Search This Blog

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Eating with your fingers


There was an interesting question posed to Peta Mathias, our local agony aunt, in the paper this weekend. The letter writer had done a lot of entertaining over the holidays (as we all do) and had noticed that the young folks preferred to eat with their fingers.  Is this a new fashion?  Why ignore the lovely silver cutlery?

Her answer was quite inspiring, really. Fingers came before forks, as we all know, but there is also such a great connection between your body and your food that (Peta says, and she would know, being a gourmet cook) it actually tastes better when you eat it with your fingers.

And it is unbelievably nice and sexy for someone to pick up a tasty morsel and slip it between your lips. "This," she says, "is what mothers do with their children and it speaks of trust, love and acceptance."

It is the reason we all love fish and chips and pizza.

But there are Rules, she goes on.  If you provide finger food, you really should provide a finger bowl, too, preferably with rose petals floating on top, so you can rinse those fingers.

Never lick your fingers.

And use your right hand.  In so many countries it is considered nasty to eat with your left hand that you may as well get into the habit.

This all made such sense to me that I looked up google to see if any other gurus had debated the thorny issue.  And I found one in no less than the New York Times.

It tells the story of Julie Sahni, who won a competition that would take her from India to Europe, where she had to learn the European way of coping with food.  She had to learn how to use a fork!

“Eating with the hands evokes great emotion,” she said. “It kindles something very warm and gentle and caressing. Using a fork is unthinkable in traditional Indian eating. It is almost like a weapon.”

And now (this article is three years old, but presumably the idea still holds) some fine restaurants in New York subscribe to the view expressed by Peta Mathias and Ms. Sahni, that eating with the fingers "heightens the sensual connection to food."

So, young folks, keep on using your hands to dig in.  Not only does it heighten the delight, but your hostess should take it as a compliment.

5 comments:

JCSimonds said...

My grandmother - a society lioness and truly an elegant person, used cutlery with art and verve. I struggle to emulate her whenever I am in company. HOWEVER, when it came to early Spring asparagus - those delicate thin spears (not the thick woody nasties one frequently finds in the store) - she threw caution to the wind. Making sure to use only the tips of her right fingers, she would dredge each shoot in butter (or Hollandaise)on her plate, lean back, and dangle the asparagus above her face, then munch contentedly. After each one, she would exclaim, "LURPCIOUS!" This complete breach of etiquette was always greeted with guffaws. She got away with it every time!

JCSimonds said...

My grandmother - a society lioness and truly an elegant person, used cutlery with art and verve. I struggle to emulate her whenever I am in company. HOWEVER, when it came to early Spring asparagus - those delicate thin spears (not the thick woody nasties one frequently finds in the store) - she threw caution to the wind. Making sure to use only the tips of her right fingers, she would dredge each shoot in butter (or Hollandaise)on her plate, lean back, and dangle the asparagus above her face, then munch contentedly. After each one, she would exclaim, "LURPCIOUS!" This complete breach of etiquette was always greeted with guffaws. She got away with it every time!

Joan Druett said...

Love it! Tell you an even more wonderful way to eat new asparagus, though -- dipped into a soft boiled egg. I like to cut my toast or bread into fingers ("soldiers") and eat my boiled eggs that way, but if asparagus has just come in....

JCSimonds said...

I think food you enjoy sort of propels non-standard behavior. If it makes you happy and doesn't gross out your company, go for it!

Joan Druett said...

Oddly enough, manners when eating with fingers came up in a nostalgia movie we watched last night -- The Man Who Knew Too Much. James Stewart and Doris Day were in a Moroccan restaurant, and he objected to eating with just one hand. Finally, he got angry and grabbed up a chicken leg in both hands and tore it into pieces. It might have been amusing at the time, but I found it rather disgusting. Actually, the whole movie was a downer. I had remembered it as being such an exciting thriller, too, but it just looked slow, mannered, and precious. And that damn song!