By Jay Remer, the Etiquette Guy
As the party season fast approaches – at least in the Western world – finger food is an area of much conundrum when it comes to etiquette.
Is it acceptable to eat with our hands? (Why, yes, sometimes it is). Is it necessary to use a fresh serviette each time you take a canapé off a tray?
Like with the basics of dinner party conversation, a smart combination of common sense and fun will come to the rescue in most cases.
However, let’s address a few cocktail party fundamentals — particularly in relation to “finger foods”.
To ease one’s qualms, it may be appropriate to start with the artichoke: a hot food that is often served – not just at cocktail parties – which often lends itself to being eaten with one’s fingers. Eating artichokes with a fork and knife would be a touch tricky and only look a bit, er, silly.
Artichokes, whose use as a food originated most likely in Northern Africa, is a cousin of the thistle, a relation easy to surmise once you discover the ‘choke’. This vegetable must be eaten by hand. This is one food that requires either one-on-one training or a detailed how-to video to be able to eat it successfully.
The leaves are peeled gently from the main bulb, gently but firmly, and then the flesh is scraped off with one’s teeth. I maintain that it is well worth the trouble though. It has a wonderful sweet earthy flavour which is great with Hollandaise sauce or melted lemon butter when served hot. It also is delicious with mayonnaise laced with curry or garlic or a fragrant vinaigrette when served cold.
The heart, which is identical in taste to the leaves, is the real meat of the flower bud and the ultimate reward after the attenuated time required to reach it. Some less-than-patient diners dive right in to the heart bypassing the delectable petals altogether. This is akin to only eating the tail of a lobster. Each to his or her own. No matter what your decision, artichokes are versatile and a great addition to many meals as either a main vegetable or served as a starter.
Next week, we’ll unravel how to eat asparagus in an elegant manner. Both artichokes and asparagus will be new foods to some gentlepeople, but (if you haven’t been delighted by their flavour already) I think you will be surprised at how delectable they are, not to speak of how healthy - and all will taste so divine when eaten in the fashion above.
Jay Remer is the Etiquette Guy, and is certified by the Protocol School of Washington as a consultant for corporate etiquette and international protocol.