Specific food type etiquette guide:

Appetizers, Hors d’oeuvres, Canapes:

Food that is served at a cocktail party or during a pre-meal cocktail hour is intended to be eaten with the fingers. This includes olives, pickles, nuts, canapes, deviled eggs, and chips.


It is both proper and polite to pluck the leaves with your fingers, leaving fork and knife aside for now.

Pull off a leaf, holding it by the pointed end. Put the other end in your mouth and pull it between your teeth, scraping the length of the leaf (the edible portion of the leaves becomes greater as you get closer to the center of the artichoke).

Just before you get to the very center, leaves will become almost white with purple tips. Be careful of these leaves because their purple ends are prickly. When the leaves are pulled, you will be left with the base, the heart, crowned with a fuzzy patch. You have now reached the best part of all, the very reason for eating artichokes: the heart. Carefully scoop away the fuzzy stuff with your knife or spoon (though a properly prepared artichoke will already have the choke removed). With knife and fork, cut bites from the heart like pieces of prime fillet.

If you’re provided with a dip such as a vinaigrette or mayonnaise, put a small part of the edible portion of the leaf in the dip and scrape with your teeth as directed above. Don’t overdo it on the dip or you won’t taste the artichoke.


Most etiquette books say that you can eat whole asparagus spears, without a sauce, by picking up with your hand. However, if you do this at a restaurant or dinner party, you will draw strange glances. Be safe and use your knife and fork to cut and eat them. Only pick asparagus up with your hands if the hostess does.


If the avocado is served in its shell, it is eaten with a spoon.

If it is sliced on a plate or in a salad, eat it with a fork.

 Generally, eat berries with a spoon, whether they have cream on them or not.


To preserve the full flavor of caviar, scoop it out using mother-of-pearl utensils, and NEVER  use a metallic spoon metal oxidizes the eggs), which will create an unwanted (and pretty horrid) metal bite. If necessary use a wood or plastic spoon.

Don’t mush caviar up while you’re serving yourself or other, lift the spoon carefully. Caviar should be scooped from the container vertically from top to bottom to avoid crushing the egg.

If caviar is passed to you in a bowl or crock with its own spoon, serve a teaspoonful onto your plate. As the following accompaniments are offered, use the individual serving spoon in each to take small amount of minced onion and sieved egg whites and yolks, as well as a few lemon slices and a couple of toast points. Assemble a canapé to your taste with a knife, then use your fingers to lift it to your mouth.

If you’re at a cocktail party or reception, where prepared caviar canapés are being passed on trays, simply lift one off the plate and pop it into your mouth.

When served caviar as an hors d’oeuvre, no matter how much you might be tempted by its luscious flavor. It’s considered bad taste to eat more than an ample serving of about two ounces, or about two spoonfuls.


Informal Meal: When sliced cheese is served as an accompaniment to a dish, such as apple pie, it is eaten with a fork.

Appetizer: If cheese is served as an appetizer, such as cubes on toothpicks, it is eaten with fingers. If served a wedges of cheese, such as on a cheese plate, a slice of cheese is cut from a wedge, placed on a cracker, and brought to the mouth with the fingers.


It once was acceptable to pick up food on a bone, such as chicken, if it could be held with two fingers. I don’t recommend that you do this in a public setting.

When dining at the restaurant or in a public place, chicken should always be eaten with a fork and knife.

If you are at an informal barbecue, in the fast food restaurant where you bought the chicken, and/or at your own home, it is perfectly acceptable to eat chicken with your fingers.
Clams and oysters in the half shell:  Hold the shell with the left hand and lift the clam out using your oyster fork.
Corn on the Cob:  Corn on the Cob is usually not served in a formal setting, but if it is, it is perfectly acceptable to pick it up and eat it.

Crab, shrimp and lobster cocktails:
  These are always eaten with a cocktail fork.

Crab/lobster claws:
  Crack them with a nutcracker and the meat taken out with an miniature or oyster fork.

French Fries:

In a fine dining restaurant, use your knife and forks.

When dining at a dinner party and the setting is very formal, you should use a fork. The best tactic is to watch what your host or hostess does, then do the same.

In the vast majority of eating situations in the United States, French fries are eaten with the hands. It doesn’t matter which hand. If served with a hamburger in a casual atmosphere, use your fingers and pick up a whole French Fry. Exception: If they are covered with something (like cheese, gravy, chili, etc.), they are considered utensil foods (use your fork).


Generally, olives are considered a finger food. It is perfectly acceptable to pick up and eat an olive with your fingers. Remove pit with your fingers. If you prefer not to use the finger method, use a small fork to stab olive and remove olive from your mouth.

Depending on your dining situation, you can either choose to eat olives or leave them on the plate. If you are on a job interview, don’t eat them. Also, in a highly formal dinner, don’t eat them unless you host or hostess does. The best tactic is to watch what your host or hostess does, then do the same.

Emily Post indicates that, where olives are part of a salad, they are treated like the rest of the salad and taken in by fork and the pit deposited on the fork to return.

