10. Bruschetta. No engineer would design an appetizer like bruschetta. You have a little heap of tomatoes stacked precipitously on a chunk of dry bread that’s too big to eat in a single bite—so you bite it in half, and all the tomato chunks fall off.
9. Fondue. Maybe fondue was less awkward in the 60s, when fondue-dipping skill was a requisite of middle-class social life. Today, though, it’s a novelty…so what happens? Inexperienced fondue dippers don’t spear the bread firmly enough, and the bread chunks drop off their forks to float like bloated little corpses in the cheese sauce.
8. DIY canapes. Pre-made canapes are workable, if handled with care—but sometimes you’ll be expected to pile your own salmon slices on top of those little circles of bread, then somehow get the capers to stay on top of the stack without rolling off. Which is enormously difficult, because capers are little round balls. Whose idea was this?
7. Oysters. At best, you’re dealing with a situation where you’re slurping a grey, messy, fishy mass into your mouth from a big bumpy shell. At worst, the oyster won’t slide off or remains partially attached to the shell, so now you’re trying to pull the oyster off the shell with your teeth, all while trying to follow a conversation and nod politely.
6. Mixed greens. Call me a gauche American, but I have no patience for mixed greens. Iceberg lettuce tastes fine, and it’s easy to spear on a fork. Getting a proper forkful of mixed greens is like getting 10 preschoolers to form a conga line.
5. Nachos. Here’s the thing with nachos: the cheese and other toppings are never evenly distributed, so you have to judge how heavily topped a nacho you’re feeling comfortable taking. If you’re feeling low in the status hierarchy at your table, you have to hold back and just take the untopped chips from the edges; if you’re higher up in the hierarchy and don’t so much care what your tablemates think, you go for the gold in the middle of the plate. But it’s awkward to enact your personal power dynamic via appetizer consumption.
4. Chicken satay. Just watch someone get ready to take a bite from a skewer of chicken satay. You’ll see them turn slightly away, cuing you not to look. Then they’ll subtly slide their fingers up the skewer to get a firm grip on the bottom of the chicken strip, so that when they bite a piece off the top the rest of the strip doesn’t come with it. Then, once they’ve successfully taken a first bite, they can’t take a second bite straight-on without skewering the roof of their mouth, so they either need to slide the rest of the strip off the skewer sideways with their teeth (awkward!) or upwards with their fingers (awkward!). And let’s not even discuss the whole communal dipping-sauce issue.
3. Pizza rolls. They’re cooking. Everyone smells them cooking. Everyone wants a pizza roll so bad. Then they come out, and you know they’re hot, but you can’t resist, so…ow! Ow! Ow! Waving hand in front of your mouth! Jumping around! Drinking water! Scalded tongue! Fun party, huh?
2. Olives. Specifically of the seeded variety. I don’t care what Emily Post says, there is no non-awkward way to get that seed out of your mouth. Trying to be subtle about it via napkin or fork is even more awkward than just spitting it straight out onto your plate, and seriously? You want me to just spit something out of my mouth and onto my plate at a fancy reception? Plus, once the seeds are spit out, they just sit there on the plate looking gross.
1. Chicken wings. The awkward appetizer nonpareil. Please, hosts, consider whether you really want your party guests to be confronted in a genteel social setting with a food that is typically served with sides of ranch dressing, celery sticks, and moist towelettes.