New York Etiquette Guide

Discover neuro-etiquette: fork and knife in action

Posted on Mon, Jan 18, 2010










by Lyudmila Bloch, Etiquette Expert New York City 

From the frontiers of neuroscience research, we know that our brain can change, reorganize, adapt, learn, and reprogram itself to a new “wiring” regardless of our age, previous experience, or current challenges.

A revolutionary discovery in neuroscience, called neuroplasticity, has confirmed that our brain is not a fixed, hardwired machine but rather vital and tirelessly evolving organ in our body.  Experiments and clinical trials over the past two decades, conducted by the best minds in neuroscience, have discovered that our amazing brain, with proper rewiring and targeted conditioning, can master the most difficult of tasks at any age.  Astonishing progress in overall functioning and new- skills acquisition show this master organ to be nothing short of, well, miraculous!

Leading behavioral psychologists and scientists have been collaborating, trying to understand the process of how a human brain learns and how it acquires new skills.

For instance, “When a child learns to play piano, first he is using his entire body – wrist, arm, shoulder – to play each note. As he becomes more proficient, he stops using irrelevant muscles and soon uses only the correct finger to play each note,” explains Norman Doidge, M.D., psychiatrist on the faculty at the University of Toronto's Department of Psychiatry, and Columbia University’s Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research in New York, and author of The Brain That Changes Itself.

“Neurons that fire together – wire together,” says Dr. Doidge.  “Therefore, they become ‘better team players’ and we become proficient at whatever we do.”

Teaching experience and practice show that a child, having practiced for many months, suddenly develops a ‘light touch’ and becomes a better piano player.  The scientific explanation is simple: the individual neurons, when working on a task, will ‘fire’ faster and stronger, producing an effective result in the learning process by changing their own chemistry.

Any new skill or task we try to learn, including the proper use of dining utensils – so essential to our dining etiquette -- will entail the same kind of diligence in practicing, over and over, a “balancing exercise” -- holding your fork and knife correctly.


how to hold your utensils correctly

As seen in the piano example, we need to engage the proper muscles in our body to effectively and artfully use our dining utensils. The shoulders and arms should be totally relaxed and kept close to the body, with the “action” being initiated from the wrist down and not from the elbow or shoulder.



Grasping the utensils’ handles in the palms of your hands is step # 1; placing and keeping the index fingers on the back of the fork and knife is step # 2; and gently applying sufficient pressure right from the top of the fork and knife is step # 3.  For all right-handed users, the fork must remain in the left hand and the knife is in the right hand. All left-handed users will reverse the hands.  If you follow this step-by-step exercise on a daily basis, within a short period of time you will acquire polished dining skills.

However, if your dining utensils happen to be off balance, or the fork and knife are not used in sync, or are in the wrong hands, the result will be dramatically different – your food is sure to jerk gracelessly around your plate, the dining table may shake, and you might even bear the ultimate humiliation -- your food may be launched into space! Daily practice with utensils will assure a “lighter touch” at the dining table and the most desired result of all  dining with grace!

 Brain Image: Staff Psychologist 

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Tags: dining etiquette, table utensils, etiquette expert new york city, use of fork and knife, how to hold your fork and knife