What utensil do you use to eat salads and if it's a fork, how?
September 18, 2023 10:03 AM   Subscribe

So Frowner's question reminded me that I have been eating salads (leafy ones with lots of lettuce or arugula or baby greens) with chopsticks whenever possible. I have never figured out how to use a fork to effectively get a leafy green to my mouth. Or a chickpea (the kind that shows up in salad bars). What's your technique if you use a fork? Or do you use a spoon?

If I'm without chopsticks and some place casual or relatively hidden from view, I will often just use my fingers.
posted by spamandkimchi to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I eat almost everything with a spoon, but salads are definitely forks. I just... stab. And usually I accept that I will be eating a large amount of the toppings essentially on their own after I eat the greens, because yeah, they're much harder to get on the fork.
posted by obfuscation at 10:10 AM on September 18 [6 favorites]

If the greens are cut into relatively large bits, or not cut at all, I stab.
If they're cut into small pieces, I use my fork to scoop them up, while using the knife to push them onto the fork.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:15 AM on September 18 [4 favorites]

I stab greens and most other things in a salad (chunks of meat/tofu/non-leafy veggies). If there are small things that are hard to stab, like a chickpea, I might scoop with the fork and then stab some greens to get it on the fork.

I think this might be key to my process, though: I prefer to use a generous amount of dressing, stirred into the salad so that things stick together. And when I get to the bottom of the bowl I will use my last few pieces of stabbable food to wipe the sides of the bowl and get any lingering non-stabbable goodies (nuts, cheese shreds, etc.). On the rare occasion when I have a non-dressed salad there's more slicing and stabbing and scooping onto the fork.
posted by mskyle at 10:15 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]

It's a stabbing-and-scooping type of maneuver. I do actually prefer my salads chopped up to a scoopable consistency, and sometimes I do get 2/3 of the way through a salad and switch to a spoon after the 5th time I drop some on my shirt.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:31 AM on September 18

I stab greens. If the pieces are too large to fit in my mouth gracefully I use my knife and fork to fold them and then I stab them.

Chickpeas I just scoop up with my fork, the same way I'd do with any small bits that make up salad e.g. cubed beetroot, coleslaw or whatever it may be.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:31 AM on September 18 [2 favorites]

For me it is always a fork (though I've eaten salads before with chopsticks and agree that it often works better). I don't like adding chickpeas to salad so can't really answer that, though I've never found chickpeas in general to be hard to eat. Usually you can either scoop or stab them; if that doesn't work, you can squish them a bit and they'll mush against the fork.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:35 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]

I stab 'em with a fork when I'm out and about. When I'm at home, I like to use my hands to pick up the bigger leaves and dip them into the salad dressing.
posted by unicorn chaser at 10:38 AM on September 18

I usually use a fork, but I hate it. Chopsticks would be easier for sure and then maybe putting the bowl up to mouth to shovel in the chickpeas etc. (Much like one does with a rice dish or soup, etc.) But scooping stuff up like chickpeas with a fork awkwardly is what I do because I need lots of other stuff than greens in salads.

This question makes me think we need to have a specific salad spork. Or just normalize eating salad with chopsticks and putting the bowl to our mouth.
posted by AnyUsernameWillDo at 10:38 AM on September 18

Sporks would not be good for salads since the tines are so small. You need a lot of room on the tine to stab a few things at once. I scoop up croutons and anything else that can't be stabbed.
posted by soelo at 10:45 AM on September 18

I gently stab the greens with a fork. If the greens are slightly large, I will use the fork to fold them over before stabbing them. Because I am North American, I do the stabbing with my right hand, but if I need to use a knife to augment the stabbing, I will pass the fork to my left hand and use the knife with my right hand to get the lettuce onto the fork and then eat the lettuce using my left hand while still holding on to the knife. If the knife is set down, then the fork goes back in my right hand.

If the greens are large enough that I need to cut them before eating, I will silently grumble about the food prep.

Individual chickpeas will get stabbed. Larger amounts of chickpeas will get scooped.
posted by TORunner at 10:47 AM on September 18

If the greens are very flat and don't have a crunchy part that stabs easily, I will maneuver the leaf on top of something that is stabbable, Like a piece of arugula on top of a strawberry so I can stab all the way through.

Or I will ask for a spoon.

The fork is the commonly accepted instrument for salad consumption, but it really isn't the best tool for the job. Fork and spoon are a great team. Chopsticks are arguably top tier.
posted by meemzi at 11:03 AM on September 18

I avoid leafy greens for this reason but when confronted unavoidably with them, I use the fork to sort of fold and pinion the leaf up into a compact shape, then eat the bundle.

Ugh, leaves.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:07 AM on September 18

I use a fork and have some warm crusty bread or pita to help push and small bits onto the fork or to help provide a background for stabbing with the fork.
posted by brookeb at 11:20 AM on September 18 [3 favorites]

Chopsticks or forks, whatever is closer to me.
posted by yueliang at 11:29 AM on September 18

I eat green salad with chopsticks because it's definitely the best method. And I am not from a chopstick-wielding culture originally.
posted by zadcat at 11:40 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]

When possible chopsticks. It's so much better for mixing in dressing or fishing out bits you don't want to eat.
posted by oneear at 11:54 AM on September 18

There's always big spinach leaves stuck to the bowl with dressing. I fold them over with the fork, then stab. When alone, I use my fingers.
posted by theora55 at 11:55 AM on September 18

I agree that for simple salads comprised of large chunks, chopsticks are a great utensil choice. But when the salad has enough ingredients that I want multiple flavors in one bite, fork is better.

