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Eat the way you want!

Eat the way you want!
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Eat The Way You Want. Not long ago, when New York Mayor Bill de Blasio used a knife and fork to relish a delectable pizza at a fashionable pizzeria,...

Not long ago, when New York Mayor Bill de Blasio used a knife and fork to relish a delectable pizza at a fashionable pizzeria, he hit the headlines, not for being a foodie, but for his indiscretion: He was not supposed to indulge in his passion with instruments that cut and pierce slices of juicy, cheesy Italian-origin global fast food. He should use his hands to feel the great taste of pizza, nothing else.

A New York magazine writer called it a ‘disaster’ as if Bill had violated the sanctity of pizza eating and a website called it his first mistake as NY Mayor. But he was nonapologetic and defended his knife & fork attack on the greasy pizza as “It’s more typical to eat with a knife and fork in my ancestral homeland (Italy).”

Eating with hand may be the protocol in Big Apple. But almost in all countries, including India, pizza lovers devour the round piece topped with ingredients of choice with forks and knives without attracting attention or opprobrium from fellow eaters. On the other hand, literally and figuratively, if you start eating with your right hand, you may notice strange glances being exchanged by foodies sitting on the next table. In any case, does it matter if one eats with hand or spoon; or a fork and knife? It does if one follows the so-called table manners or etiquette. For that matter, is there any other way to enjoy the culinary delights of South India without mixing rice, curries, chutneys, pickles, rasam, sambar and curd and without dipping in the right hand and blending them in right proportions to derive the heavenly pleasure of eating tasty food?

Of course, the way people mix their favorite dishes with rice varies from State to State in the South. Some like to swallow the whole mix, savoring all the tastes in one go; while some others like to relish the taste of each and every dish individually and go through the experience of having a feel and satisfying the taste buds.

They say eating with hands is more rewarding and nourishing, though there is no scientific evidence to prove that satisfying one’s hunger by any means other than hands provides extra nutrition. But gourmets do agree that food eaten with hands, instead of cutlery, does give fulfillment and it is healthy (provided one washes hands thoroughly). I think it is more to do with habit and custom than anything else.

The evolution of cutlery in the West and chopsticks in China and other neighboring countries can be traced to climatic conditions and other considerations like not to dirty hands and not to eat with dirty hands. Chopsticks are best suited for Chinese food and if anyone tries to eat it with knife and fork, it is like consuming North Indian food with two irrelevant stainless steel instruments.

Guttling Chinese food is a bit of a dilemma for outsiders: Using chopsticks is out of question since a lot of practice is needed before their ends scoop up pieces of desired dish. Hands too are not a preferred option since they get greased and clumsy. The only choice left out is fork and spoon, which restaurants serving Chinese food keep on the table to avert embarrassment for their customers. For those who love to play with the sticks, a pair will be given gratis and Chinese food lovers can take them home as mementoes.

True to their national spirit and pride in their gastronomic art and science, Chinese have not swapped their chopsticks for anything else, at least in that country, unlike in India where the two hands are being increasingly replaced by fork, knife and spoon from childhood for eating even the traditional foods. It is aping the West thoughtlessly. There is little realisation that we don’t need cutlery to eat most of our daily foods. Still we insist on having them because the traditional form of satisfying our hunger is looked down upon as old-fashioned.

But a signboard in a small town hotel reminds visitors of what they have and implore them to use what God has given them: “Don’t ask for knives, forks and spoons to eat; use your hands. You don’t get hurt!” Sensible, indeed. What is New York protocol as far as pizza eating is concerned, it is Indian way of enjoying our vast variety of food. No need to feel ashamed of the way we eat with our hands.

promedia@yahoo.co.in

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