DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am an Italian who has lived most of her life in Italy and has now relocated to the United States. Fortunately, I have easily made many friends and am quite happy here.
When American friends invite me to dinner, unfortunately, they often serve me their idea of Italian spaghetti, thinking kindly that I must be "homesick" for spaghetti. But this is meant very well, and I always enjoy their attempts, and often invite them to my house for more authentic Italian meals, so we are all happy.
My difficulty is the inability of Americans to eat spaghetti. In Italy, spaghetti is eaten very neatly and easily using a dinner fork and no other utensil. Americans are unable to do this, and make a horrid mess trying to help themselves along with an additional soup spoon, or knife, or lots of slurping.
However, I have come to realize that the reason they cannot manage with a fork alone is mainly because they are using the wrong kind of plates. Spaghetti must be served in a shallow, flat-bottomed bowl with a wide rim, and then it is easy to roll the strands around the fork, holding the tines of the fork to the bottom of the side of the bowl.
I have never criticized anyone about table manners, as I am well aware of the many differences between European and American customs! But I would like to help my struggling friends.
I want to invite them to dinner, serve a "primo" of spaghetti in my Italian pasta bowls, and hope that someone will say, "These are the perfect bowls for spaghetti!" And then I will, with a big smile, present each couple with a set of bowls, saying that this is a thank-you gift for their thoughtfulness in making me feel at home here.
But what are these bowls called, in an American dinner set?
GENTLE READER: Unless you can find a company that frankly makes pasta bowls, the nearest equivalent in American china patterns is the large, flat-rimmed soup plate.
But you are in danger of being called names yourself by Americans who claim to have learned the additional use of a soup spoon from their Italian grandmothers.
Mind you, Miss Manners knows that you are perfectly right about Italian manners, which are also correct here. But she has stated this before and encountered such protests.
Apparently something was lost in the generational translation. It is as if Texas grandmothers, speaking of ribs at barbecues, had said that of course one can use the hands -- and their descendants had taken that to mean that meat can always be eaten that way.