Sometimes the leaves are too large and that’s on the person who made the salad - arugula is good because generally each leaf is bite sized, but most greens should be torn or chopped so it fits neatly in the mouth without stuffing, turtle-like. If the salad components are bigger than bite sized, there is no elegant way to eat it without a knife so try to brush off the awkwardness and blame it on the unseen chef. If the greens are well prepared, I use them as almost the bread in a salad sandwich, trapping other ingredients between pieces I’ve stabbed with my fork. This is why chopped salads where everything is cut up about the same size are less good, for me. Not enough diversity of texture and no bigger pieces to help trap smaller ones.

For small round components like beans, grape tomatoes, corn, etc, I use the vessel to assist. Salads on plates are bad. Bowls are better because I use the side of the bowl to help either scoop or stab the small pieces onto my fork. I will manipulate the vessel, like holding it at an angle or bring it closer so the path is shorter between unstable fork platform and my mouth. Again, though, a really good salad will have taken into account the awkwardness of an ingredient and prepared it better. So beans are better in a salad with more similarly sized pieces and a binding creamy dressing, allowing for more stable scooping, while small tomatoes should be halved.

Part of the problem you are encountering is that salad bars are full of things that are easy for an establishment to offer, but may not be the prepped best for a really great salad. Making salads is, after all, a kind of cooking. You wouldn’t just throw a whole carrot and a whole cucumber on a plate with an unwashed head of romaine and call it a salad. But somewhere between finding the best balance of prep time and offering diversity and ingredient cost, salad bars take enough shortcuts that we end up with harried people grabbing a bunch of stuff that does not make for a good salad eating experience right out of the grocery store. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about salads!
posted by Mizu at 12:07 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]

I will use a fork to stab the greens and scoop up the other ingredients. When I get to the end and there are just a couple of greens left I'll use a knife to keep them in place while my fork impales them or if there's no knife I'll just use my fingers to do the same.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:29 PM on September 18

I have never consciously thought about this, but in addition to many things mentioned above -- using a wide shallow pasta bowl rather than a plate, using dressing to sort of glue things together a bit, serving with bread -- it turns out I do have a technique!

For the first phase of eating, which is the fork phase, I use the stabbable items -- chunks of tomato or cucumber, bits of lettuce with the crunchy, non-leafy part, etc. -- as a backstop for less-stabbable items. That is, I'll position some leafy bits on top of a bit of tomato and then stab through the leaf into the tomato to make a bite, because the fork will stay in the tomato when it won't stay in the leaf. Sometimes also use the assembled forkful to see if I can scoop up or otherwise get some other small bits to glom on -- bits of cheese, peas, beans etc.

Then phase 2 is the spoon phase, which is for the dregs of stuff + dressing at the bottom.

I do also often use chopsticks, though, tbh. When I make big-salad-as-a-meal at home, I serve it to myself with fork, spoon, and chopsticks, usually. I also sometimes carry chopsticks with me when I'm out in the world and use them instead of disposable cutlery when I eat out, no matter the cuisine.

I LOVE big-salad-as-a-meal. *sighs dreamily* Thanks for resolving my dinner plan for me!
posted by librarina at 1:48 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]

Exactly like peas. If some elements are too big to be either stabbed or stacked on top of the fork, I fold them with my knife first, or in some cases, cut them. But cutting salad is not good.

However, when I get to the end, I tear off pieces of bread to scrape up the little bits and the dressing.

I've never thought of eating salad with chopsticks, but now I'm going to try it, it seems to be an excellent idea.
posted by mumimor at 2:17 PM on September 18

Fork and knife.

Agree that this is pretty tricky. It was one of the conceptual obstacles to getting on my current salad streak (112 days and counting).
posted by grobstein at 2:18 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]

I am eating a salad as we speak, and I cut the greens with my kitchen shears and eat with a spoon.

If I am out, well, I do the best I can with my fork, roping in the knife and spoon if needed.
posted by jgirl at 2:35 PM on September 18

Salad is where I freak out. Most civilised people like to keep the salad separate from the other elements of dinner. They may get different plates or little bowls for the salad. But I love pouring gravy over my salad, and maybe even eating it stacked with some potatoes or mash, whatever was part of the main. One Christmas, the rest of my family saw me doing it, and now they are all into it. We even make extra gravy to make sure there is enough for the salad. This is NOT in good taste. But what could happen? (Well after writing this, I imagine the Monty Python Spanish inquisition kicking open our front door in the middle of Christmas dinner).
posted by mumimor at 2:52 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]

I'm not a savage, so eat salad with a knife and fork. Where there are larger pieces of lettuce or whatever, I'll fold them using my knife and fork, then stab them. I try to get a selection of ingredients on each forkful. Using plenty of dressing helps a lot.
posted by dg at 3:57 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]

... eating with implements other than a knife and fork = savage? I don't love that phrasing, especially when the context of the post is about a tool used primarily used by non-white cultures.

Someone at work once saw me (a white person) eating a salad with chopsticks and said "I'm getting up anyway, do you want me to get you some regular utensils?" as though a huge proportion of the world's population didn't use them as a "regular" item. I don't usually think quickly in the moment, especially when I'm startled, but thankfully someone else did, and said "those are regular utensils!" Which they are!
posted by librarina at 12:13 PM on September 19 [4 favorites]

I've always eaten salads with a fork and stabbed things, but having read the comments on this post I think I will try chopsticks.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:07 AM on September 20

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