If you fancy yourself a seasoned eater, and you take pride in the long list of restaurants and cuisines you've tried, you may be shocked to know you've been making some major food faux pas along the way—starting with the way you're eating bread, steak, sushi and even the way you drink coffee and use basic utensils. We caught up with some renowned chefs and food experts to narrow down exactly how (and why) you should reexamine your eating habits.
Without further adieu, please take inventory of the following habits:
1. Sushi is meant to be eaten with fingers, not chopsticks
It's true, and even Iron Chef Morimoto is throwing his support behind the finger-friendly sushi movement on American soil, although he says that it's still acceptable to use chopsticks if you can do so in an elegant way. Many chefs, including Morimoto, prefer the full hands-on experience because sushi is prepared and served by hand, so why not finish the life cycle by eating it that way, too? Famed Japanese cuisine chef, Wonny Lee of TikiFish, explains that the cultural expectation to use one's hands dates back centuries. "In the Edomae period, sushi was bigger and considered the original fast food, so they would use their hands as it was more convenient. In Japan and finer Japanese restaurants they give out Oshibori wet towels, so traditionally you clean your hands before each meal."
2. Don't use the wrong hand at communal meals
Don't use your left hand when eating communal finger foods in a number of African countries including Morocco, Tunisia and Ethiopia (but it's also commonplace in parts of the Middle East and even India to never use the left). That's the hand people reserve for cleaning up after they've fully, um, "digested" their meals. Take a minute to think about that. How would you feel if someone reached their toilet paper hand into your family-style platter?
3. Never order a steak well-done
Ordering a well-done steak at a proper steakhouse (or just about anywhere with high-quality cuts of beef) is basically insulting the chef, because premium beef is best appreciated when the natural flavors, fat content and proteins are left unsinged. What's the point in ordering an expensive cut if it's just going to taste like a char-grilled burger anyway? Taste aside, there's even scientific evidence suggesting a link between overdone meat and various health issues.
4. Never ask for cheese on your kosher deli sandwich
Sure, cheese is a fabulous topping for just about everything, but if the deli or home you wandered into is strictly kosher, it's never acceptable to top your turkey or corned beef with a layer of cheese. Jewish dietary laws strictly prohibit the mixing of meat and dairy, and the vast majority of kosher eateries won't even offer both from the same kitchen. Also, if you find yourself in a "kosher style" establishment that offers a Reuben sandwich (you know, the one with kosher beef, sauerkraut and swiss on rye), you're not really in a kosher restaurant.
5. Never, ever order Swiss cheese on a Philly Cheesesteak
Unless you're trying to offend the locals, in which case, go for it. It's customary in the Philadelphia area to order your cheesesteaks "wit" or "witout" which implies either a generous serving of CheezWhiz, or none at all. John Kerry made this awful food faux pas a few years ago, and we're pretty sure his political career is still recovering.
6. Ordering a cappuccino after dinner is a no-no
"Never order a cappuccino after dinner at an Italian restaurant, especially when you're in Italy," explains Bruce Lefebvre, owner of The Frog and The Peach, an elegant New Jersey restaurant with an emphasis on authentic Italian flavors. Traditionally in Italian culture, milk-heavy coffee drinks are reserved for morning pick-me-ups, while lighter, easier-to-digest espressos come after bigger meals. Ordering a cappuccino after a night out at a Tuscan steakhouse will earn you some serious side-eye from the locals.
7. Ketchup has no place on a Chicago hot dog, ever
While you may love a good line or two of ketchup atop your dog, the key to building an authentic local dog when you're in Chicago is topping it with foods that look like real food, not red drizzles. If you need a sauce, mustard is your main squeeze.
8. Eat your pizza the right way
Remember when John Kasich threw his chances at leading the free world out the window by gently cutting his pizza with proper table utensils? He's not the only politician guilty of this food faux pas, either—because even New York City's current mayor, Bill de Blasio, has been caught forking his pizza. Sigh. That's just not what pizza is about, and if you think you need utensils, you're probably looking for a dish of eggplant parm.
9. Don't go dipping your bread at a fancy French restaurant
Don't "save" that crusty piece to sop up the extra sauce around your main dish unless you want to risk looking super-gauche in a French restaurant. Sometimes you just need to let go of that bread, painful though it might be.
10. Cheddar cheese has no place on your Mexican taco
Cheddar cheese actually isn't customary on real tacos. Don't go to an upscale Mexican restaurant (or one that's actually in Mexico) and ask for your tacos, burritos, or any other dish to be topped with cheddar; look for queso fresco or another, more authentic and local white cheese. Also, this is a good time to realize that if your local Mexican eatery is serving cheddar, it's probably not that authentic.
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