Answers to everything you’ve been secretly wondering about.

By Penny Wrenn
Updated October 15, 2015
Edholm Ullenius
Edholm Ullenius

Am I slicing the cheese properly?

For hard cheeses, reach for the stumpy knife with a squarish blade (a.k.a. an Italian cheese knife) to lop off bite-size chunks, says Dorothy Hamilton, the founder of the International Culinary Center, in New York City. For soft cheeses, use a butter knife or a spoon. As for the rind, eat it if it’s edible (yes to Brie and Camembert; not so much with waxy Gouda or tough Parmesan)—or cut it off and leave the remnants on your plate. Please don’t dig out the good part of the cheese, leaving a carcass of rind on the buffet table.

Puff pastries and crostini—one bite or two?

Sure, if you shove it all in your mouth at once, you’ll avoid potential squirts, dribbles, and crumbs, but you’ll also be rendered mute while you chew (and chew). Besides, says Hamilton, “you never really enjoy a too-large piece of food in your mouth.” Instead, she says, “hold a napkin a few inches below your chin to catch anything while you take several small bites.”

How can I balance a drink and a plate and still have a hand free for a handshake?

May we present “the Clutch and Clip.” Using your left hand, clutch a glass with your thumb, ring finger, and pinkie, as you clip a (lightweight!) cocktail-size plate between your index and middle fingers. This leaves your right hand free to shake.

What’s the right way to scoop the dip?

Double-dipping, as the entire post-Seinfeld world knows, is a no-no. One direct dunk with a chip or a veggie is OK. But the most elegant way is to place a bit onto a plate with a spoon. No utensils in sight? Scoop up extra dip with a carrot or celery stick for your other vegetables.

Is is possible to eat chicken wings without making a mess?

Nope. Just go for it—and realize that everyone else will get messy, too. However, if you hold the wing in one hand and rotate it as you bite, you’ll at least keep the other hand clean.

How can I delicately take an olive pit out of my mouth?

Try Hamilton’s discreet maneuver: “I’m right-handed, so I place my left hand over my mouth, take the pit out with my right hand, then quickly wrap the pit in a napkin.”