Table manners, napkin etiquette, fine cutlery, all of it stinks of a stiff upper lip. If there's one thing India can teach the world at large, it's the absolute freedom, the sheer joy of diggin' in with your digits.
We know it's 'proper' and 'polite' to use a fork and spoon, but the world is slowly catching up to the comfort of going ham with your hands .
Sure, we've all tried our hand at dining like the Queen of England, fork in the left hand, knife/spoon in the right, finally placing them parallel once we're done with the meal. But fuck all that stuffy nonsense. There's a place for poise, and the dinner table isn't one of them. Things are changing however. The world is following India's example and imbibing the benefits of eating by hand. Hell, this article even legitimises the whole process, as if eating with your hands ever needed a rulebook!
Several of these American outlets, which were all traditionally using cutlery, are now actively encouraging the hand-to-mouth technique.
It may sound like I'm espousing the destruction of centuries of tradition - honestly, it's just a damning of our colonial hangover, not to mention eating with your hands is a lot more practical. Chicken curry and rice spoon ke saath kaun khaata hai? According to Julie Sahni -
"Eating with the hands evokes great emotion. It kindles something very warm and gentle and caressing. Using a fork is unthinkable in traditional Indian eating. It is almost like a weapon."
With spots like Loyal Nine in Massachusetts and alaMar Kitchen in Oakland actively encouraging the eating of food with your hands, things are definitely changing.
There's been a paradigm shift in the way we eat, with the traditional Indian style of eating food catching on not just abroad, but in upscale joints within India itself.
According to executive chef Uddipan Chakravarthy of Vivanta By Taj Yeshwanthpur -
"We used to ape the West. Now they emulate us. Education and travel have made Indians realise the value of our own traditions. Eating Indian food in homely style will be the trend to show off."
Agreed. I don't normally advocate discrimination, but in this case, there's no room for tolerance. I mean, just try eating a legit South Indian meal on a banana leaf with a spoon, appam et al. You'll be shunted right out!
Eating with your hands also makes you conscious of the textures and intricacies of the food you eat, not to mention it's extremely freeing, so it's easy to understand why the world's following suit.
But it isn't just tradition and different cultures that promotes eating with your hands, it's also the general sense of freedom. There's a certain sense of closeness with the food you eat with your hands, a familiarity and warmth that automatically translates into comfort.
Of course, I can't not mention the alleged health benefits of some good ol' hand to mouth -
- It apparently helps prevent type 2 diabetes
- Healthy bacteria found on our fingers and palms helps improve digestion
- It also helps you stay fit by managing food portions
So there you go. A whole world of 'handy' advice served right on a platter. It's not just us either, many parts of Asia and Africa have been eating by hand for centuries, even though each place has its own customs and practises regarding the proper technique and all that jazz. My advice? Just wing it and enjoy your damn food.
Note: Please don't say things like, "Yo, what about soup? You can't eat that with your hands HURR DURR!"