In our travels in Europe we have often been presented with food items that we had no idea how to eat, or how to eat politely. I've been musing about starting a thread on the topic, and today I saw a related question embedded in a long response on another thread: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/10-eating-and-drinking-rules-italians-live-by; MariaF was talking about a photo of fava beans and commented:
I would enjoy a discussion on how to eat them.
So here we are!
Here in the States it is often considered normal to use our hands for many items that in other countries are eaten with knife and fork. Sandwiches, pizza, fried chicken come to mind. I was startled (and impressed) when as a college student I saw some students from China who were eating their hamburgers with chopsticks. Messy, but they got the job done.
I remember being so pleased when on a food tour in Rome the guide explained how to eat fried artichokes: pick off the crispy leaves by hand and eat them, then use your knife and fork on the plump, tender stem and heart.
At a restaurant in Venice, my husband ordered prawns (or a related shrimp-like dish.) The presentation was a couple of giant critters, in full shell, in a pool of aromatic sauce. How to eat? We knew it's okay, or even expected, to use your bread to sop up the sauce, but how to tackle the prawns themselves?
In France a couple of years ago, we had a mixed seafood platter that included tiny tiny shrimp, fried in their shells. I finally figured out the only way to eat them efficiently was to eat them whole, including the shells and heads, with knife and fork. And just recently I ran across an Italian recipe for tiny shrimp prepared the same way, and the instructions said they were to be eaten whole, so I felt vindicated.
As a student in Poland many years ago, I splurged on a restaurant meal, and ordered fish. (A real treat; I was pretty much living on bread, cheese, and tea at the time.) The presentation was lovely - one beautiful whole fish on the plate. The waiter bowed slightly, took all the cutlery off the table, replacing them with two forks. And walked away. Ummmm..... Luckily, fish was the featured offering that day, so I was able to watch folks at the other tables to figure out what to do. Use the forks to gently separate the filets from the backbone, set the bones aside, then eat the fish with a fork. I eventually got proficient at it, but that first time was laughable.
So, what are your stories, suggestions, and questions? What is considered finger food in different countries? What behavior that we consider normal is questionable or even appalling abroad?