Welcome to The Nitpicker. Jason Kessler loves to complain almost as much as he loves to eat. Join him on his journey through the imperfect universe of food.
Inexperienced diners can have a lot of questions when they see multiple forks at the beginning of a meal. "Which fork is for salad?" "What's this tiny fork above the plate for?" "Is any of these forks a souvenir for me to take home and hang on my wall?" The answers to these questions are: 1) the outermost 2) dessert, and 3) absolutely not unless you're eating at a commemorative fork convention. In my opinion, the one question that no diner should ever have to ask is, "Will I have to use the same fork for every course of this meal?"
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When I'm out to eat, it drives me absolutely nuts when somebody goes to clear my plate but first takes my dirty fork off the plate and sets it back down onto the table. Why not just get me a new fork? You're clearly going to bring me a new plate with the next course, so do me a favor and pair that plate with this season's most fashionable accessory: a clean fork. I actually find it rather insulting. In essence, the removal of the soiled fork from the plate is a message that says "You silly customer! You're supposed to keep your fork! You shouldn't put it on the plate for me to clear. Tsk tsk tsk, little one." It's implied admonishment and I don't like it--especially when I'm on the proper side of the service equation.
I ate at SUSHISAMBA in Las Vegas last week and was blown away by some of the incredible food I got to try. Seriously, if you get a chance to check out their sashimi tiraditos, hop to it. I wasn't, however, blown away by the fact that I had to use the same fork for the entire meal (and yes, I'm the type of person that needs a fork--not chopsticks--to eat sashimi. Especially when there are tiny peppercorns involved). I understand if you think I'm being fussy, but there were a couple of issues at play here. First, I was moving from raw fish to cooked meats in some of these courses. Just as I wouldn't want them served on the same plate, I don't want to eat them with the same utensil. Next, this restaurant didn't use tablecloths (not that I expect them to). When my used fork is placed back on the table, it's coming into contact with a tabletop that serves as a home to countless germs. When I used to work in restaurants, we cleaned the tables with the same rags all night long. By the end of the night, they were filled with debris from a busy night of service--not exactly comforting when you're on the other side of the table, is it? These problems would all be averted if they would just bring me a new fork between courses.
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Clearly there's an environmental impact question here as well. I am neither equipped nor interested enough to address it. If the issue concerns you, then by all means, go ahead and keep your dirty fork.
Now obviously, I don't expect every restaurant to provide me with a new fork in between courses. Just the ones that (at least) pretend to care about service--or charge the kinds of prices that indicate they should. It's a matter of taste, cleanliness, and just plain courtesy. The next time I go to a nice restaurant and the server tries to set my silverware back on the table in between courses, I'm going to ask a new question: "Are you forking kidding me?"
Based in Los Angeles, Jason Kessler has written for television shows such as NBC's The Office, True Jackson, VP on Nickelodeon, and The MTV Movie Awards. Photo by Matt Armendariz.
Follow him on Twitter @BANitpicker
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Photo Credit: Chiot's Run / CC BY 2.0