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.

Sushi

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

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.

Asparagus

Fresh raw asparagus spears on a dark tableKarissaa/Shutterstock

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.

Cheese

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

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.

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