Sunday, June 05, 2005

When in Rome

I’ve written about my training in upper class German table manners. But one item of table manners I’ve refrained from writing about was my pasta eating manners, or perhaps lack thereof.

In my naivete I had always assumed that my Italian father’s instruction, that spaghetti should be eaten with a fork and spoon – holding the spoon as a wall against which to roll the pasta – was the correct way. My father couldn’t be wrong about something as basic as that. Or could he?

Well, my faith in my father (or at least in my father’s class identity…) was severely shaken when my gourmet, italiophile friend, Peter, invited me to dinner. Over a wonderful pasta that he had prepared, I somehow mentioned that I assumed the correct way to eat it was with a fork and spoon. Definitely not, Peter told me. In fact, he told me, eating pasta with a fork and spoon was something no self respecting Italian would ever do. I should never let anyone know that I’d ever thought otherwise…

Well, fast forward to this evening. I’m in Rome with Peter’s list of restaurant recommendations, and off I go to his favorite Roman dining spot. Following his recommendation, I order Cacio Peppe – pasta with Cacio cheese and black pepper. The waiter brings me my plate of pasta, and with a fork and spoon, stirs in the cheese. He then places the fork and spoon next to my plate, wishes me bon appetito, and leaves. It takes me a few minutes to realize what has happened. I call him back. Am I supposed to eat the pasta with the spoon, I ask. Yes, he says. Wow.

Hey Peter, apparently eating pasta with a fork is not all that gauche, at least not at certain Roman environs…

By the way, the restaurant was great.


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