Briefly, the American method is the cutting of a piece of meat, fork in the left hand, knife in the right, then putting the knife down and swapping the fork to the right hand, whereas elsewhere the fork and knife remain in the left and right hands respectively. I jokingly wrote to her that I was going to research the reason for this on the internet, Google being the font of all knowledge, of course!
Well, with a simple search of "eating utensils", I found the following at
A history of eating utensils in the West: a brief timeline. Basically it boils down to the lack of forks in early America. You can read more about it at the link given, but here are the most relevant entries.
- Early 17th century
- As forks become more common implements at the table and are used for holding food steady while cutting and for conveying the food to the mouth, it is less necessary for knives to be made with pointed tips. They begin to be made blunt at the end.
- Governor Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony possesses what is said to be the first and only fork in colonial America. The fad for using a fork has not yet reached the Americas, but Americans continue to import their knives from Europe. The blunted knives imported from Europe are not so easy to eat with as pointed ones were, and many people begin to use a spoon to steady food while cutting it. They then switch the spoon to the right hand to scoop up the bite of food -- the beginnings of what is known today as the zig-zag method.
So how DO you wield your knife and fork? I asked Pea, my only Canadian reader (that I'm aware of), and it would seem from her answer that Canadians also use the zig-zag method, indicating that this is a North American thing. I'd be interested to hear from people who know of different methods used in other countries.