Surprising Manners for Eating Chicken and Corn-on-the-Cob


By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor

Summer is around the corner, and the block is short. I know this because Corbett, my youngest, tells me every day (multiple times) how many days he has until his homeschool co-op begins summer break. (In case you’re dying of curiosity about this, as he assumes everyone is, it’s sixteen days, and that includes weekends!)

Marc, my oldest, has an additional week of his co-op, but for both of them, as I’m sure it is for your children, summer vacation is so close that they’re almost bursting with anticipation for the sleeping in and staying up late, the no-rush mornings, and eating some of their summer favorites — foods that just seem to taste their best when served outside on a warm evening with a bit of a breeze to keep the heat down and the flies from buzzing about.

There are lots of summer favorites. Two that make just about every list are fried chicken and corn on the cob.

As I was going through readers’ questions today, I came across the same question from two different people in two different states. Both came from audience members at churches where I spoke on How to Become Everything You Were Created to Be. (I speak on topics other than etiquette, but since I am the Manners Mentor, we almost always do a fun segment where attendees anonymously write down their questions on index cards for me to answer on stage.)

So, let’s dig into some finger-lickin’ fried chicken and corn on the cob with some surprising dining manners!

The Question

Thank you for being here, Maralee. I’m taking lots of notes. Good stuff! Here’s my question. It’s about how to eat fried chicken. Is it OK to eat drumsticks with my fingers? How about if we’re not at home but at a church picnic or a restaurant? Also, is there any polite way to eat corn on the cob? I usually just pass it by if I’m eating in public because I don’t want to seem messy.

Janelle  B.

Let’s Talk Turkey Chicken!

The Answer:

Janelle, not to worry: the next time you’re at a picnic, even if the Queen herself is there, you can enjoy your chicken and corn on the cob with your fingers, and just like Mary Poppins, you’ll still be considered “practically perfect” in almost every way!

Let’s start with the chicken. Anytime it’s fried, no matter which cut it is (wing, drumstick, breast, thigh), and no matter where it’s being served (picnic, palace, or restaurant), it’s considered a finger food like hamburgers, shoestring-cut french fries, or chips and crackers. Your hands are your utensil of choice. Pick it up and enjoy.

The only thing you don’t want to do is suck the meat off the bones. It’s better to leave a little and not resemble anything like a vulture. I know someone who may or may not be married to me that does this “because it’s wrong to waste food.” (However, this person has no problem leaving hearty bites of broccoli or any other vegetable on the plate.) 🙂

If the chicken is grilled, you would use a knife and fork, especially when eating inside. If eating outdoors, and knives and forks aren’t offered, it’s a picnic. Enjoy! If indoors, ask for a knife and fork.

About the finger licking, that would be a “no.” One, because of the unpleasant noise it makes. Two, because you’ll be touching other things before you have time to wash your hands. To help you through, take a few extra napkins with you before you sit down.

Corn on the Cob, Summer’s Sweet Garden Gift

The Answer:

There’s no need to skip the corn on the cob, Janelle! It’s definitely a finger food, and like fried chicken, it’s one that’s not served at formal functions. Everyone understands it’s a little messy to eat. Your hands are the utensil of choice here, too. There are however a few handy-dandy, savvy manners for eating corn on the cob that, when followed, will stop butter from pouring off the corn and down your chin or onto your clothes.

1. Put butter, salt and pepper on just a few rows at a time.

2. Hold the cob on each end.

3.  Now’s the fun part: eat those few rows left-to-write, typewriter style (if you’re too young to know what I mean by that, search for “typewriter” on YouTube and watch a video or two.)

4. Repeat steps 1-3 until you’re full. 🙂

By Murphy’s Law, there will be corn stuck in your teeth. Go to the restroom or a private place, maybe back to your car at a picnic so you can look in the visor mirror and make sure your teeth are corn-free.

That’s all there is to it. Casual food has casual manners! So enjoy your summer favorites, and call me in time for the picnic’s watermelon seed spitting contest. (Now there’s a post for another day!)

What Now? 

Come on over to the comments or the Manners Mentor Facebook page and ask any “How do I eat this?” questions!

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Have a great weekend, and until Monday, do what you were born to do. Share with the world the gift of you at your best!


Maralee's Signature




Surprising Manners for Eating Chicken and Corn-on-the-Cob

Maralee McKee

About Maralee McKee

Maralee McKee is the founder of Manners Mentor. With her best-friend style, sense of humor, and knack for updating etiquette to meet our modern sensibilities, she has been referred to as "Sandra Bullock meets Emily Post!" Maralee shows you how to become the best version of yourself. No fluff. No pretense. Just you at your authentic best! The person you were always meant to be! To learn more about Maralee click on the "Meet Maralee" or "New? Start Here" links at the top of this page.

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