The Continental Dining Style

Continental dining consists of two steps instead of the four steps in American dining.    

Used in most countries around the world, this dining style is simple to learn and is easily adapted for left- or right-handed people.

The Two Steps of Continental Dining

Step 1

With fork in your left hand and knife in your right hand, cut your food.  Notice the position of the knife as you cut.  

How to cut your food to eat it

Step 2

Keeping your fork in your left hand, tines facing down, bring it directly to your mouth and enjoy the bite.  Hold your knife steady as you eat, perhaps resting your right wrist at the edge of the table. 

Eating in the Continental dining style

Taking a Break

If you need to pause during the meal - maybe you have a story to tell everyone at the table, or you need to take a drink or leave the table for a moment - you will need to place your utensils in resting position on the plate to indicate your pause.

Place your fork and knife at a diagonal position on each side of your plate.

This tells the wait staff that you are not finished with your meal, and they should not remove your plate.

Continental dining resting position

When Finished With Your Meal

When you are ready for your plate to be removed from the table, there is a utensil placement that signals this as well.

Lay your fork and knife side by side at the four o'clock position on your plate.

This is the close-out position for Continental dining (and American dining as well). Wait staff often report that placing the fork, tines up, makes it easier to pick up the plate. Either way signals that you have finished.

If you are left-handed, and are operating in reverse, it is appropriate to close-out with utensils in the eight o'clock position. 

Continental dining close-out position

Now you can see why the Continental dining style is preferred by so many.  With only two steps and the convenience of keeping your fork and knife in the same hand throughout the process, it is the easiest dining style to master.

Remember that when you are eating Continental style, both hands are fully engaged. The knife is used not only to cut your food, but it also helps you load or push food on the fork for easy eating. 

It is also the easiest to teach.  Practice it with your family, and even young children.  Teach them to hold the fork and knife with the handle placed in the palm of each hand.  You'll be impressed with how quickly they learn.

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