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Eating with ones fingers and hands

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Vishnu had returned. He was sitting on a chair next to the couch. He had a plate of food and he was eating with his hands. Not his hands: his right hand, only. He had mostly rice and potatoes on his plate, with very little sauce. Some of Kabir’s pickled red pearl onions, too. He mashed a bit of potato to a rough paste on the plate between his thumb and first two fingers. He mixed that with some rice, still mashing. He shaped the mixture into a small ball, dipped his head towards the plate and brought the food to his lips. Then a pickled onion went into his mouth, followed by more rice and potato.

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Do you eat with your hands?

Do you know others that do?

What dishes work best to be enjoyed in this manner?

Is there a perfect time and place for eating with ones hands?

IS there anything special about eating with ones hands?

Any stories about this?

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Kabir was sitting out on the deck, trying to catch whatever breeze the night might produce. There wasn’t much but it was late enough that the air was as cool as it was going to get before the sun came up again. He looked satisfied, as if he’d had a lot of good food to eat. Also pensive, as if there were still a lot to digest. All of the guests had gone home. Kabir hadn’t allowed anyone to hang around to clean up. He had been cleaning obsessively since everyone had left. The kitchen was in decent shape and he was taking a break. It was about two a.m.

“Like all of the Indian-Americans you met tonight, I live in a world halfway between India and someplace else. My maternal grandfather was English at heart. Despite that, he became a patriot and very Gandhi-like in his ways. He burned all of his Saville Row clothing when Gandhi asked Indians to stop buying British cloth. Gandhi called for India to support its home culture by wearing handspun Indian clothing instead. That was meant to hurt the British economy and it did. But despite being a patriot, my grandfather was always very conscious of the necessity of raising my mother and her siblings in an Anglo-Indian atmosphere. That such an upbringing would give us the best possible life in this world. They spoke English at home. No Punjabi was spoken with the children lest their accents get "Indianized". In fact, my mother didn’t really learn Hindi and Urdu until she was forced to learn by helping us do our homework over the years.”

“I was watching Vishnu eat tonight. My mother and I were the only two in our family that did not eat with our hands. My father would press me to eat with my hands, offering me treats as encouragement. Nothing changed me. I was not into it. I still can't. One part of me tries very hard to eat with my hands, since I realize how sensuous it really is. It goes with the way I cook – enjoying the touch and feel of food as I prepare it. I feel robbed of that learning period, those childhood years when I could have become adept at eating with my hands. Without making a mess.”

Kabir stood up and took a look at what was left of the New York night. He went back inside. I stayed a moment on the deck thinking about what he had said. I wondered: if Kabir had learned to eat with his hands as a kid, would he feel so stuck between cultures now? I followed him inside.

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Eating with your hands...............

I actually eat with my hands.

Gujarti orgin - which is where I come from originally.

It is a very common occurence. Chapatis and curry ( shakh) as we call it. Our staple diet.

I for one find it the most convienent. You can scoop and mop things up quite easily.

When we go to an Indian restaurant is it highly acceptable manner of eating. The only thing deterring one is the large amount of food colouring they use in the cooking. Staining your fingers yellow or red for several hours later.

South Indians I think? Squash the rice and yoghurt together in a ball and then pop it in their mouths.

I have to admit to not being able/wish to do this and rice for me is most daintily eaten with a spoon!

Other foods easily eaten with your hands would be things like finger foods - pickles, bhajias(pokoras), breads, papad (popadoms), dry curries and salad ( kuchumber).

Oh yes I forgot to mention the added bonus of less washing up after the meal!


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My friend Aakash who is in town eats with his hands at Indian places. He is (forgive my spelling) of Udrathi heritiage.

I tried it a little bit and am horribly inefficient in this style. I can never get enough food.

Perhaps we could market this as the next fad diet!!!


Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!


I have two words for America... Meat Crust.


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I will eat mixed green salad with one hand, even if it is dressed. I did this once at a black tie Park Avenue dinner party, and provoked open mouthed gaping.

I will also eat green beans with one hand.

Actually, in both cases, it's the thumb and middle finger of my right hand.

Bread, of course, and things soaked and swiped up with bread, are eaten with the hands.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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I eat as much as I can get away with with my fingers, I prefer eating salad that way. When I eat alone I definately do. Roast chicken (a favorite eating alone food) is not the same with a knife and fork.

I think if you can do it gracefully there should be no problem, carefully placing food in you mouth with clean fingers is so much differnt than grabbing hunks and shoving in to a gapping maw. However I have been comfronted with loaves of bread that have tempted me to do just that.

