On one of my first days in the Philippines, I sat down at a restaurant and ordered toast and eggs for brunch. Out came the biggest piece of toast I had ever seen–1.5 times the size of my head–topped with scrambled eggs with vegetables and meat. I was overwhelmed, but devised a plan to tackle my toast and eggs with a fork and knife. It would be easy. I picked up my fork, and picked up my knife–only my knife was a spoon. Confused, I looked around the table to no avail. They had forgotten to give me my knife.
“Excuse me ma’am. I believe you forgot to give me a knife. May I please have one?”
She looked at me, confused. “Yes, ma’am, I will be right back with your knife.”
Laughing, my co-worker, Amira, who has been in the Philippines for the past year announced: “Filipinos don’t use knives!”
Now I was confused.
“Look around you. Is anyone using a knife? No. Filipinos are master separaters of food. They don’t cut, they pull apart.”
I looked even closer. She was right. Everyone was skillfully using a fork and spoon to tear apart their meals–chicken, pork, toast and eggs–everything. Well, when in Rome, I thought. Attempting to expose myself to the Filipino life as much as possible, I proceeded to pick up my fork and spoon once again to separate my toast and eggs, only to spill most of my eggs onto the table. Determined, I tried again. And flipped my plate over, causing the entire restaurant to stare at me—who was this rowdy foreigner? Defeated, I picked up my knife and retreated to my “American” ways. I was not yet a master separater, but I would learn.