How to eat spaghetti without making a mess

Spoons are for children. All professionals agree. You should never eat your spaghetti with a spoon. The correct way to eat pasta is just with a fork.

However, about thirty years ago it was accepted, at least in the United States, that proper spaghetti etiquette was to swirl the pasta around the fork with the spoon. The spaghetti was eaten with a fork, not a spoon.

Today there is a certain degree of snobbery about this method. Nowadays, those who know prefer to use only a fork and make fun of those who also use a spoon.

The reason for the change in spaghetti eating etiquette is that the wide bowls now in common use were once a rarity in both restaurants and homes outside of Italy. Pasta was frequently served on a flat plate, making the spoon essential for spaghetti.

With a bowl there is no need for a spoon. You can roll the pasta against the edge of the bowl.

The idea is to use the edge of the bowl to allow you to spin the spaghetti around your fork. That’s fine if the pasta is served in a bowl instead of on a plate.

Still takes some practice. The key is not to put too much spaghetti on the fork at one time. Just a few strands are enough.

Twist the fork until the entire length of the spaghetti is picked up, then bring it to your mouth. If you notice that there is too much spaghetti on the fork or that the ends hang down, put the fork down and start again.

You’ll only get in a mess with the spaghetti if you leave those ends dangling. If you try to suck on them like the dogs in Lady and the Tramp, you’ll get sauce on yourself. Oriental noodles are made to slurp and are served in a bowl that you can pick up for that reason, spaghetti is not.

In Italy, spaghetti used to be sold in meters of length. It was kept in a drawer and the shopkeeper would split it in two so that he could take it home more easily. Today in Italy, spaghetti is sold in shorter lengths as it is all over the world, so there is no need to break it before cooking.

If the spaghetti is cooked properly, it should wrap easily on the fork. If it’s overcooked, it’s more likely to slide off the fork or refuse to stay wrapped around it. This is why spaghetti is often difficult to eat when served outside of Italy.

So spaghetti should be eaten with a fork. However, a spoon can be provided even in Italy. This is not like the fork offered in oriental restaurants as a concession to foreign ineptitude. The spoon is to allow you to toss the spaghetti into your sauce and scoop up every last drop of that sauce.

Opinions differ on whether it is correct to use bread to mop up the sauce. Some authorities consider that serving bread is a characteristic of impoverished households, others accept that it is normal today in restaurants. When the bread is a good quality ciabatta or focaccia, it would be a shame to pass up the opportunity to enjoy it with the sauce in the name of an old-fashioned label.

Even the pickiest spaghetti cook would be offended if you couldn’t enjoy the food they prepared with such care. A foreigner would surely be forgiven for using a spoon to help you turn pasta around your fork or a piece of bread to finish off the sauce if you express proper appreciation of both the spaghetti and the sauce.

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