I believ it is proper to eat asparagus with your fingers

"sometimes I comb my hair with a fork" Eloise

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I eat bread with my hands, but endeavor to limit my hands touching anything else in a meal, when practicable. I sometimes have to twist wings off whole rotisserie chicken with my hands. Also, I sometimes will use my hands to bring the shell of an oyster to my mouth to take in the jus after having taken in the flesh of the oyster with the assistance of utensils. I guess some amuses and petits fours are intended to be taken using the hand.

For langoustines, larger prawns and shrimps, ecrevisses (crayfish), langouste, cigales de mer, lobster, all salads, etc., I use utensils. I don't like the smell of food lingering on my hands, particularly since I may not have a little vial of perfume with me with which to render them in acceptable condition again. :hmmm:

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Certainly agree about asparagus.

Whole lobster and crab in the shell are perhaps the ultimate eat-with-your-hands foods.

I once received a lesson (not without subtext) from a waitress in New Orleans about eating crayfish with my hands, the way it's intended in that context.

Also, lots of fried foods: french fries, calamari fritti, etc.

It's worth noting that, once the fun's over, one wants to wash up as quickly as possible. If I'm stuck at a table, an ice cube from the water glass stands in nicely. Mazal always carries some kind of hand wipes.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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I love eating with my hands but I'm not very good at it. I remember being invited to an Indian wedding

and everybody was eating with their hands. . I felt very embarassed to eat in a banana leaf with a fork.

I knew I was missing something but I just coudn't do it. I can manage a biryani or anything dry such as fried chicken or pizza. Also, if I'm eating seafood (specially crabs) at home I will use my hands to suck all the juice LOL. That's about it.

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I lead a simple life. I will eat any food in whatever way is the easiest. With a porterhouse steak I will happily gnaw on the bone after I've removed what comes readily with a knife and fork. Chicken? I always chew and suck on the bones, though I try not to do so noisily in public places. In a restaurant I'll wipe up the juices with a piece of bread in hand, not resorting to the "gentility" of breaking off pieces and then wiping them around with a fork.

At home we clean up sauces with a spoon; if they're particularly tasty we then wipe the plate with a finger and suck it. (I don't lick the plate -- the juices get in my beard. :biggrin: ) We don't eat bread with a meal, including cheese -- it's unnecessary extra calories we'd rather assign to the meal itself. After all, it merely derives from the ancient necessity of making the meat go further. (Unless, of course, the meal is bread and cheese, which is another matter entirely.)

Soup? If it's clear and thin, I'll happily drink it from the bowl.

I'm told that the artificial gentility of extending the little finger while picking up a scone, for instance, with ones fingers derives from the mediaeval custom of reaching into the common bowl to extract the meat from the broth. If your pinky remained above the surface, it showed that you weren't diving to the bottom for the biggest, choicest bits. :biggrin:

Suvir: I like your introducing topics with fictional fragments which give them a setting, like a frame around a painting.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Food and eating are a joy to me and I like the idea of playing with one's food.

I touch food when I cook and when I eat. I usually start off with cutlery, but if there are large peices of vegetable, bread, meat on bones or small crispy things involved, in go the fingers.

What ever makes the meal more enjoyable...(and unlike John Whiting I don't have a beard, so plate licking is always a possibility :raz:)

How sad; a house full of condiments and no food.

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  • 3 months later...
Do you eat with your hands?

Do you know others that do?

What dishes work best to be enjoyed in this manner?

Is there a perfect time and place for eating with ones hands? 

IS there anything special about eating with ones hands?

Any stories about this?

I read somewhere -- Eating Indian food with a fork and knife is like trying to make love thru an interpretor!

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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Will Suvir or someone else give us a lesson in proper eating-with-one's-hand etiquette at the Diwan dinner? I too love to use my hands, but have never eaten Indian food that way. Ethiopian, yes -- is it similar to using injera?

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Will Suvir or someone else give us a lesson in proper eating-with-one's-hand etiquette at the Diwan dinner?  I too love to use my hands, but have never eaten Indian food that way.  Ethiopian, yes -- is it similar to using injera?

Yes I would think it is very similar.. Or at least Indians would use injira the same was as we use Indian breads.

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I love to eat with my hands!

It really depends on what I am eating though.

Long veggies like green beans, asparagus, etc just scream for the hands, unless they are in a very creamy/oily sauce.

I love to use breads to pick up foods.

Or wrapping foods in rice paper. lettuces, cabbage leaves, etc

I will never touch chopsticks to a piece of sushi!

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"


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