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Anupriya Bedi Feb 05 2014

How do you tackle difficult foods gracefully?

Debangana Sen Feb 06 2014
3 people found this answer useful Useful ?Yes

For many of us, going to a place is not limited to just sightseeing and shopping. Food plays a significant role as well. I love going to new places and trying out their cuisines. Food tells you a lot about the culture and tradition of the place and most often than not, dishes have their own fascinating history behind their origins.

Photo of a silver table setting (by Andreas Praefcke)

Often when visiting a good eating establishment, I'm quite tempted by the various dishes on the menu, and on some days I feel brave enough (read get bouts of stupidity) to order something like Grilled Lobster with herb butter or Tortillas. For about a couple of seconds I admire the dish and then there is a huge problem. How do you eat this without looking like an uncultured pig? If you've ever suffered from such a predicament, where you have been reduced to ordering 'easy and safe' foods, this article is just for you!

I have listed some foods that are a tad dicey to tackle when it comes to eating them without making a mess (or atleast without too much of it anyway) and how to conquer these amazing but tricky delights. So here it goes:


Handling a whole lobster can be an intimidating experience. One of the most loved dishes that only a handful know how to eat properly, it is probably the most exasperating of all foods for those who are not experts. You sure have to work hard for every bit of the good stuff. Lobsters are usually served with the shell already cracked at certain places for convenience. If not, you will be served with a nutcracker and a lobster pick. The easiest way to go about it is to dismantle the lobster and go at it piece by piece.

Photo of Whole Lobster served with Herb Butter (by Dana Moos

Do not hesitate to use your hands - just don’t go all caveman on it, a simple twist and tug will do and use the nutcracker to deal with the difficult parts and also to break open the shell. Use the pick to take out the meat. It is absolutely fine to pick up a piece with your hand and dig away with your pick or pick a pinch of meat with your fingers. Just try and not be too messy about it and please refrain from licking your fingers! Here are a few more pointers that would help:

  • 1. If there is a choice between a hard shell and a shedder (soft shelled) Lobster, you can go for the shedder, as the shell is more pliable but remember it is smaller and has less meat on it compared to the hard shelled ones.
  • 2. If you are especially fond of the tail meat, go for a female.
  • 3. Choose the lobsters that appear active and look more alive and have brighter colour.
  • 4. Go ahead and wear a bib, it’s a great way to prevent the juice and butter from dripping on your clothes.
  • 5. Lobsters are messy food. You will get your hands dirty. Use your napkin and don’t think about it too much.

Crabs are handled in a similar fashion. I hope the next time you visit Goa or Kerala, you wouldn’t hesitate to order a big ‘whole’ lobster, prawns or crabs. Check out this link to see which are the best places to try seafood in Goa.


Also known as the arch enemy of the white shirt. Some people just cannot handle this one without getting it all over themselves. Now everyone knows the proper way to eat noodles or spaghetti is to to do the twirling act with a fork. The trick is to take a few strands as few as two or three. Trust me, after you twirl the strands, you get a pretty decent bite size. Any more than that, you'll have a big spaghetti ball, and you'll have to open your mouth as wide as if you're at the dentist.

Photo of Spaghetti Pomodoro and Basilico (by Dr.Conati)

So just twirl a few strands around your fork with the plate as a support. Take it all in one bite. Use a napkin frequently to blot any remaining sauce at the corners of your mouth. Cutting your spaghetti into small pieces is also considered very rude when it comes to table manners...unless you are less than 6 years old. Slurping is also a big NO if you are at a high end place and/or have a formal dining companion or a date. Now if you have chopsticks, you're on your own, mate. Can't help you there.

Whole Fish

This one’s tricky. Usually Trouts, Snappers and Bass are served whole. Having a fish with its cold dead eyes staring right back at you is not very appetising to begin with. The trick is to dismantle it as quickly as possible so make it look less like a corpse on your dinner plate. Cut off the head just behind the gills or fillet your fish by holding it in place with a fork and slicing it from head to tail and opening up the body. To remove the bones, push your knife under the backbone and lift up and place it on a separate dish. In case you get a spine in your mouth, discreetly pull it out with your fingers and place it on the bone dish. Wipe your fingers before handling the cutlery again. Cardiff and France are some of the best places to enjoy a good ‘fishy’ dish.

