Why in India people eat with their fingers?
This post is dedicated to one of my French bosses who asked me recently, after a trip in India, if in my opinion “they” would continue to eat with their hands for a long time. “These savages” he might as well have added.
Before I praise the practice of using fingers, a small memo on how the “sophisticated” countries actually stopped it...
“The use of fork dates back to ancient times. The Egyptians already used some kinds of metal hooks for cooking and grabbing food in the pots.
The fork was presented in France by Catherine de Medici but its use first remained very restricted (to cooked pears). Her son, Henri III, during a trip to Italy in 1574 got seduced by this funny tool which enabled people to eat without staining the huge collars or “strawberries”, that were so fashionable. Thus he returned in France with forks and showed it off at his favourite restaurant: Hostellerie de Tour D'Argent (current Tour D'Argent in Paris).
The use of this tool emerged very gradually in France. At the table of Louis XIV, each guest had a fork on the left of their plate, but it was not used because the King himself preferred to eat with his fingers...
It is only at the end of the seventeenth century that the fork was finally used to bring food from the plate to the mouth. It is at the same time that the shape changed, from two to four prongs.”*
So it has been only 400 small years that we stopped eating with our fingers in France!
And I find kind of sad! I think eating with fingers has only advantages. First the food tastes better – it must be the combination of four senses instead of three.
It is more eco-friendly (so much we won’t wash!).
You don’t burn your tongue – but your fingers.
And you don’t get snapped at because you don’t use your fork or knife properly. Well, you may get a comment if you get food up to the palm: according to ‘good manners’** in northern India, where commonly people use bread (chapati) to gather the food, food should not cross the second phalange. In such situation, just reply that you learned to eat in South India where a rules are less strict (instead of chapatis they eat a lot of rice which is not so easy to grab! (But don’t overdo it or youey’ll give the impression to be a pig!)
The only important thing is to avoid using the left hand. That would be gross! When you think it is the hand dedicated to ass-wiping...
What is funny is that the majority of tourists in India (my mother ahead of the pack) are really disturbed when they have to eat with their hands... And yet don’t we eat French fries and chicken legs with fingers in France?
* Source: http://www.indax.com/eating.htm