Whether tis nobler to dredge or to shovel, that is the question… I am so fascinated by the fact they we, as Americans, use our eating utensils differently than almost everyone else in the world. As it was once very eloquently and matter-of-factly described to me by Riccardo, our very stylish Italian foodie friend, “You see, Americans shovel with their forks and Europeans use the dredging technique”.

Gasp. Even though the word dredge isn’t very pretty, it still sounded so much more attractive than SHOVELING. I couldn’t help but think about the hyperbole here…that Americans literally SHOVEL food into their mouths. It actually made me laugh out loud hysterically because I assumed he was making a joke when in actual fact, this is true-to-life lingo in the food/restaurant industry.  I was mortified.

Ok, so we shovel. So what. It’s taken me a lot of time to get my head around this dredging business. I remember the first time I really noticed that Richard used his utensils differently than me. And it genuinely bothered me. For some reason, in all of my previous travels abroad I hadn’t noticed how everyone was eating, but with Richard I took note and it irked me. One of those irky irks that you can’t let go. It was ridiculous of me, but I couldn’t even hold back from mentioning it one night when we were eating at Ristorante Max in Positano, one of the most charming and romantic places in the world. At the time, eating with your fork and knife, i.e. pushing food onto the back of your fork just seemed despicable to me. If you did that at our house growing up, you’d have been dismissed from the table. Alright, we weren’t worldy. If we were we’d probably be eating “Continental Style”, but we weren’t and we ate mainly with our fork only and with one hand in our lap, “American Style”. I was convinced that it must be the way everyone eats on Irish farms. Talk about ignorant. One day, after our romantic trip to Italy, I was back in the States having lunch with my gorgeous Aussie friend Vanessa, when I realized she was “dredging” as well. I asked her about it and she said everyone in Australia eats that way. Whew, it wasn’t just Irish farmers after all!  It was just me being……persnickety! (you can insert any number of expletives there, I’ve chosen to be kind to myself about it).

Now, I’d love to say that I gave it a rest after that, but it still bothered me to see Richard eating this way and for a couple of years I earnestly tried to train him off it because I really wanted Geoffrey to eat “American Style”. We’ve now struck a balance: He dredges, but onto the front of the fork. And I have begun to push food onto my fork with my knife. So now we SHREDGE and we’re even.

Do you shovel or do you dredge? I’d love to know, leave a comment below!

Mind Yourself,


P.S. As you can see, I’ve made some changes to the blog and made it into a full fledged .com site. I would like to start sharing some more of my favorite Irish tidbits with you which you will begin to find on the new pages listed on the right side. I hope you like the new look!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

9 Responses to “To Dredge or To Shovel?”

  1. I had no idea that the two different ways of eating had these peculiar and rather inelegant names. I grew up in Spain, where we apparently “dredge”. Having a Spanish mom, we had little choice in the matter. Plus, we were taught that if we wanted to know how to behave outside of the home, we needed to learn how to do it every day in the home.

    But my father is American and he shovels and switches he fork from hand to hand, which by Spanish (and most European) standards is seen as not knowing how to eat. We’ve tried throughout the years to “teach” him and get him to change, but he won’t. The fact that he’s left-handed doesn’t help his case, as he cuts and eats with his left hand too. It’s funny to see that people have such an issue with this! And something that is so insignificant at the end of the day can cause so much stress. 😉

  2. Rebecca says:

    Interesting- I’ve noticed but haven’t dwelled too much. Off to youtube. 🙂

    I do feel bad for Jack’s poor wife.

  3. I’ve been watching lots of episodes of Chopped on the Food Network and I’ve noticed all the judges push the food onto the back of their fork and take these tiny bites but it never occurred to me that it was a recognized way of eating! I had no clue there was a difference. In the States you see people eating in different ways so I thought it was all just personal preference. I know in terms of etiquette that there are ways of doing things but most of us eat less formally than that. I’m going to teach myself how to dredge now so that when I’m in Europe I don’t “embarrass myself” but I’ll always, always eat American Style. It’s who I am. Good to know there’s a difference though. 🙂

  4. Laurel says:

    Onto the BACK of the fork? That’s just crazy talk! It’s sloped the wrong way! It’s upside down! How on earth does he eat peas? I think the American way of doing it is better because you’re not waving sharp implements toward your face with your left hand. Don’t give in to this European propogranda. Eat proud. You’re American and shovel it in with pride!

  5. Tim says:

    ha ha ha, We both laughed, cuz it’s too close to home, so to speak…. I tried dredging for a week… Almost starved, AND came close to injury… Guess my hands are to Americanized… I keep forgetting to go ‘way back’, and read your earlier posts…. Always a good read…

  6. Every single time I see blogs as very good as this since I need to quit bludging and start working on mine.Thanks

  7. Melinda says:

    I’m American through and through and was actually taught to “dredge”. I even tilt my bowls away from me and eat dessert with a spoon and fork (fork being the knife). When I went to Scotland it didn’t strike me as odd to eat that way because I thought that’s how one ate. Growing up, I was the odd one out around friends because of it. 🙂

  8. Jack says:

    Agghhh!! I can’t believe you were trying to train anyone to eat “American Style” as you call it. It is the height of bad manners to eat without knife and fork in hand (fork in the left hand) in the civilised world. I had to spend so much time training my American missus how to eat so that we could go to restaurants without me being terribly embarresed.

  9. Corey T says:

    I’m a shoveler through in through. Liam, although raised in the US, flip/flops between dredging and shoveling… Maybe Gregory will end up ambidextrous.

    Americans also have a tendency to stab food with a fork at every opportunity… I think we just prefer the speed and efficiency. The good news is that we’re all using utensils… unless of course we’re at the Bunratty Medieval Banquet.

    Spelling can be an adventure as well. Notice I write American style – shoveling vs shovelling – color vs colour, but sometimes I just can’t resist writing City Centre vs City Center. Then there’s the pronunciation of “H” and “Z” — “haych” and “zed.”

    Uh-oh, I think I’m jumping ahead to different blog post 😉

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

Leave a Reply

Saveur Sites We Love
Recent Posts