A recent article on The Tyee Ezine by Canadian journalist Jayson Go talks about the social manner of eating with a “spoon and fork” which was considered “strange”, in fact “barbaric” as in “eating like a pig” by some Canadians. I am glad to see this story featured as a cultural education for a multicultural country like Canada.
Eating with a spoon and fork is common all throughout South East Asia in countries like Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Meat is usually cut to small pieces for cooking, thus negating the need for a knife on the dinner table. All dishes are suited for use with a spoon and fork, unlike big chunks of western steaks which would simply be impossible to eat without a sharp dinner knife.
Jayson Go’s article brings back memories of the “Spoon and Fork boy” incident in Quebec. In 2006, 7 year old Luc Cagadoc was humiliated in school when told that he was “eating like a pig” when he used a “spoon and fork” in school for eating. (It is not clear if he was eating his own food or cafeteria food, all we know is he was humiliated in front of the class). The family complained to the School Board, but the incident was dismissed as an isolated case. This incident sparked protests from Filipinos all around the world.
The family took the case to Quebec Human Rights Tribunal, and after four years, the school was ordered to pay $17,000 in moral and punitive damages. The Tribunal said the principal was partly to blame for not implementing a policy on intercultural education.
Today, there is a fine dining Thai and Vietnamese restaurant chain in Toronto called “Spoon and Fork”, where restaurant patrons are expected to use a spoon and a fork for dining. No longer do we think that eating with a spoon and fork is behavior for a pig.