The great pizza debate

Q.  My friends and I are having a debate about how you are supposed to eat pizza. Do you pick it up with your hands or is the polite thing to do to cut it with a knife and eat it with a fork?

A.  Just as with the debate about which way to hang a roll of toilet paper, the pizza debate divides people into two camps, but there is no one answer. When your pizza is loaded with toppings and hard to pick up without covering your hands in sauce and cheese, and this bothers you, use a knife and fork. You might start a pizza slice that is piping hot with a knife and fork, too, and then pick it up when it cools. If you are picking it up, fold it lengthwise to make it easier to handle. When a pizza is served as a whole pie, not sliced, as it sometimes is in other countries, you must cut slices, and then either pick up your slice or use your utensils. Your choice, although the more formal the occasion the more you might feel that you must use utensils.

Q.  I correspond with one of my friends, primarily by email, where we catch each other up on life in general. I found out that she sometimes forwards my emails to other people. This bothers me. Is it okay for her to do that?

A.  No, not without asking your permission to do so. She may like something you’ve written and want to share it, but you have written it to her, not the world at large, and although it seems like a less personal means of communicating than a handwritten note would be, it still is personal and she must treat your letters as such. Tell her how you feel and ask her to cease and desist.

Q.  We’re going to have contractors doing work in our house. Are we supposed to provide lunch for them?

A.  No, they generally bring their own lunch and take a break to eat it, often outside in nice weather, or in their truck. Their presence is professional, not social, and you are not expected to act as hosts while they are in your home. You can offer coffee or tea in the morning, or provide a pitcher of water and glasses, if you wish, but this is not expected.

Q. We have been invited to a formal ball in Europe this spring, where royalty will be present. Are we expected to curtsey or bow if we meet, for example, the Queen? My sister-in-law says we don’t, because we are not subjects of their crown, but I’m not sure.

A. You do, not because you are subjects, but to show respect. You also stand, when in another country, when their national anthem is played. Again, you do this to show respect, just as travelers to America are expected to stand when the Star Spangled Banner is played.

If you have an etiquette question, please email Catherine Michaels at arts @