THE ETIQUETTE OF EATING PEAS (COMMENT). In his comment, “Milton” asked: “What was the origin of eating peas with a knife?” I did some looking on Google without getting a definitive answer. It must go back some years because it was apparently well established when Virginia Woolf made her comments about servants eating peas on the point of a knife in 1931. This post says:”While I know you should never eat peas with a knife I have known a few people who do. All were fairly well educated men all born in the 1890s….”

This last post suggests that etiquette rules for eating peas have varied. My guess on the origin of using a knife for peas is that eating peas is tricky. The “cavone” that we saw in Venice was balancing a line of peas on his knife as he brought it to his mouth—a pretty tricky way of eating peas, it seems to me. The etiquette scholar blog proposes two techniques: here: “To capture runaway peas, use your knife as a pusher to pile them onto your fork (held tines-up by necessity). Alternatively, use the tines of the fork to spear a few peas at a time.”

Perhaps because there are a lot of different techniques for eating peas, it has been a good place to establish class-based rules of behavior.

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  1. Nick says:

    As is so often the case, the Simpsons have indirectly weighed in on this issue, as Homer clumsily and fortuitously ingratiates himself to an older Naval officer. The dialogue goes roughly as follows:

    OFFICER: What do you want out of life, Homer?
    HOMER: [reaching for peas] I want peas.
    OFFICER: Ah, we all want peace, but it’s always just out of reach.
    HOMER: Aw.
    OFFICER: So how do you get peace?
    HOMER: [with peas on his knife] With a knife!
    OFFICER: That’s right, Simpsons, not with the olive branch but the bayonet!

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