When most Cambodians eat, the implements of choice are chopsticks for transporting noodles to their mouth, of course a spoon alone for soups lacking noodles, or a fork that pushes most other food to be consumed onto a spoon.
Never is a knife used at the home table or in Cambodian restaurants; spoons do the same work instead.
However, when Cambodians order croissants, doughnuts, a slice of banana loaf or pizza in Western-style eateries, it’s a knife and fork they favor just like the men in the photos.
After more than four years in Phnom Penh, I still often chuckle to myself when I see patrons at Starbucks, for example, daintily cutting up a muffin or half a panini that we would eat from our hand at home and using a fork to eat the food.
I have tended to chalk up the practice to the pretense of the small privileged class here, but my friend Bill has offered me what I think is a more nuanced explanation. He speculates that the diners have absorbed French custom, and I believe he must be correct. Cambodia was, after all, a protectorate of France for decades.
C’est la vie, n’est-ce pas?