link. I read the title:

Put a Fork in It: The American way of using fork and knife is inefficient and inelegant. We need a new way.

Still annoyed. Seems like a waste of a perfectly good hyperlink.

I look for the author’s name:

Mark Vanhoenacker

Okay, probably not French. Maybe Finnish. Still annoying.

Grudgingly, I begin to read.

Vanhoenacker points out that when using both a fork and knife, Europeans (and everyone else, basically) will keep the fork in their left hand and the knife in the right as they cut and eat their food. But when an American cuts his food, he’ll lower his knife to his plate and then he’ll switch the fork to his right hand to convey the food.

This, Vanhoenacker argues, is both inefficient and a relic of a time when Americans were trying to be more like Europeans (this maneuver was once considered proper table manners in European countries, but no longer).


Inefficient? How much time could we actually be wasting by switching a fork and knife? Is dinner really going to end sooner if we stop?

And I’m glad that what we do is unlike the Europeans. Good. We’re Americans, damn it. We can use our fork and knife any way we please!

Then something happened.

It occurred to me that as a left-hander, I don’t cut and switch. I hold my fork with my left hand and cut with my right.

I don’t switch.

“Wait a minute,” I thought. “Maybe this Vanhoenacker guy is onto something. Imagine how many times the average American cuts and switches over the course of a lifetime. That can really start to add up. And I’m all about efficiency. I strive for efficiency in every part of my life. Why not at the dinner table as well?”

Then I thought about it a little more.

“And you know what? I don’t want my eating habits to be dictated by some centuries old attempt to be more like stodgy old Europe. We’re Americans, damn it. We do things they way we want. Not the way some aristocrat dictates.  

This Mark Vanhoenacker is a genius

See how easy it is to get me to agree with you?

Piece of cake.