Photo of a grilled whole fish (by Etan Tal)

Keep in mind that De-boning a fish usually takes some patience. If you are lacking in that department, smuggle a bowie knife in your purse or socks or strapped to your leg (or wherever), you’ll be done with the filleting in a jiffy! Your date or guest will either develop new found respect for your impressive knife wielding skills, or leave the table in disgust, which might be for the best anyway - who wants a priss for company, right?


So you’re in Paris and are dying to sample the ‘escargots’. You are mentally congratulating yourself and patting you back on your bravery and suaveness, when the waiter places the dish in front of you. Exotic isn’t exactly the word you’d use to describe it. In fact they bear an uncanny resemblance to the snails crawling around your garden. So what do you do?
a. You stare speechlessly in shock
b. You pretend to enjoy it and make appropriate sounds while discreetly dropping the buggers under the table
c. Cry hysterically
d. Suck it up and go for a taste.

Photo of French cooked snails (by J. Patrick Fischer)

If you chose d then read on. The tiny cocktail fork will be your best friend. Use it to get the buggers out of their shell. That’s the only way. No, you shouldn’t bite at the shell or hammer away with the knife.


Just a slab of sticky rice with a few toppings should be a piece of cake right? Wrong. If you are a surprised at this entry then you have no idea how deceptively tricky sushi can be. Getting used to the taste of raw fish is one thing. But vegetarian sushis are no less easier (I’m not talking about the wrapped up Makis). It is a delicate balancing act where you pick up the rice on your chopsticks and add the toppings (not too much), dip it in the soy sauce without dismantling the rice.

Photo of a Sushi platter (by Nesnad)

Believe it or not it requires real talent to create a perfect bite and successfully taking it all the way to your mouth. The way I do it? To hell with the chopsticks, simply pick it up with minimal toppings, dunk it a bit in the sauce and pop it in my mouth topping side down. The rest of the toppings I eat separately. Easy peasy!


Melting stringy cheese, falling toppings, cheese and sauce sticking to your fingers and lips - well there is no gracefully eating a pizza. That is unless you think eating a pizza with a fork and knife is the ‘proper’ way to go. I say Humbug!

Pizza is one of the most wonderful finger foods, use your hands. Just pick up a piece and smoosh it into your mouth as daintily as possible. Now, it’s a different matter if you are in a posh restaurant and have been served pizza with a fork and a knife. But then why would you go for a pizza of all things in high end restaurants is beyond me.

Photo of a gorgonzola, spinach and bacon pizza (by cyclonebill )


So you probably handled last night’s dinner like a pro and it’s time for breakfast. Croissants and other flaky pastries give a cheerful start to any breakfast, but I usually avoid them when I have company. When it comes to messiness, Croissants give competition to a very few other pastries. If you have ordered them, there’s nothing more to be done. Just go for it. But here’s a tip. Eat before you shower.

Photo of Croissants (by Everjean)

Big Boy Burgers

Ah! Burgers are one of the most inelegant food ever. You cannot open your mouth wide enough to get a proper bite (with all the layers), and nibbling it might undermine the structural integrity of your burger. Here’s the good news, you are excused from the “proper table etiquettes “ when you order man sized burgers. There is no right way of eating it, so I say, open wide and just sink your teeth in! Let the serving plate and the napkin on your lap catch the rest. However, if you are horrified by that proposition, the relatively daintier approach will be to nibble and take small bites...it will be similarly awkward and you’ll know deep inside that you are not getting the perfect bite. Bottom line: You won't look very appealing, either way.

Photo of a triple decker burger (by Scott Robinson)

So this was my list of some of the most difficult foods out there. Do you have some more to add to the list? Please share your comments, tips, or any funny/ embarrassing situation that you had while eating these foods. Till then stay tuned for more.

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