Saturday, November 8, 2008

I Bend Forks

I admit it. I cannot not do it. I have sort of a princess and the pea sensitivity to the curvature and irregularities of forks. One of only two times that I was sent to the principal's office in my youth was because I got caught bending my fork in the school cafeteria. It was not my intention to be a vandal. I was simply trying to improve my dining experience. Was I to blame for the thinness of the metal? Was it my fault that they were so easily bent out of shape in the industrial dishwashing cycle? How could I have been expected to sit quietly and accept the misfit tines tormenting my mouth with every bite? After all, it was so easy to correct.

Just observe the overall curvature of the fork and then bend it to put an appropriate arc in the handle just above where it widens into the head. If the head and tines are too flat, this is slightly more difficult to correct. You may have to resort to pressing it against the table's egde if you can't get it into shape using only your hands. Keep in mind that it is likely that the only way you will have to wash it afterward is in your water glass, so it is often preferable to simply ask for a new fork at this point. This presents quite a dilemma, though, because the next fork presented to you may be worse than the one you have, and asking for yet another fork will surely invite suspicion. If you decide to make this risky move, be sure to first drop the malformed one on the floor, making certain to profess this as the reason for your request. There will be witnesses, and you will look much less crazy.

Once the curvature of the fork is acceptable to your eyes and hand, observe the alignment of the tines. Ideally they will be lined up pristinely like soldiers in formation, but this is rarely the case. To pull the degenerates back in line it is best to use your knife. In the absence of a knife, the handle of your spoon will also work although not as well. Just insert the knife between the tines and apply pressure as needed to first align them from the frontal view. Finally, tip your fork upright and use the same technique to achieve perfect alignment from the end view as well. You may now eat your meal, which will very likely have gotten cold while you were obsessing over your fork. Not to fear, this is just part of the learning curve for the beginner.

It has been years since the temperature of my meal has waivered noticeably during fork perfection maneuvers. It is a process that I now do with such swiftness and precision that I don't even realize I'm doing it. I only become aware of it when an amused friend questions my strange behavior or when those I regularly dine with pass their forks to me for modification. This makes me suspect that I was probably bending forks long before getting busted at Irving Junior High School. I have not stopped because I have found that this plague extends far beyond its walls.

Typically it is the standard stamped-out restaurant supply grade of forks that bother me most. They are slightly too thin and lightweight to withstand the rigors of high-volume use, being thrown into bus tubs, and repeatedly being jammed too tightly into dishwasher baskets. While I understand their use is probably cost-effective and their care is of little significance to most employees, I am unable to desensitize myself to their flaws from the user standpoint. Although these are the most common culprits, I have been equally offended by much sturdier, more expensive counterparts in fine dining establishments.

They are a bit more of a challenge to correct, but a bad fork is a bad fork and demands my attention. My exception to this rule is when dining in the homes of friends or family. I believe that I do manage to keep my obsession in check as far as actually making corrections, but looking back I find that I can often more easily remember the forks than the main course. I suspect that I miss a lot of interesting dinner conversation as I sit contemplating the balance of function and beauty that fork designs require. It is not my mission to change the world one fork at a time. Bending forks is just something I do. I cannot not do it... or at least think of doing it.