Asparagus is eaten with the fingers. It’s just tradition. I’ve hunted and can’t find out why, but it’s nice to eat something this way, with gusto, and have it sanctioned by the rules of etiquette.
Only use cutlery when…
1.The spears are very thin and over-cooked so they are floppy.
2.They are covered in dressing e.g. vinaigrette that would dribble onto your clothes
3.They are part of a “dish” e.g. asparagus mimosa or a vegetable accompaniment.
4.Otherwise go for it.
If you serve asparagus at the beginning of the meal, it makes a good entrée (and also solves your green veg component of the meal). Give everyone a plate and put the cooked asparagus (room temperature or warm) piled on a platter in the centre of the table for guests to help themselves. Unless you have a draining serving platter, it's nice to place a vintage tea-towel under the asparagus. Each guest should have a small bowl of sauce (hollandaise, mayonnaise etc) to themselves.
Gabriel Gaté showed me how peeling the bottom of the spear makes them translucant like jade. Add a tiny splash of olive oil to the simmering water to make them glisten (as with all green vegetables). (Forget the fancy asparagus cooker - just another gadget for the cupboard.)
These asparagus plates make serving easy and special. Each person spoons sauce into the little well at the front. The asparagus is picked up with fingers, dipped in and relished.
Plates - L to R
Luneville - "Barbotine" c.1890
Emile Gallé - c.1880
St Brieuc - early 20thC
In Europe, I’m thinking in particular of Germany and Holland, there is a season for white asparagus, an (affordable) luxury. If anyone knows where to find a grower here in Oz, let me know.