The fork functions as a spear, as a shovel, and as a pick. The good workman learns to handle his tools in an efficient way. When the fork functions as a spear to hold food on the plate, there is only one way to hold it which is at once graceful and altogether efficient. That is by resting the top end of the fork in the palm of the hand, with the rounded part of the tines up and the tip of the forefinger resting on the waist of the fork and the base of the tines to steady it. When the fork is used as a pick, it should be held in either hand in this same way. The food is lifted on the tips of the tines, the hand always uppermost, and carried to the mouth. When the fork is used as a shovel, it is held with the rounded surface of the tines down to put the bowl uppermost. The fork rests on the top of the curve in the hand formed by the thumb and forefinger and is grasped between the thumb on the body side and the forefinger away from the body. Food is scooped up by this shovel and transferred by rotary motion of the wrist to the mouth.
The knife was first used to cut food and to transfer it to the mouth. When the fork was introduced, the knife lost caste as an implement for transporting food. Its only acceptable use at present is to cut and spread. The knife is held in the right hand in the same way as the fork in the left one.
When the plate is passed back to the carver for a second serving, the knife and fork should be placed together and sent along with the plate. This is because no other place is so safe for them. At the close of a meal the knife and fork should be placed close together on the plate, the knife at the right, the fork at the left, and the handles facing the same direction in which they were originally placed on the table.
The spoon is useful for mixing liquids and for transferring soft foods from the plate to the mouth. The spoon should never be left in a cup or high glass dish after its use as a stirrer or feeding implement has ceased, since it gives a loose handle which endangers the safety of the dish. With beverages, the function of the spoon is as a stirrer and taster, and not as a vehicle. This is because it is easier to sip a beverage quietly from the cup than from the spoon.
Soup should be sipped from the side of the spoon. When, however, a soup is full of solid substances, and if the spoon is a soupspoon and not a tablespoon, it may be necessary to eat the solid part of the soup from the tip of the spoon instead of sipping it from the side.
With many desserts it is desirable to give both a spoon and a fork. For example, if pie is served with cream, both are needed. If baked apple or prunes are served, the fork helps to steady the food on the plate while the soft flesh is being removed from the core or seeds. This avoids the removal of prune seeds from the mouth.
Before drinking, the lips should be wiped with a napkin. Otherwise the number of sips may register themselves on the side of the glass.