Imagine that we were seated at a table full of delicious food, and absolutely no cutlery was placed on it.
Imagine our confusion, because without the usual forks and spoons at the table, we literally feel like without hands. Then it’s time to move mentally to a country where cutlery has never been honored in its thousand-year history, and where the only device used for eating is the right hand.
And this country is fabulous India. Here is a Hindu who takes some rice, mixes it with other foods, makes a small ball, which he deftly sends directly into his open mouth. He does the same with drinking: raising the vessel with the drink high above his head, he pours the liquid into his wide open mouth, avoiding touching his lips even to the edge of the vessel.
Roughly the same is done in the Middle East and in some regions of Africa. The right hand is considered clean in those parts, and it is used for eating, and the left is used in order to collect crumbs from the table, wipe the lips or wipe the right hand.
Finger food – this name was given by dry Europeans to a whole direction in cooking, for dishes that are eaten exclusively with the help of hands.
For India, eating with your hands is a whole philosophy. As the prime minister of this country, the legendary Jawaharlal Nehru, once jokingly said: “Eating food with a fork and spoon is tantamount to making love with the help of an interpreter.”
But civilized Europeans are not appeasing, and trongs have already been invented – special serrated caps for three fingers, so as not to get your fingers dirty on food…
It is not customary to eat with cutlery in Mexico, where it is considered snobbery. The food is scooped up with a piece of thin flat cake, holding it in the right hand and helping with the left hand. But the neighbors, in Chile and Brazil, even eat a hamburger with a knife and fork, it is generally not accepted there to eat anything with your hands.
Where different peoples have love or dislike for cutlery is difficult to say, but they each use them in their own way. For example, in Thailand, a fork is taken in hand only because it is convenient to push the second into the spoon with which it is eaten. Those with such a strange habit can safely tell astonished strangers that they have just brought her from Ty. In France, on the contrary, they push food onto a fork with a broken piece of bread, so it turns out that we are all a little French.
But the inhabitants of Japan, China and Korea have come up with their own cutlery that distinguishes them from the rest of the world, but never made them friends – thin sticks made of bamboo, bone, wood or metal. With a little practice, it turns out that they are very convenient, and they can easily pick up even a grain of rice. Of course, you cannot eat soup with chopsticks, like a spoon, but you can catch all the thick, and just drink the remaining liquid.
In China, they were called “helpers”, once the length of sticks reached 1 foot (about 40 cm) and there was such a custom (or maybe in the Chinese outback it still exists today) – with the help of sticks, the owner chose the tidbits on a common dish and put them in the mouth of a distinguished guest.
Do not frown, but rather recall the ancient Jewish parable about spoons with long handles.
Once the rabbi came to God and asked him what is heaven and what is hell. God led him into one room, where at a round table, on which there was a delicious dish, sat angry, sullen people, starving. Each of them had a large spoon with a long handle in their hands, which prevented them from putting food in their mouths. “This is hell,” the Lord said and led the rabbi into another room.
It was all the same: a table and a saucepan with steaming food. Everyone, except for cheerful, healthy, good-natured people. Each of them took his own long-handled spoon and in turn fed the other sitting opposite. And if the spoon was too heavy, then everyone else willingly came to the rescue. “But this is paradise,” summed up God.