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Cut, Twirl, or Eat With Your Hands

We have Red Plate traditions in my family.  The Red Plate is exactly as it sounds. I imagine there’s a great many of you who have eaten on the very Red Plate in this picture.


In our family, you may be Red Plated if you have had a particularly extraordinary day, if you’ve achieved a grand goal, if your report card is outstanding, if you nailed an audition, if it’s your birthday, or if your room is clean.

Age is not a factor; anyone can be honored with a meal on the Red Plate.

If you’re a dinner guest in our home for the first time, you’ll probably get Red Plated: as you eat from the Red Plate, we get to take turns asking questions so we can get to know you better.  Questions may come from anyone at the table, and they range from “What is your favorite color?” to “What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?”

Age is not a factor; anyone can be honored with a meal on the Red Plate.

Fifteen years ago (or maybe closer to twenty… oh my word), my brother, our Swedish foreign exchange student, and I each had separate dates for the Homecoming dance at our high school.  It was Thursday, the dance was on Saturday, and our family tradition stated that a person would have a Red Plate meal before dating any one of the Lott Kids.

All three guests came on one weeknight, we ate on red Chinette, and it was a fest of questions and answers and one of the best nights in my family history.

For guests, the traditional Red Plate meal has been spaghetti.  And this is why I write to you today: to discuss the merits and preferences of cutting spaghetti.

I come from a family of twirlers.  Snag a few noodles with the tines of your fork, twirl it in the round tummy of your spoon, and spin yourself a bite.

It’s actually part of our family culture, I’ve learned; not every family twirls.  On a beach vacation years ago, we had a pasta buffet for dinner for the 21 of us in our beach house.  As you looked down the table, the families were divided.  Without knowing any of us cousins, you could have arranged us in sibling groups by the way we at our noodles.

Of course there’s also a third option: to serve spaghetti with no silverware.  To eat with your hands.  This is good to do once a year or so.  On bath night.

Twirling is kind of a rite of passage.  You know you’re growing up when you don’t need anyone to cut your spaghetti for you any longer.

In fact, while my mom was traditionally choosing spaghetti to serve to our friends, believing it was a simple meal that nearly anyone could enjoy, we later learned that this was in fact the most intimdating menu option.

The night of the three Homecoming dates, it turns out they were each exchanging glances as they cut their spaghetti, feeling thankful to not be isolated as the only person at the table using a knife.

Robb and I were married before he finally said, “Seriously, I don’t know how you do that.  You all do it.  Spaghetti is a big deal at your house.”

My kids are twirlers.  (The key is to only take a few noodles at a time.  You think you want a lot, but really only two or three.  They spin into quite a mouthful, actually.)

We had a Red Plate dinner just this week, and Tyler was teaching the grownup beside him how to twirl a spaghetti noodle.

And so, I ask you, do you cut or twirl?

Tricia Lott Williford

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  1. Twirl, and I never order spaghetti on an early date, because there’s always that pesky noodle that, too long or too short, winds up dangling and splashing my shirt with red sauce (if not whole strip of stray noodle).

  2. Twirler all the way

  3. I twirl. Ralph cuts. We are a split family.

  4. Shovel in and slurp? (I grew up in Japan.)

  5. I twirl but cut for the kids.. they get too frustrated with the noodles while twirling 🙂

  6. Twirling is it!!

  7. I am the daughter of Italian immigrants. I have been to Italy 3 times. We are all twirlers. No one uses a spoon, though. You simply use the edge of the plate. (Before age 5, we cut up the pasta for the kids. And yes, we call it pasta. Noodles is a no-no.)

  8. This made me chuckle. I have never in my life cut spaghetti for myself or my children. We twirl, I suppose, but I don’t believe we are as precise as the lot of Lotts. When the boys were small we just used pasta shapes that could be picked up more easily with a fork or spoon (still do, sometimes). I love hearing about family traditions. Thanks for sharing yours! 🙂

  9. Twirling is much more fun! We’re twirlers in our family. Sadly, because of celiac disease, we no longer eat “real” spaghetti, and we are limited to rice spaghetti, which, no matter what they tell you, just doesn’t taste the same. We twirl it anyway. At least the sauce is good. 😀

  10. I am perfectly able to twirl, but choose to cut, because I like my spaghetti sauce chunky with such things as tomatoes, onions and garlic, bell peppers, mushrooms, and ground beef or sausage in it. Twirling is fun for a bite or two, but doesn’t really allow for the “uptake” of those yummy chunks!

  11. Twirl! I’ve always loved how neat and tidy twirling is. I agree with you, Tricia, that the key is just one or two strands tucked neatly into the bowl of a large spoon. Perfect rolls of bite-sized spaghetti! I love this red plate idea. We have the birthday plate, but we may have to adopt this expanded version into our family tradition.

  12. Wow.. I’m so glad that I discovered your blog! You are an amazing woman, and a gifted writer.

    I don’t cut mine with a knife, I just discreetly cut off a bite at a time with my fork. I was always one that was stressed out at the idea of eating spaghetti around other people, until I just decided to cut off a bite at a time, and now I’m fine with it 🙂 lol.

    You’ve inspired me! Now I want a red plate like that…what a fun tradiation 🙂

  13. I still cut mine and my boys. Hubby is a twirler and thinks I am nuts for cutting. 🙂 The cutting is done mainly in self-defense of my clothing because I have never been able to twirl without getting it all over me. Either the actual twirling gets my shirt or the ascent to my mouth produces a “not quite twirled” noodle that flops down and splatters on the shirt. So, mine is a habit of convinence and vanity.

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