A 14 Year Old's Experience Learning Manners and Etiquette

From Guest Blogger 14 year old Corey Peterson in New Zealand

I thought learning etiquette would be a piece of cake.  I thought I would be able to pick them up, no sweat. But then when I started, it was completely different to what I had expected! There are so many utensils, manners, rules and proper ways of doing every day things.

 One of the hardest for me is sitting up straight. I tend to slouch, because I forget to sit up or I am sitting up and it becomes painful. I know if I keep slouching, it won’t be good for my back, so I am trying a thousand times harder to break the habit and correct my bad posture. I tend to walk with quite a straight back, so that bit is not as hard. I have been asked a few times in class why I am sitting like "a formal idiot" and I always tell them that I am trying to be a gentleman, as I don’t want to be a boy my whole life! Other teens these days can be pretty cruel, but I am not letting that stop me. I believe that etiquette will help me to be well-mannered in life.
A grouping of Maura Graber's 'knorks', antique and modern, from left to right- A pie fork, a cake or pastry fork, a modern 'one-handed eating tool' with the reverse side showing above it, a pickle fork and a modern cheese or fruit 'knork'.
What particularly interests me, is formal and informal gatherings, like teas (though they are mainly for women, I still have an interest) and formal dinners. I am intrigued by all the utensils, table manners, rules etc...  I love the historic side of it more than anything.  (One reason that I became such a fan of Downton Abbey).  If you had asked me what it was that Maura Graber calls a 'knork' last month, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Now, I know that a 'knork' is any fork and knife combination utensil, all in one.  They are normally used to eat cake or pie.  A 'knork' was also was used from 1797 on, by Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson after he was attacked fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, resulting in the loss of his right arm.
In 1793, Nelson was given command of the British naval ship, Agamemnon.  He served in the Mediterranean, helped capture Corsica and saw battle at Calvi. He lost his right arm at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1797. He subsequently used, what came to be known as, a 'Nelson Fork' as shown below.
A Nelson Fork
 I would like to thank Maura for helping me start my dining history business, "The What’lery of Cutlery", and for everything she has done to help me! I have learnt many things from our Skype calls as well as her well written book.  I learn something new every day from Maura, from how to find historical newspaper articles, to how to get more precise matches on Google, and of course, dining history! I love public speaking, meeting people and showing people things.  I now have an advantage, as what I am doing is unique here in New Zealand, so I have my own niche market. As Maura has told me, "People become more interested when you mention the history of the utensil." I hope to use this to aid me in my goals. 

I was talking to a relief teacher the other day and he asked me why all my work in this class [digital media, which involves work on the computer with colour, patterns, layouts etc] looked formal, or very elegant. I told him I have a love for the ways of the old and that the colours work excellently together, better than those of newer, modern colours.  As he was going through my folder, he came across the business cards I have been working all so very hard on.  He asked me what I meant by "utensils and dining history" on the cards. I explained that I am learning from a very knowledgeable lady about flatware, their uses, and the history behind them of how people once dined.  He asked me to tell him about an unusual utensil, so I told him about the Dutch mango fork. 
Mangoes are the 'most eaten' fruit worldwide, with over 2,000 varieties. Above- A selection of mango forks, from left to right- Dutch-made fork, French-made fork, 2nd Dutch-made fork, Mexican-made fork, British-made fork & 3rd Dutch-made fork.  All for holding a mango steady, to cut into with a fruit knife or fruit spoon.
I explained the forks appearance, with one long prong in the center and two shorter ones on the outside. I explained that you can push the longer prong through the pip, and then the shorter prongs hold the mango in place, enabling you to cut the mango to eat.  He was fascinated and he said that with my determination, I could change the world.  I have told a few other people about what I am learning too, and most have been interested. A very small minority though have told me that I am ‘boring’ and too much of a ‘traditionalist’. 

Some have said it is great I'm teaching the new generation the use of utensils, others have said that it is a waste of time as no one has any use for these utensils. I tell them that knowing about the utensils doesn’t mean you have to use them, but it does teach someone something. The fact that most people are interested though, means people do want to know the history behind forks and how they came to be used for everything people eat around the world.  


  1. Corey I loved reading your blog on your experience of learning & teaching others who are interested in flatware. You will make such a difference in soo many people's lives just as you do in my life each & every day. How lucky I am to have a determined well mannered lovely son like you! Thank You for being you & for living your life dreams & acheiving your goals. Love Mum x

  2. A fine job for Corey's first post! He is a unique young man. His mother is right to be very proud of him. I do hope he is able to get those braces and am sure he will make his mark in the world. Imagine... all of this started in a twitter 'conversation'! Our globe that seemed so huge when I was a little girl, is shrinking more each day. Being able to reach across continents and touch others lives for the better is a gift. Go get'em Corey!

  3. Corey- There is nothing wrong with you being a traditionalist. Keep moving forward with your pursuits and you will succeed, in every aspect of your life! You may just change some lives and minds there in New Zealand. What is coming in your next post? I look forward to reading all of them.

  4. It is amazing how many lives have been touched through Twitter and evolved into friendship. True friends, who have you back and wish you nothing but the best. Terrific story!


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