Pasta or Spaghetti:

The perfect method for eating spaghetti or other long stringy pasta is to twirl it around your fork. Use a spoon to help if needed.

It is also acceptable to cut pasta with a knife and fork. You can get some leverage by turning the pasta while holding the tines of your fork against the edge of your plate. It’s even correct to neatly cut the pasta if twirling is too hard.

What is undeniably bad manners is slurping in a mouthful of trailing pasta without benefit of twirl or knife. It’s often loud, and it’s never pretty.

If possible, serve warm pasta in warm, shallow bowls instead of on dinner plates. The sides of the bowl aids in turning pasta noodles on the fork.

 Use a knife and fork to eat fresh pineapple slices.


Baked potatoes are most often served already slit. If not, cut across the top with a knife, open the potato wider with your fork, and add butter or sour cream and chives, salt, and pepper.

You may eat the skin as you go along. Don’t take the insides out and put the skin aside (or take the foil off). Eat it by scooping out the insides bite by bite.


Using a fork or a spoon, push the grains of cooked rice out slightly toward the edge of the bowl, eating only from the pulled out ring of rice.

Continue spreading from the center and eating around the edges in a circle. This will keep the risotto hot as you enjoy your risotto.


If you are served large pieces or a whole wedge of lettuce, cut one bite at a time, using the knife provided.

If the salad is served before or after the main course, use the smaller fork. If the salad is considered the main course, use the entrée fork (large fork).


Small Sandwiches: Such as tea sandwiches or canapés, may be picked up and eaten with your fingers.

Large Sandwiches: If not cut in halve, should be cut with your knife before lifting and eating.

Hot Sandwiches: Any hot sandwich  or open-face sandwich that is served with a gravy requires a knife and fork.

Wraps:  Such as burritos and other sandwiches in which the filling is wrapped in thin flat bread (usually tortillas or pita bread) are eaten with the hands. Any sandwich filling that falls from the sandwich to the plate is eaten with a fork.


Appetizers: Shish kebab are eaten directly from the skewer only if they are served as an appetizer.

Dinner Entree:  Hold the tip of the shish-kabob in one hand and use the dinner fork to remove the pieces with the other. When all the food has been removed from the stick, place the emptied skewer on the edge of your plate. Always eat the meat with your utensils


Shrimp Cocktail: If large shrimp are served in a stemmed glass, pick them up with an oyster fork or whatever fork is provided and bite off a mouthful at a time, dipping into the sauce before each bite.

Large Shrimp: If large shrimp are served on a platter with sauce and no fork, pick up with your fingers, dip into sauce and put to your mouth. When eating shrimp with the tail still on, hold the shrimp by the tail and dip it into the sauce once. Eat it in one bite if it is not too large. Otherwise, eat it in two bites. Do not dunk the second bite into the sauce! Then discard the tail as you would olive pits or toothpicks.

Deep-Fried Shrimp:  Tail-on deep-fried shrimp is meant to be eaten with the fingers.

Skewered Shrimp: If eating shrimp on a skewer, slide the shrimp off onto a plate (even if it is a paper plate at a cook out). Skewered shrimp should never be eaten like a corn dog.

Oriental Dishes:  When eating shrimp with the tail  that are part of some orientail dishes or fried foods, remove the tail with a fork and set to the side of your plate or on a separate “discard dish” if one is provided.

Dip the spoon into the soup, moving it away from the body, until it is about two-thirds full, then sip the liquid (without slurping) from the side of the spoon (without inserting the whole bowl of the spoon into the mouth).

It is perfectly fine to tilt the bowl slightly (again away from the body) to get the last spoonful or two of soup.

To eat bread while eating your soup, don’t hold the bread in one hand and your soup spoon in the other. When ready to eat a bite of your bread, place the spoon on the under plate, then use the same hand to take the bread to your mouth.

At most sushi bars, the waitress will offer a hot towel to wash your hands so you can pick up sushi with clean fingers. At home use hot washcloths.

With your Sushi order, you will be served some pickled ginger, a small mound of wasabi, and soy sauce. Eat a slice of pickled ginger after each variety of sushi to cleanse your palate. It is not proper to mix the wasabi with the soy sauce.

Don’t rub your chopsticks together to remove any splinters. It is considered rude!

Sushi is meant to be finger food, quick and tasty. It is preferable to eat sushi with ones hands rather than with chopsticks, but both ways are acceptable in America.

Eat the whole sushi roll at once. It is not appropriate to eat part of a piece of sushi and place the other piece back on a plate. Once you have picked something up you should eat all of it. Exception: If the sushi is just too big to eat at once, bite the sushi in half and place the remainder back on the plate.

Do not dip the rice portion of the sushi pieces into the Soy sauce as it becomes too moist and can cause sushi to fall apart. Simply dip the topping or the seaweed (Nori) in the soy sauce before eating.

If a piece of fish is on top of your sushi, put the whole portion in your mouth, holding the sushi so the fish part touches your tongue (turn sushi upside down).

Source: United States Etiquette Guide

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