The Fork to Use
The major criteria for good table manners is essentially how you sit, how you talk, and how you eat at the table. Knowing which fork to use is not crucial to proper dining etiquette, but it has made its way into the mainstream as a benchmark for how to conduct yourself at a fine dining experience. The film Pretty Woman is likely most responsible for this phenomenon. So while it is not the most important thing for you to know, it may make your feel more comfortable and more relaxed at the dinner table if you know which fork to use at the right time and with the right dish.
It is common knowledge to start with the outermost fork at your place setting, and work your way in with each serving. If it turns out that you have a large-sized fork for your salad, then it is an error on your hosts part, and no one will look down on your for the mistake. Even if you feel that someone is watching you, there is no cause for alarm, because no one is paying attention to such a small detail, and further no one would make a judgement about something so trivial. If they are the problem is theirs, not yours.
A great tip to follow is to watch your host, or someone else at the table that seems to know what they are doing, and follow their lead. By doing this enough times, you will develop your instincts for what’s acceptable at the table, and soon enough you’ll have people watching your for cues as to what to do. Remember that everyone at one time or another, had no idea of what to do, and only got better with practice.
There are some differences in eating styles between the US and Europe. You’ll want to be aware of these when you are using your utensils. To eat your meal European style you should hold your fork in your left hand with the tines down. Cut your meat with your knife that will be in your right hand. The take the fork, tines down, in your left hand to your mouth. You’ll find this is quite a shift from the American style of cutting a bite of meat, putting the knife on the side of your place, and then picking your fork back up with your right hand to bring the food to your mouth. You can use either style, as both are correct.
If you are left-handed you are allowed the social grace of inventing your own adaptation of how to cut the meat, and how to place it in your mouth. You can use whichever method works best for you as long as you follow the basic tenets presented above.