A friend’s comment on FB regarding my writing etiquette advice: “What? You mean like which fork to use?” Made me run to my well-thumbed copy of Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior to type in her comments on this, because they are wonderful:
If Miss Manners hears any more contemptuous descriptions of etiquette as being a matter of ‘knowing which fork to use,’ she will run amok with a sharp weapon, and the people she attacks will all be left with four tiny holes in their throats as if they had been the victims of twin vampires.
Knowing or caring which fork to use is regularly cited as proof of that one is narrowly fixed on a detail of life that is probably a deliberate booby trap set by the snobbish to catch the unsuspecting, and that therefore one has no time or heart left for the great spiritual values of life. The Great Fork Problem is used to ridicule the holy subject of etiquette, but the defenders of etiquette use it too, when they claim that manners are ‘a matter of being considerate of others, not which fork to use.’ In either case, this is like declaring that as long as you truly have love for humanity, it is not important that you happened to put your left shoe on your right foot and your right shoe on your left foot.
Forks are not that difficult. It is possible that anyone who has learned to operate a computer, kitchen appliance or washer with delicate fabric cycles may also be capable of being trained to operate as many as three forks.
Why is this important? Because the person who has not mastered the fork is going to make a mess, miss the last course of dinner, or make the hostess get up from the table. Also, the forks may get tired some day of being bad mouthed, and may cut off your food supply. Therefore, we will now take a minute to learn everything there is to know about Which Fork to Use.
Use the farthest to the left.
That’s it. That’s all there is to know. Now run outside and cultivate the spirit until dinnertime.