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12 Things It’s OK to Eat with Your Hands

We all know the dinner table basics: Chew with your mouth closed, keep your elbows off the table, and use a fork, not your fingers—right? Not exactly. Some foods are meant to be eaten without utensils. Here's how to enjoy them and still maintain good manners.

top view of assorted sushi set on wooden plate, chopsticks, ginger and soya sauce in bowls on dark tabletopLightField Studios/Shutterstock

Sushi

Chopsticks are the go-to for most diners when enjoying this traditional Japanese food. But most sushi is actually meant to be eaten with your hands, Japanese chef Hiroko Shimbo told Bon Appetit. Nigiri (a bit of packed rice topped with sushi) and maki (the sliced-up rolls filled with rice, fish, and vegetables) should be eaten with fingers, since pinching them with chopsticks can make the rice fall out or crumble. Only sashimi, which are pieces of fish unaccompanied by rice, should be eaten with chopsticks. If you're on a date or at an important business lunch, you'll want to avoid these foods, including sushi, that can be a social minefield.

Fresh raw asparagus spears on a dark tableKarissaa/Shutterstock

Asparagus

If the long, green spears are crisp and unsauced, it's 100 percent fine to pick them up with your hands, says Kelly Williams Brown, author of Gracious: A Pracical Primer on Charm, Tact, and Unsinkable Strength. But if the stalks are droopy or dripping in sauce or butter, it's much more couth to use a fork and knife. Sounds civilized, right? Here are 46 etiquette tips from the Victorian age that should make a comeback.

various types of cheese on black kitchen table, top viewMaraZe/Shutterstock

Cheese

Small, bite-size pieces of hard cheeses like cheddar can be popped into your mouth by hand, according to the longtime etiquette experts at Debrett's. If the cheeses are being served on a shared plate with a shared knife, use that knife to cut the morsels, never your own. Cheese on crackers can also be eaten with your hands.

Injera is a sourdough flatbread made from teff flour. It is the national dish of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and DjiboutiMagicBones/Shutterstock

Ethiopian food

When sitting down to feast at an Ethiopian restaurant, you might be surprised by the total absence of cutlery. Instead of forks and spoons, Ethiopian cuisine relies on injera, a large, crepe-like flatbread served underneath heaps of meat and other entrees. Diners are encouraged to tear off a piece of injera and use it to scoop up other foods on the platter. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty in the process, say the restaurateurs behind Tadu Ethiopian Kitchen in San Francisco—it's totally acceptable!

Red apples in wooden tray on dark stone table. Top view.nadianb/Shutterstock

Whole fruit

You can crunch into whole apples, nibble on segments of an orange, and pop grapes into your mouth whole. Fruit is the ultimate finger food—until you cut it up, says Williams Brown. Changing the presentation of the fruit also changes the rules for how to eat it. "If you're eating fruit that is served raw and by itself, you eat it with your hands. Fruit salad and cooked fruit should always be eaten with utensils," she says. These unbelievable facts about food might just change how you eat.

High Angle View of Variety of Six Hamburger Buns or Dinner Rolls Arranged in Two Rows on Textured Table or Counter Surfacestockcreations/Shutterstock

Dinner rolls

If you're served a biscuit or roll with dinner—even at a fancy restaurant—it's a finger food. But there's a polite way to eat it, according to Debrett's: Rather than buttering it whole and biting into it, pull it apart into small, bite-size pieces then butter each one separately.

Traditional italian pizza with salami, cheese, tomatoes greens. Top view at dark stone table. Italian food background.nadianb/Shutterstock

Pizza

In general, it's perfectly fine to pick up a slice of pizza and eat it with your hands, etiquette expert Peggy Post, author of The Gift of Good Manners, told Good Housekeeping. "The best way to eat it is to loosely fold a slice in half to keep the edges from dripping," she says. But there are some times when it's really best to use utensils—like if it's a messy deep-dish slice, or if you're eating in it Naples, Italy, where it's traditional to eat pizza with a fork and knife.

Composition with fresh corn cobs on dark backgroundPixel-Shot/Shutterstock

Corn

A summer barbecue favorite, corn on the cob should be eaten with the hands in almost every instance. According to the Emily Post Institute, using a knife to neatly rub a pat of butter on a few rows of the corn cob is fine. But after that, put down your knife! Go slowly, take measured bites, wipe your face of stray kernels and butter drips, and fully enjoy your corn the way it's meant to be eaten. Find out which foods you've probably been eating all wrong.

Close up photo of fresh artichoke. Top view on dark background.EllyGri/Shutterstock

Artichokes

Artichoke hearts chopped into pasta or served pickled on salads should be speared with a fork. But whole, steamed, or stuffed artichokes are an entirely different matter. Eating them leaf by leaf, layer by layer, until you get to the tender heart requires your hands, according to the etiquette experts at the Emily Post Institute. Pull off leaves one by one from the outside in, dip the base of each leaf in sauce, and scrape off the edible part of the vegetable by putting it between your teeth and pulling forward. The discarded leaves should then be placed on your plate, or a separate one if the host has provided one. Then, once you've eaten all the leaves, it's time to pull out a fork and knife to cut up the heart and eat it.

Shrimps tacos with salsa, vegetables and avocado on a dark background. Mexican food.Top viewYulia 1971/Shutterstock

Tacos

Soft or crispy, tacos are generally considered a hand-held food—unless they start to come apart. "A taco should be eaten with fingers until or if it loses its structure," says Williams Brown. "Once it falls apart, it's easier to get all of that delicious food with a fork." Here are some more etiquette rules you should follow when you're at a restaurant.

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